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Comments by YACCS
Sunday, November 28, 2004

Colonial Warfare, pt 3


ten for every one: the Balangiga massacre


Colonial warfare was a bloody affair on both sides, but the colonized usually got the worse for it, even when they had a victory

Surprised and outnumbered, Company C was nearly wiped out during the first few terrible minutes. But a small group of American soldiers, a number of them wounded, were able to secure their rifles and fight back, killing some 250 Filipinos.

Of the company's original complement, 48 were killed or unaccounted for, 22 were wounded, and only 4 were unharmed. The survivors managed to escape to the American garrison in Basey.

Captain Bookmiller, the commander in Basey, sailed immediately for Balangiga with a force of volunteers in a gunboat. They quickly dispatched some bolomen on the shore with a gattling gun and executed twenty more they found hiding in a nearby forest. As the American soldiers were buried, Captain Bookmiller quoted from the Book of Hosea, "They have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind."

Thus ended the short-lived policy of benevolent assimilation in Balangiga.


The methods used to repress colonial warfare are well known to Americans.

Hand-to-hand combat ensued as the soldiers clambered up the ladders to get at their rifles. Blood flowed in streams on the floor and dripped through the bamboo floor of the hut. Meyer had left his service pistol in a shelf behind his bunk and he fought his way towards it. Just he was about to reach it he received a crashing blow on the wrist with a club. As he tried to fend off other attacks with his other arm, he received additional cuts in his arms and body. Unable to reach his weapon, Meyer grabbed one of the attackers in a bear hug and both crashed to the floor. Holding on for dear life, Meyer felt that his life's end was near when he suddenly heard a shot beside him.

Corporal Burke who was wriggling about on the floor on his back, kicking wildly at Sanchez and another attacker, managed to find a revolver under a cot pillow. Grimly holding the big .45 in both hands he let loose several shots. Sanchez, shot squarely in the face, catapulted backwards. He shot another attacker who had his weapon raised. Another saw the revolver in the soldier's hands and fled through a window.

The soldiers in the mess tents were one of the first prime targets of the attack. The bolomen burst in screaming and slashing. A bolo made a swishing sound through the air and a chunking sound as it hit the back of Sergeant Martin's neck, which, severed from the body , plopped into his plate of hash. As the soldiers rose up and began fighting with chairs and kitchen utensils, the attackers outside cut the tent ropes, causing the tent to collapse and envelope the struggling men. The natives ran in from all directions to slash with bolos and axes at the forms struggling under the canvas.

Captain Connell was awake and sitting near a window reading his prayer book when the rebels burst into his room. Armed with a stool, he fought bravely for his life. Forced back by the sheer weight of numbers, he leapt from his window into the street and ran. He was soon overtaken and chopped down with bolos. Later in the day, the bolomen came back and chopped off his head and threw it into a fire. Another rebel bit off his ring finger to get his West Point ring.

The survivors of the attack, some 36 men, boarded five barotos at the beach and set off for Basey. The survivors did not reach Basey until early next morning. Forty-seven men of Company C were killed in the assault, 10 severely wounded, 12 slightly wounded and only 5 uninjured. Captain Edwin V. Bookmiller, commander of Company G of the 9th Infantry at Basey, boarded a gunboat with his company and steamed to the site of the massacre. There he found the that dead of Company C had been stripped and many were horribly mutilated.

It was after this incident that Waller issued his "kill and burn" directive. Chafee also instituted harsher policies in the other remaining guerilla stronghold, located in Batangas province in southern Luzon. On November 30, 1901, he sent his best field commander, Brig. Gen. Bell, to take command of the area, directing him to use whatever means necessary to end the rebellion in the area. Similar to Samar, the army burned villages and herded the population of Batangas into the major cities or concentration camps. Noncombatants were forced and restricted into designated zones, where they were ordered to remain as long as fighting continued. All areas outside the camps were labeled "dead zones"and the U.S. Army operated under minimal restraint and pursued the enemy relentlessly. According to Glenn May, "Freed from most of the prohibitions under which they had earlier operated and pressed by Bell to get quick results, many officers and enlisted men appeared to feel that, as long as they were successful, their actions were likely to be condoned. " The water cure as well as other forms of torture were used extensively on captured Filipinos. Death rates soared in the province of Batangas as many civilians perished in the concentration camps. Glenn May estimates that 8,344 people died in Batangas in the short period of January to April 1902.

In a testimony before the U.S. Senate, William Howard Taft denied that U.S. rule in the Philippines was harsh and cruel. He acknowledged "that cruelties have been inflicted; that people have been shot when they ought to not have been; that there have been... individual instances... of torture.. all these things are true." but despite these occasional outrages, Taft asserted that the military and civilian officials did everything in their power to prevent atrocities.

The Filipinos had lost more against the Americans that they did against the Spaniards in the number killed and property lost. Such was the price they paid and would keep on paying in their struggle to be free.


While this is unknown history to Americans, it was a defining moment to Filipinos. The American drive to colonize the Philippines was far bloodier than any of the campaigns in the West. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were murdered to control the islands and that control was tenuous at best.

Colonial War leads to murder and repression as the only valid tools of control. Anything less will be ineffective, and the locals will wait a century to evict you.

posted by Steve @ 7:18:00 PM

7:18:00 PM

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