Bells of Balanggiga~paradise philippines

At Warren Air Force base outside Cheyenne, in the USA, there are two bells. The bells were taken as war booty from the church in Balanggiga, in Samar, in the Philippine Islands by US forces in retaliation for an uprising that took place there on this day, 28 September 1901, during the Philippine-American war.

There are, differing accounts of what actually took place. US historians, mainly in the person of one Joseph L. Schott, give a colourful account of Filipino mothers smuggling machetes about the village in coffins, small boys giving the signal to attack the defenceless American soldiers whilst they ate breakfast and American soldiers being mercilessly wiped out by hordes of vicious screaming Filipino madmen, armed to the teeth with bolo knives, picks and shovels - a massacre in other words. Others have questioned this view and suggested instead that the uprising was simply an ongoing part of the, largely guerilla, Filipino attempt at achieving liberation and Statehood and some have stated the view that the townspeople of Balanggiga rose up out of fear under the US occupation of their town.
If you were to ask yourself what you would do under similar circumstances you might, I suspect, be able to guess at the truth.

What seems to be nearest to the truth is that Company C of the US 9th Infantry were occupying the town at the time and Valeriano Abanador, the police chief, initiated the attack by assaulting Private Adolph Gamlin, who was on guard. Some undetermined time after this, a bell in the church tower was rung - which may or may not have been a signal for the other townsfolk to join battle.

Abanador grabbed Gamlin's rifle and as he did so, two other men killed the guards outside the convent and municipal hall. Other townspeople, armed with machetes, picks and shovels, (against the infantry's rifles) collapsed the US army's Sibley tents that were pitched in front of the municipal hall, entered the hall and made their way to the second floor. At the same time, other men in the church broke through into the convent through a connecting corridor and attacked and killed the officers who were billeted there. At the same time, an attack on the mess tent and the two barracks got underway.
This is where the plan came unstuck. With their meagre forces split into three, the townspeople had too few attackers to ensure success.

Some of the US soldiers who had been penned up in the barracks, were able to retake the municipal hall, arm themselves and fight back. At about the same time, Adolph Gamlin recovered consciousness, found a rifle and caused considerable casualties among the people outside the municipal hall.

Faced with immensely superior firepower (i.e. guns) and a rapidly degrading attack, Abanador ordered a retreat. The 9th Infantry survivors, being in insufficient numbers to hold the town, escaped by sea, after which the townspeople returned to bury their dead, then abandoned the town.

36 US soldiers were killed during the attack (including all of the commissioned officers). 26 US infantry men survived although only 4 were not wounded. On the townspeoples' side, there were 28 deaths and 22 were wounded.

Public demand in the U.S. for retaliation became a major issue, so President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the pacification of Samar. In six months, General 'Jake' Smith transformed Balanggiga into a 'howling wilderness.' He ordered his men to kill anybody capable of carrying arms, including ten-year-old boys. Smith particularly ordered Major Littleton Waller to punish the people of Samar for the deaths of the American troops. His exact orders were: "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me."
On or about October 25th, the 11th Infantry took two of the town's bells, these, according to Schotts account being the device that was used to launch a co-ordinated attack, and returned with them to the United States in 1904 to then-Fort Russell (now AFB Warren). The bells were finally abandoned there in 1913. A third, smaller bell, (probably the one that was rung during the uprising), according to Jim Beane, a former 9th Infantry sergeant, was later crated up and sent to Madison Barracks in New York. It is now with the 9th Infantry in Korea.
The Phillippine government have made repeated attempts to have the bells returned with no succces.

Probably becauase the US won, neither General Smith nor Major Waller were ever bought to account for war crimes - which is a bit of a surprise - to say the least.

Balanggiga - Massacre or just part of a heroic bid for freedom - what do you think?

Battle of Pulang Lupa~paradise philippines

Battle of Pulang Lupa

The Battle of Pulang Lupa was an engagement fought on September 13, 1900, during the Philippine-American War between the forces of Colonel Maximo Abad and Devereux Shields, in which Abad's men annihilated the American force.

Men of the 29th volunteer infantry wading ashore on Marinduque April 25, 1900
Men of the 29th volunteer infantry wading ashore on Marinduque April 25, 1900

Abad, observing that the Americans were trying to surrender, regained control of his men before any more surrendering Americans were slaughtered, and the survivors were led away as prisoners.

After months of hiding, Abad in only a few hours eliminated nearly one third of the American garrison on Marinduque.

