The Philippine American War

The Balangiga Massacre

The brutality of the war was best exemplified by the Balangiga Massacre. In August 1901, Balangiga was a small seaside village of 200 nipa houses in Samar, Visayas. The US Army 9th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. army was sent to the town to establish a garrison and assist in the pacification of the Visayan Islands. Upon arrival, the American soldierrs took over the affairs of the town and forcibly occupied some of the local huts. All male residents, eighteen years and above, were ordered to leave their families to clear the surrounding forests that were suspected to be the refuge of guerrillas. At night, these men were hauled into open wooden pens unsuitable for lodging. To aggravate matters, an American even raped a village lass.

Finally, on September 28, 1901, while all 74 American soldiers were eating their breakfast, they were suddenly attacked by the townsfolk, resulting in 54 deaths and 18 wounded. So grisly were the deaths that it was prominently played up in the news. Survivors recounted how the night before there was a procession of women followed by baby coffins. The women turned out to be men and the coffins contained rifles. At 6:30 a.m., the bells of Balangiga were rung, signaling the attack of 400 men led by the highest town official.

The deaths of the Americans resulted in a punitive expedition and a reign of terror. General Jake Smith ordered the American soldiers to "kill and burn", to shoot down anybody capable of carrying arms including boys over ten years old." When the smoke had cleared, Samar had been turned into a "howling wilderness." The American forces completed the pillaged by taking the two Balangiga church bells and a rare 1557 cannon as war booty and shipping them to Wyoming. Almost a hundred years after the Balangiga incident, the current Philippine government is making representations to retrieve these national treasures.