Guerilla warfare and the capture of Aguinaldo
The hit and run tactics employed by the Filipinos continued into the following year. They would rush out and quickly attack the Americans, then retreat into the interior, often returning to villages (villages that often feigned cooperation with the Americans), after hiding their clothes and weapons, and posed as soldiers. Later, they began committing acts of sabotage, such as cutting telegraph wires. While this was relatively successful and strung out the war, it was a losing battle. And worse, it made it possible for large numbers of civilian casualties who would be misidentified as guerillas (or who were disposed of "just in case"). The parallels with Vietnam are notable.
Not only did the method of fighting frustrate the Americans, it led to racial explanations and condemnations. See, the reason for the extraordinary dead to wounded ratio (15 dead to 1 woundedin the Civil War it was 1 dead to 5 wounded) was because "inferior races" die from wounds much more easily. According to MacArthur. Otis tried to claim it was due to the superior marksmanship of the soldiers who had hunted much of their livesas one soldier had one said, it "reminded me of the shooting of jack-rabbits in Utah, only the rabbits sometimes got away, but the insurgents did not."
Richard E. Welch, Jr., history professor at Lafayette College explains that
the American soldier viewed his Filipino enemies with contempt because of their short stature and color. Contempt was also occasioned by the refusal of the Filipino "to fight fair"to stand his ground and be shot down like a man. When the Filipino adopted guerrilla tactics, it was because he was by his very nature half-savage and half-bandit. His practice of fighting with a bolo on one day and assuming the guise of a peaceful villager on the next proved his depravity. (www.bibingka.com)
As in the words of one general "Damn 'em, they won't stand up to be shot!" All this frustration, coupled by not wanting to be there, disease (malaria was not uncommon), and a sense of racial superiority to such " savages" helped bring about many of the atrocities committed before and certainly later (more below)
The thing at the top of the American's list to do (aside from winning) was the capture of General Aguinaldo. This was accomplished by trickery. The Macabebes were Filipinos from the province of Pampanga on Luzon (the main islandwhere Manila is). They didn't like Aguinaldo or the Tagalog people there and had been on the side of the Spanish and offered themselves to the Americans (over the course of the war, some 5000 were recruited). On 23 March, a group of Macabebes was sent, disguised as reinforcements, to meet Aguinaldo and his men. They had along with them two Filipino officers who had surrendered and five Americans posing as prisoners. Aguinaldo and his men were caught by surprise and with little fighting, he was taken captive.
He was brought to Manila where he was kept in relative comfort and well treated by MacArthur. Just over a week after his capture he had been convinced of the utter futility of continuing the war and swore an oath of allegiance to the United States and on 19 April issued a proclamation of his surrender and a call for Filipinos to put down their weapons and cease fighting. He stated that the "lessons thus taught, the full meaning of which has recently come to my knowledge, suggested to me with irresistible force that the complete termination of hostilities and a lasting peace are not only desirable but essential to the welfare of the Philippines."
On the other hand, the proclamation also sounds like it could be a propaganda tool by the US. It is probably Aguinaldo's attempt at being overly submissive and obsequious in order to protect himself and his people from possible colonial reprisals following the war. He describes the US as a "force which, while it restrains [the Filipinos], yet enlightens the mind and opens another course by presenting to them the cause of peace. This cause has been joyfully embraced around glorious and sovereign banner of the United States." Says that with "mature deliberation" he "cannot refuse to heed the voice of a people longing for peace, nor the lamentations of thousands of families yearning to see their dear ones in the enjoyment of the liberty promised by the generosity of the great American nation." Regardless, it effectively ended the Philippine Republic and several generals and some troops surrendered
But the war went on.
Massacres and worse
In March, on the island of Bohol, American forces found out the locations of two Filipino guerilla camps. Because of the forested, hilly terrain and the need to use often narrow, winding trails, the US troops felt confident they could ambush the rebels. The Philippine soldiers got intelligence informing them of the impending attacks and decided on an ambush of their own. Around 400 soldiers dug foxholes and camouflaged themselves by the trail near Lonoy, waiting for the soldiers to pass. Unfortunately for them, a Filipino from the island informed the Americans ahead of time.
On the morning of the eighth, while the Filipinos prepared their surprise attack, four platoons of Americans swarmed their positions, shooing and bayoneting as many as they could. The Filipinos were massacred, few able to defend themselves (many were armed with spear and knives since, as the war went on, working guns and ammunition were harder to find). The death toll was 406 (seven managed to escape), while the Americans had only three casualties. Among the Filipino dead may have been natives of the island of Samarwhich may, in part, have provoked what became known as the Balangiga massacre in September.
