From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
|Conflict: Philippine-American War|
|Date: September 28, 1901|
|Place: Samar, Philippines|
|Outcome: Decisive Filipino Victory|
|Samareno Rebels||United States of America|
|General Vincente Lukban||Captain Thomas W. Connell|
|180-200 Samareno bolomen||78 Company C. 9th U.S. Infanty|
|22 killed, 28 wounded||54 killed, 20 wounded
100 rifles and 25,000 rounds of ammunition captured
The "Balangiga massacre" was an incident in 1901 during the Philippine-American War where many American soldiers were killed in an guerilla ambush by Filipinos in the town of Balangiga on Samar island. This incident is described as one of the United States' worst single defeats in its entire history. For Filipinos, the attack is hailed as one of the bravest maneuvers in the war.
In the attack, the US lost the largest number of soldiers in a single encounter since the Civil War. The subsequent retaliation by American troops may have resulted in the killing of thousands of Filipinos on Samar, a majority of whom were civilians.
This incident and the subsequent retaliation remains one of the longest-running and most controversial issues between the Philippines and the United States. Conflicting records from both American and Filipino historians have muddled the issue. Demands for the return of the bells of the church at Balangiga, taken by Americans as war booty and now collectively known as the Balangiga Bells, remain an outstanding issue of contention related to the war. To this day, one church bell is in the possession of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment at their base in South Korea, and two others remain on a former base of the 11th U.S. Infantry Regiment at Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
According to some nationalist Filipino historians, the true "Balangiga massacre" was the subsequent American retaliation.
On August 11, 1901, during the "Philippine Insurrection", Company C, United States 9th Infantry arrived in Balangiga, the third largest town on the southern coast of Samar island, to close its port and prevent supplies reaching Filipino forces in the interior. Several months earlier, the town's principals allegedly wrote a letter to Brigadier General Vicente Lukban assuring him that, should American forces arrive, they would pretend to be friendly then attack them at a strategic moment. However, doubt has been expressed regarding the authenticity of the letter. Some writers have claimed the principals invited US forces to the town but there is no evidence any such request was made.
Initially, relations between the soldiers and the townspeople were good. Tensions increased due to what the traditionally conservative townspeople saw as inappropriate behaviour towards their womenfolk. Later, the Company Commander, Thomas W. Connell ordered the rounding up and forced labour of able-bodied townsmen to clean up the town in preparation for an official visit by his superior officers. There was an incident were a private raped a young girl. Finally, he ordered the seizure and destruction of food stored in the town to prevent it falling into the hands of the Filipino forces.
Fearing they would starve to death in the coming rainy season, the townspeople decided to attack the garrison.
At 6:45 a.m., on Saturday, 28 September 1901, the Filipinos made their move. After the few armed sentries were killed, the Balangiga police chief, Valeriano Abanador, gave the signal to attack. With some of them disguised as women, the townspeople surprised the garrison while they were at breakfast with their firearms stacked in the municipal hall some twenty yards away. Around 200 bolomen burst out of concealment and launched a devastating surprise attack on the Americans. Most were hacked to death with bolos before they could gain access to their firearms. The few who escaped the main onslaught fought with kitchen utinsels, stake-knives, and chairs. A private even fought off many of the attackers with a baseball bat before he was overwhelmed. A handful of surviving soldiers managed to secure some firearms and drive off their attackers, who were primarily armed with bolos and axes. But with insufficient numbers and fear that the rebels would re-group and attack again, they escaped from the village in boats to a nearby American garrison.
Of the original 78 man contingent, 54 were killed or missing, 20 were severely wounded, and only 4 escaped unscathed. The guerillas also took 100 rifles with 25,000 rounds of ammunition. Around 20-25 villagers died in the attack.
The burning of Samar
The consequence of this battle was a brutal retaliation against the inhabitants of Samar Island, inflicted by the occupation forces. The day after the attack, two 9th Infantry companies, with some of the Company C survivors, went to Balangiga aboard a commandeered coastal steamer, the S.S. Pittsburg, and found the town abandoned. Without finding any townspeople or Filipino forces, they buried the American dead and set fire to the town.
General Jacob Smith instructed Major Littleton Waller, the commanding officer of the Marines assigned to cleanup the island of Samar, of the methods he was to employ. he was quoted to have said: "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me." He directed that Samar be converted into a "howling wilderness." All persons who did not surrender and were capable of carrying arms were to be shot, and this meant anyone over ten years of age, according to Smith. Due to these orders, he became known as Jacob "Howling" Smith.
What followed was a sustained and widespread massacre of Filipino civilians. The basic elements of Smith's policy were brutal. Food and trade to Samar were cut off to starve the revolutionaries into submission. He instructed his officers to regard all Filipinos as enemies and treat them accordingly until they showed conclusively that they were friendly by specific actions such as revealing information about the location of revolutionaries or arms, working successfully as guides or spies, or trying actively to obtain the surrender of the guerrillas in the field. He gave his subordinates carte blanche authority in the application of General Order 100. (Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 General Orders No. 100, in brief, authorized the shooting on sight of all persons not in uniform acting as soldiers and those committing, or seeking to commit, sabotage.)
Smith's strategy on Samar involved the use of widespread destruction to force the inhabitants to cease supporting the guerrillas and turn to the Americans from fear and starvation. He used his troops in sweeps of the interior in search for guerrilla bands and in attempts to capture Lukban, but did nothing to prevent contact between the guerrilla and the townspeople. American columns marched all over the island destroying homes and killing people and draft animals.
Waller, for example, reported that in an eleven-day span his men burned 255 dwellings, slaughtered 13 carabaos and killed 39 people. Other officers reported similar activity.
As the Judge Advocate General of the army observed, only the good sense and restraint of the majority of Smith's subordinates prevented a complete reign of terror in Samar. Still, the abuses were sufficient to cause outrage in the United States when they became known near the end of March 1902.
After receiving his orders from Smith, Waller issued his own written orders with regard to his men's conduct, what they were to seize and destroy, and other matters of similar nature. Toward the end, he wrote, "We have also to avenge our late comrades in North China, the murdered men of the Ninth U.S. Infantry." This added more to the rage. The Chinese and the Filipinos were, it seems, of the same nature, and stock, and even ideology. There was no difference among "asiatics."
Waller was later accused of ordering the execution of eleven native guides because during a long march, they had found edible roots and had allegedly conspired to keep this knowledge from the famished American troops.
However brutal the American and Constabulary attacks were, the Filipinos fought back just as ferociously. In 1904, the 38th Scout Company, totalling 48 men under Lieutenant Hayt, was almost wiped out when they were ambushed by 1,000 Filipinos. Only one survived, but with grevious bolo wounds. Two weeks after that battle, another company of the 37th Scouts under Lieutenant Morton Avery was also destroyed, with the exception of two, who escaped with grevious wounds.
The so called "Pacification of Samar", contrary to American belief, was far from over. And this land would prove to be a bloody battleground for the next decade.