"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

The First Vietnam: The Philippine-American War

Step 1: Americans “liberate” a people from a tyrannical power with a massive military occupation.
Step 2: The locals aren’t too happy with this state of affairs.

Step 3?:
“Now the Americans found themselves harassed and attacked throughout the Islands by poorly trained and poorly organized but fanatically determined peasant irregulars. MacArthur observed: ” … all regular and systematic tactical operations ceased; but as hostile contact was established throughout the entire zone of activity…
A major problem for the Americans resulted from their inability to penetrate the guerrilla infrastructure. They soon began to realize, to their dismay, that a whole underground network of dual government loyal to the guerrillas existed, even in areas considered thoroughly ‘pacified.’…

As a rule the Filipinos allowed the Americans to capture and occupy any town they wished without opposition. Otis was so deceived by this that he once again declared flatly that the war was over…
Moreover, guerrilla activity was both increasing and becoming increasingly effective. Being incessantly ambushed, boloed and betrayed was nerve-wracking and the Americans began to exercise their mounting frustration on the population at large…

in April 1901 Aguinaldo was finally captured. The Americans had been so unsuccessful at trying to catch him that for a long period they simply gave up the effort…The Americans were delighted with the news…the Americans were dismayed to discover that his capture and surrender appeal made no perceptible difference in the fighting, which continued unabated…

In 1909, a decade after the first battle on the outskirts of Manila, Felipe Salvador was still fighting…”


*Al Gore sigh*

Deja vu, anyone?

This same sort of pointless quagmire conflict against “irregular” “insurgents” has been repeated over and over again for more than 100 years.

emilio aguinaldo


Arthur MacArthur Jr.

Arthur MacArthur

3 responses to “The First Vietnam: The Philippine-American War

  1. Anonymous August 9, 2012 at 1:42 am

    For even more information about the Philippine campaign, look up “Balangiga Massacre” – not the initial guerilla attack that killed some 48-50 U.S. soldiers, but the subsequent cleanup/extermination campaign.

    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. Eyewitness and journal accounts describe gruesome tortures and executions of men, women, old and young, including burying up to the neck and loosing dogs to savage the exposed heads, etc. Reliable estimates put the total killed at over 200,000, ranking both in quantity and content on a par with the Rape of Nanking.

    • Giovanni Dannato August 9, 2012 at 3:30 am

      “It may be necessary to kill half the Filipinos in order that the remaining half of the population may be advanced to a higher plane of life than their present semi-barbarous state affords.”
      -General Shafter, 1899

      “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
      -US Officer in Vietnam, 1968

  2. Eric Patton August 9, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    The Filipino’s I’ve talked too were always really nice to me, I suppose the common man doesn’t hold a grudge against America anymore.

    The population had a huge boom from 1887 to 1898, it increased by 900,000 at a rate of 12%+/-. The 1903 American census listed about 7.3 million people, around 200,000 less than the census 5 years earlier.

    To be the “bigger tribe”, you usually end up having to restrict movement and trade so you can lock down the black market and ensure the insurgents aren’t supported by the populace, while keeping them safe from their own freedom fighters. In practice, this usually ends up creating a concentration camp filled with disease and starvation, and this was the case here too. Infrastructure was poor so many died of dysentery, disease tends to kill more civilians than soldiers in most wars (I.E. influenza, typhus, typhoid, dysentery, tuberculosis).

    The US Generals apparently did their very best to control the media, but word still got out about burned villages and heads on sticks. Nationalism made more economical sense for the 20th century, Imperialism was already beginning to cost too much by this point in history.

    “The Filipino general Francisco Macabulos described the Filipinos’ war aim as, “not to vanquish the U.S. Army but to inflict on them constant losses.” They sought to initially use conventional tactics and an increasing toll of U.S. casualties to contribute to McKinley’s defeat in the 1900 presidential election.[61] Their hope was that as President the avowedly anti-imperialist William Jennings Bryan would withdraw from the Philippines.[61] They pursued this short-term goal with guerrilla tactics better suited to a protracted struggle.[61] While targeting McKinley motivated the revolutionaries in the short term, his victory demoralized them and convinced many undecided Filipinos that the United States would not depart precipitately.”

    I’m sure if we had airplanes we would of tried bombing them too.

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