On 11 Augustat the insistence of the town's mayora company of 74 infantry men sailed to Balangiga on the island of Samar. They had been asked to fortify the town and protect it from rebels and Muslims (the Moros, who mostly remained neutral during the conflict and had signed a treaty to maintain sovereignty under the American flag in 1899). Things seemed rather normal and quiet for over a month as the soldiers and some additional Filipinos did helped with the work.
On the night of 27 September
, a number of women came rushing to the town, on the way to the church
. Many carried small coffins
. When one soldier pried the lid off one, revealing the body of a small child, the women shouted "¡El cólera!" "Cholera
." A disease that occurs most often in areas with poor sanitation
where it is spread by contaminated
water and foodespecially common following disasters
, for example) or the destruction
caused by war (many of the deaths in the civilian population
during the war were due to outbreaks
of disease). Though the soldiers hadn't heard of any outbreak nearby, they were understandably cautious
. But the women were allowed to pass. Under the bodies were bolos and sharpened cane.
The next morning, most of the company was eating breakfast. The only armed soldiers were three sentries. The chief of policeunder the guise of organizing the additional Filipino workers for the days' taskswalked behind one of the sentries, took his rifle, clubbed him with it, then shot him. Then the prearranged signal of the church bells pealing set into motion the attack. Using only simple tools ( axes, picks, shovels) in addition to the weapons smuggled in, the Filipinos stabbed, slashed, hacked, and dismembered the assembled soldiers (who initially had only things at hand, like chairs and kitchen utensils, to defend themselves).
Some soldiers managed to get weapons and around 250 Filipinos were killed (some Filipino accounts give a much lower estimate of 40). On the US side, 48 were killed, 22 wounded, and four escaped injury. Survivors managed to make it to a nearby garrison where a gunboat was immediately dispatched, armed with Gatling guns that were used to mow down and Filipinos near the shore. They killed 20 more that were found in the forest after landing, then buried the dead. The commander of the garrison reportedly said that "they have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind" (the "Inherit the Wind" quote from the book of Hosea). This led to even greater atrocities in retaliation.
What has been called the "Burning of Samar" was not so much "punishment" of those who took part in the massacre, but an attempt to nearly wipe out any possible form of opposition to an American presence by giving the natives total war. Fired by a desire for revenge over the Balangiga incident, it became a five month bloodbath.
The army called it the "pacification" of Samar and the man ordered to head it was General Jacob "Howling Jake" Smith. He was a veteran of the Indian wars as a cavalry officer (no doubt where he first learned his variation on "benevolent assimilation"). He had already served on another islands, perfecting his "techniques" for "pacification" of the "savages." It was his intention to turn the "interior of Samar into a howling wilderness."
Smith explained his orders to the commanding officer under him: "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me." He also revived President Abraham Lincoln's "General Orders No. 100" from the Civil War days, part of which stated that
War-rebels are persons within an occupied territory who rise in arms against the occupying or conquering army, or against the authorities established by the same. If captured, they may suffer death, whether they rise singly, in small or large bands, and whether called upon to do so by their own, but expelled, government or not.... (Article 85)
and that those who "commit hostilities" (essentially "guerillas"and Smith allowed for the most broad reading of the regulations)
without commission, without being part and portion of the organized hostile army, and without sharing continuously in the war, but who do so with intermitting returns to their homes and avocations, or with the occasional assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits, divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers
wouldn't be considered soldiers of the enemy, but rather " highway robbers or pirates" and treated as such, since they did not earn the privileges of prisoners of war (Article 82). Article 83 discusses spies (men "disguised in the dress of the country or in the uniform of the army hostile to their own, employed in obtaining information") who if found, will "suffer death." This allowed soldiers to pretty much "pacify" anyone they chose, which was Smith's intention. Anyone capable of carrying weapons could be shot. Which, according to him, was ten years old.
What followed was a rampage of killing Filipinos (men, women, children), their livestock and animals, burning villages, and destroying stocks of food. Additionally, all food and trade to the island was stopped. When it was over, nearly 100,000 people had been killed.
Because of a careless comment in front of reporters by Smith that he would burn the island and probably kill all the people, a Senate investigation was started. Despite claims by MacArthur that "no war in history has been conducted with as much humanity," many of the soldiers called to the stand fully admitted to the policy of "kill and burn" (and in some cases, its "correctness"). The investigation really had little effect on the war. As a result, both Smith and the officer under him were court-martialed. Smith's sentence was to be "admonished by a reviewing authority." Later he retired from the service. No other punishment was given him.