"The severity with which the inhabitants have been dealt would not look well if a complete history of it were written out" --Governor-General of the Philippines, William Howard Taft, concerning the U.S. Army campaign on the island of Marinduque during the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902 [1]

On September 11, Captain Devereux Shields led a detachment of 54 29th U.S. Volunteer Infantrymen into the mountains of Torrijos to combat the elusive Abad and his guerillas. They experienced little success, except for the dispersing of 20 guerillas, in which no casualties were inflicted on either side.
Abad had excellent intelligence and was informed of Shields' movements by the local guerillas ahead of time. In response, he assembled his entire force of 250 regular Filipino soldiers and around 1,000-2,000 bolomen. The regular Philippine soldiers were well organized and reasonably well armed with bolos, pistols, and Spanish Mausers, despite the fact that most were poor shots. The bolomen, armed only with machetes or bolos, served mainly to bolster Abad's forces. Dressed as friendly farmers or civilians in the day time, they took part in guerilla activities at night. Ambushing small detachments of American soldiers, sabotage, and most importantly, supplying Abad with intelligence on American positions and movements. They had little military value however, considering they had no firearms.

The Americans lost 4 killed and 50 captured, 6 of which wounded including Shields. A large selection of American firearms were also taken by the guerillas. The Filipino losses are unknown, although Shields claimed to have inflicted 30 casualties on the Filipinos, this number was never verified.

Shields' defeat sent shock waves through the American high command. Aside from being one of the worst defeats suffered by the Americans during the war, it was especially significant given its proximity to the upcoming election between President William McKinley and his anti-imperialist opponent William Jennings Bryan, the outcome of which many believed would determine the ultimate course of the war. Consequently, the defeat triggered a sharp response.

Although Abad and most of his command had eluded the American military, the civilian population was suffering for it. Being placed into concentration camps and routine interrogation led many of the guerillas to surrender, thus decreasing the manpower and materials of the resistance.

These new tactics led to the surrender of Abad in April 1901.

Battle of Pulang Lupa Marker

The marker stands at the site of the bloodiest battle fought in the island between the Philippine Revolutionary Forces and the Americans. The “Battle of Pulang Lupa” was the first known major battle won by the Filipinos over the Americans. The area is surrounded by dense vegetation making it an ideal place for camping.

in December 1898, the U.S. purchased the Philippines and other territories from Spain at the Treaty of Paris for 20 million US dollars. The US had plans to make the Philippines an American colony - which is a bit of a cheek for a nation that was and is, supposedly, against colonialism.

The people of the Philippines, who had had been fighting for their independence from Spain since 1896, rightly, had a different idea, and had already declared their independence on June 12. The US response, was to send, on August 14, 11,000 ground troops to occupy the Philippines. This was the start of The Philippine-American War and 129,000 more US troops were soon to follow. (We might ask, a century later, if the US has learned anything at all from history?)

On this day, September 13, in 1900 at Pulang Lupa, which is in Torrijos on Marinduque island in the Philippines, resistance fighters and guerrillas led by Colonel Maximo Abad inflicted a crushing defeat on a detachment of the US 29th Infantry, who were commanded by Captain Devereux Shields. The battle began when Abad and his men surrounded the infantrymen and fired a volley into the soldiers. Shields, realising that he was almost completely surrounded, ordered a retreat. But before his forces got far, Colonel Abad led a charge against the Americans. The result of the charge was a short but extremely vicious hand to hand fight, with Abad's men making use of their native machete - the bolo. The Americans took very heavy casualties, and retreated further. The guerrillas pursued and harried the Americans as they fled. The battle lasted all that day and into the early morning of the next day, when Captain Shields and his surviving men attempted to surrender en masse. But as they did, Abads men fired upon them and hacked them up with bolo knives. Many experts consider this the most bloody engagement of the war. Unfortunately, while it was undoubtedly one of only a few confidence-boosting victories for the Filipinos, it could not avert the inevitable defeat, which came, finally in 1913.

A very nasty, unnecessary and bloody war, the US lost some 4,324 American soldiers with 2,818 wounded. The Philippine Constabulary - in support of the US occupation, suffered 2,000 casualties, of which over a thousand were fatalities. In contrast, the Philippine military deaths are estimated at 20,000, while civilian deaths numbered around 1,000,000. The high casualty figures suffered by the people of the Philippines were due mostly to the superior arms and numbers of the Americans who were utterly merciless in suppressing what they viewed as an insurrection.

I wonder, if the US had not have won (since history is written by the victors), would the world have called this genocide?