Further atrocities, torture, and concentration camps
As noted, the war became frustrating to the Americans who were fighting some "ragtag" army of "inferior" people. This led to greater and greater abuses on their part (though given the record for US army depredations against Native Americans, it suggests a pattern of behavior, as well). This is not to say that the Filipinos didn't do their share "overkill."
The Americans, in addition to shooting captives, surrendered soldiers, and noncombatants (in many cases as part of "policy" or orders), also resorted to torture and severe retribution in gathering intelligence. People were dragged by horses, hanged by their thumbs (some of whom had fires lit under them to encourage a faster response). Of note is the celebrated "water cure" which "consisted of forcing four or five gallons [15-19 L] of water down the throat of the captive whose body becomes an object frightful to contemplate, and then squeezing it by kneeling on his stomach. The process was repeated until the 'amigo' talked or died" (http://phil-am-war.org).
The killing of civilians was not uncommon, especially after the guerilla fighting began, giving them "reason" (or an excuse) to shoot anyone suspected as an "insurrecto." The longer the war went on, the more common these incidents were. A sergeant describes "how it was":
When you can realize four hundred or five hundred persons living within the confines of five or six blocks, and then an order calling out all of the women and children, and then setting fire to houses and shooting down any niggers attempting to escape from the flames, you have an idea of Filipino warfare.
On the Filipino side, guerillas were known to have mutilated soldiers, cutting off noses and ears (against Aguinaldo's orders). There were also reports of soldiers being buried alive. One soldier wrote home claiming the guerillas were cutting off dead soldiers' genitalia and placing them in their mouths (http://phil-am-war.org).
As already noted, there were few prisoners of war (some think the high death to wounded ratio is that it is a reflection of that). And as the war dragged on, it became worse. One soldier wrote home that "to keep them prisoners would necessitate the placing of the soldiers on short rations if not starving them. There was nothing to do but to kill them" (http://phil-am-war.org).
Americans who were taken prisoner were generally well-treatedsomething that deteriorated as the war went on. The nominal leader, General Miguel Malvar (who had taken "command" following Aguinaldo's capture and surrender), had to issue an order that those found shooting and mistreating prisoners would be punished.
In late 1901, the Luzon province of Batangas still had a great deal of resistance. It was decided to place the civilians in "zones"in order to "protect" them. People were herded into certain towns and a "dead line" was drawn around them. Everything outside the circle was destroyed, including animals, buildings and villages, crops, and any person who could be found. Essentially, the zones were concentration camps. And as is common when large numbers are forced into limited space (especially in a tropical area in the midst of a war), there were many deaths. A large percentage was due to disease (usually malaria) which was aided by food shortages which had led to malnutrition. The loss of animals and livestock caused mosquitos to attack humans more than they normally would have.
Between January and April of 1902, there were 8,350 deaths out of 298,000. Some camps lost as many as 20% of the population. There was one camp that was two miles by one mile (3.2 by 1.6 km) in area. It was "home" to some 8000 Filipinos. One soldier, in a letter home, claimed there he had observed the execution of 1,300 people. In some places, men were forced to dig their own graves before being shot into them. General Franklin Bell, in charge of the military operations on the islandwho once said, about the selection of prisoners by lot for execution, "it is an inevitable consequence of war that the innocent must generally suffer with the guilty" (www.geocities.com)claimed that one-sixth of the island's population had died. Some estimates are as high as 100,000. No one actually knows.
While Bell was "criticized" for his orders and their results following the war, he received no real punishment and later became the head of the Infantry and Calvary School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He also served as Chief of Staff of the US Army for a time.
The war winds down
The war was finally breaking down the resistance and ability of the Filipinos to continue. Surrendering guerilla groups had begun before the end of 1901. It was only a matter of timesomething that was inevitable, despite the bravery and conviction of the army seeking independence. Besides attrition, lack of supplies and guns and ammunition, led to the capitulation of many soldiers. One probably should not discount the high toll noncombatants were subject to, as well as the vast destruction to towns, crops, and livestock. There were also desertions, some of whom aided the US army in what was no doubt partly an act of self-preservation.
On 16 April, General Malvar surrendered. He was trapped in the mountains, hungry, with his wife who was sick and nursing. He had no choice. Malvar is remembered as the last general to surrender to the Americans (not strictly accurate, as a General Simeon Ola, who had continued fighting after the war, surrendered in 1903).
This was not the end to the resistance. Small pockets of groups remained fighting for a few years. Part of the job of the Philippine Constabulary was to "clean up" these last rebels. One rebel continued as late as 1906, before surrendering. The next year he was hanged as a "bandit." On 2 March, the military government was abolished. This meant the president (Theodore Roosevelt) no longer had absolute authority over the islands, but had to work through Congress.
The war is "officially" ended
On the ironically chosen July 4, Roosevelt issued a proclamation officially ending the war. Or "insurrection," as he calls it in one form or another 11 times in the document. In it he states that "peace has been established in all parts of the archipelago except in the country inhabited by the Moro tribes."1 He also notes that during the fight with Spain and the subsequent "insurrection" some "persons engaged therein, or those in sympathy with and abetting them, committed many acts in violation of the laws of civilized warfare, but it is believed that such acts were generally committed in ignorance of those laws, and under orders issued by the civil or insurrectionary leaders." These persons being talked about would, of course, be Filipinos, not Americans.
But since it is "wise and humane," part of the beneficent purposes" of the US, and "conducive to peace, order, and loyalty," he grants a "general amnesty and pardon" for these "unlawful acts." This generosity, of course, would not be for anything following 1 May 1902 (even though the war was not officially over at that time). Further, it included a loyalty oath for any who would "seek to avail himself of this proclamation":
"I, ____ , solemnly swear (or affirm) that I recognize and accept the supreme authority of the United States of America in the Philippine Islands and will maintain true faith and allegiance thereto; that I impose upon myself this obligation voluntarily, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God."
And with that, Roosevelt "benevolently" ended the " insurrection
Aftermath and results
The Philippine-American War (officially) lasted from 4 February 1899 to 4 July 1902. As many as 112,000 US troops (soldiers and officers) served in the Philippines at one time or another during the conflict, nearly half of them "volunteers" rather than regular army. Over 4,000 died, of which over 1,000 were killed in action (some estimates are higher). The country spent upwards of $600 million.
The Filipino loss was far greater. Estimates put their numbers of soldiers dead at 20,000 (and up to 2,000 more as part of the resistance postwar). Civilian casualties were enormous. Estimates of 200,000-500,000 are common, some even higher. A large number of those came from deaths as part of the Burning of Samar and in the camps. Disease, malnutrition, famine, and loss of shelter also had a hand in the numbers. Additionally, large areas of countryside had been ravaged. Crops and fields destroyed as well as livestock and homes. The actual damage to the Philippines and its people can probably never be calculated. They also lost their independence once again.
As the years went on, the Americans did do much to improve that country and welfare of the people and gradually gave them more say in government and self-rule but independence would have to wait until 1946, following the Second World War.
A parting shot from Mark Twain:
We have pacified some thousands of the islanders and buried them; destroyed their fields; burned their villages, and turned their widows and children out-of-doors; furnished heartbreak by exile to some dozens of disagreeable patriots; subjugated the remaining ten millions by Benevolent Assimilation, which is a pious new name of the musket; we have acquired property in the three hundred concubines and other slaves of our business partner, the Sultan of Sulu, and hoisted our protecting flag over that swag.
And so, by these Providences of Godand the phrase is the government's, not minewe are a World Power.
1The Moros had been given a separate offer of sovereignty under the United States earlier, in what was basically a "divide and conquer" strategy. But increasing American military presence, political intervention (into things the Moros were supposed to be allowed to do with their degree of self-rule), and a policy of "disarmament" had caused relations to disintegraterelations that had been tolerated only to avoid conflict. In fact, Spain had never really had colonial control of the so-called "Morolands" (despite years of attempts), and if it had, Spain would still have no authority to cede it to the United States as it had. The first major engagement happened in May 1902two months before the peace proclamationand the conflict lasted until 1914. General John "Black Jack" Pershing made his career there.
Part One: Philippine-American War
A more detailed look at the causes of the war: Events leading to the Philippine-American War
On the "insurrection"/"war" controversy: Philippine Insurrection
(Sources used or consulted: (Sources: http://phil-am-war.org; www.filipino-americans.com; www.geocities.com/Athens/Crete/9782/index.html; Howard Zinn A People's History of the United States twentieth anniversary edition, 1999; www.ualberta.ca/~vmitchel; www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/01/31/SC16131.DTL; www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/examiner/archive/1999/02/04/EDITORIAL11417.dtl; www.philnewscentral.com/philrev.html; gopher://gopher.umsl.edu/00/library/govdocs/armyahbs/aahb4/aahb0247; gopher://gopher.umsl.edu/00/library/govdocs/armyahbs/aahb4/aahb0248, http://nitmart.tripod.com/HStory08.htm, www.bibingka.com/phg/balangiga/default.htm, www.bakbakan.org/samarall.htm, www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lieber.htm "General Orders No. 100" quoted from here)