Notes from Honor in the Dust

For The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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History notes

All [page numbers] reference Honor in the Dust (Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America's Imperial Dream) by Gregg Jones. New American Library, Penguin Group. New York, February 2012.

Notes are by William P. Meyers and reflect his interest in the Philippines war as part of the U.S. War Against Asia. Information previously noted from other texts is mostly not included here.

Littleton Tazewell Waller, "Tony," was born September 26, 1856 on a plantation in York County, Virginia. His father was a doctor, his maternal grandfather had been Governor of Virginia, but his family was ruined along with the Confederacy. He joined the Marine Corps in 1880, by which time it had only 1500 soldiers and was in danger of being eliminated. By May 1882 Waller commanded the Marines on the gunboat Nipsic in the European Squadron. In June Egyptians revolted against the tyranny of the British Empire, and in July the Brits bombarded Alexandria. Waller led 132 U.S. Marines to secure the American consulate and to help the Brits, who completed their offensive in September. The experience "schooled him in the hard ways of total war. When Arab forces decapitated captured British Bengali cavalrymen and displayed their heads on lances, the British began summarily executing enemy captives. Years later, Tony Waller would cite the British actions at Alexandria as justification for his own harsh treatment of enemy prisoners [in the Philippines]. [30-35]

President McKinley, who claimed no territorial ambitions when the war started, showed some ambivalence on whether to annex the Philippines or allow them to become independent, but under pressure from Theodore Roosevelt and other imperialists, on October 28, 1898 he cabled the American negotiators in Paris to demand the Spanish turn the "whole archipelago" over to the U.S. [104] The native government of the Philippines sent Felipe Agoncillo to Paris to push the negotiators to grant self-rule. He predicted that "Rather than live again as slaves, they [Filipinos] will fight to the bitter end in defense of their rights and freedom." But on December 10, 1898, Spain accepted $20 million for the Philippines by signing the Treaty of Paris, giving away what she had already lost to the independence movement. [105]

The signing of the Treaty of Paris enraged American anti-imperialists and set the stage for a fight over its ratification in the U.S. Senate. But the treaty was approved 57 to 27, just one vote more than the 2/3 required for passage, on February 6, 1899. Already on February 4, the soldiers of the Philippines were fighting much better equipped U.S. troops, and being slaughtered around Manila. [105-108]

Frederick Funston had been an American explorer and journalist before joining the Cuban revolutionary army fighting for independence from spain in 1896. In 1898 he signed up to fight on the American side in the Spanish American war, but it was over before his regiment was ready for deployment, so instead they were sent to the Philippines. Tensions around Manila rose in January 1899, and on February 4 American soldiers on patrol opened fire, killing three Filipino soldiers. The fighting spread, with the Americans holding the former Spanish positions protecting Manila and the Filipino's still positioned where they were readying to overthrow the last Spanish garrison in the islands before the Americans had arrived. [109-110]

On February 5, 1899 American troops staged a general attack on the lines of the Philippine citizens' army. In Manila urban guerrillas fought the American military police. General Arthur MacArthur (father of later General Douglas MacArthur) had his troops seize Santa Mesa Ridge. Funston and his troops charged and captured Filipino trenches. The day's casualties included 44 American gunmen killed, 196 wounded, while the Filipino losses may have exceeded 1000. [110-112]

MacArthur's troops, led by Funston's spearhead, smashed and pursued the Filipino soldiers led by Aguinaldo and General Antonio Luna. [112] These relatively easy victories convinced American generals and politicians that the war would be over quickly.

"Meanwhile, the tropical heat and humidity incubated deadly bacteria and diseases, and typhoid, cholera, malaria and dysentery soon were claiming more American lives than enemy bullets and bolos." [117]

Brigadier General Lloyd Wheaton, a Civil War veteran, was placed in charge of securing the areas east and south of Manila. "Infuriated by the stiff resistance he encountered at the town of Taguig, Wheaton ordered his men to burn houses and fields... Schooled under General William Tecumseh Sherman, Wheaton left a trail of destruction." [118]

General Otis had assumed overall command of U.S. forces in the Philippines in 1898. He underestimated the number of troops needed to crush independence. He had to censor American reporters to keep the bad news from making it back to the states. After the correspondents smuggled out a group letter and it was published, President McKinley ordered an end to censorship. [124-125]

Guerrilla warfare began in earnest after a Filipino army group led by General Manuel Tinio took Vigan on December 4, 1899, then were forced out a few days later. [138-139]

By February 1900 conventional warfare had ceased as the U.S. completed occupying major cities and some Filipino commanders surrendered. "One of the last campaigns had covered far southern Luzon and neighboring islands to the south, a White House-ordered expedition to restore the flow of cheap hemp exports to America's rope and twine industry and Midwest farmers — important Republican constituencies." [139-140]

Frederick Funston practiced tactics that would today be considered war crimes or crimes against humanity (depending on whether you see this as an international war or a civil repression) starting in early 1900. He recruited Macabebe tribal warriors and "soon halted the spread of guerrilla activity in Nueva Ecija." When telegraph lines were cut he burned the nearest villages. He practiced "the torture and summary execution of suspects by his native forces." He personally ordered the execution of at least two Filipino guerrillas. [148-149]

Colonel William Henry Bisbee reported his use of property destruction; instead of being told not to do that, he was ordered not to report it. Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell approved of the harsh tactics of Bisbee and others, but wrote he "would not be able to protect any officer whose employment of such methods became a matter of complaint." General Lloyd Wheaton made similar remarks. [149-150]

The proposed Surge: Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, eager to be re-elected, on August 1, 1900 wrote to Secretary of State John Hay urging quickly ending the Philippine war by using a surge in the number of American gunmen there and appointing a new supreme commander, his friend General Francis V. Greene. McKinley ignored the advice.

Tony Waller arrived with his Marines in the Philippines on December 15, 1899, where they drew guard duty at Cavite. In March Waller fell ill with symptoms of malaria. In June, 1900 Waller was ordered to lead a battalion of Marines to China to help an international imperialist force conquer it (to fight the Boxer (Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists) rebellion in American propaganda-speak). Thus the Philippines did prove to be the gateway to China. [172-175]

President McKinley's second term began March 4, 1901, and he defended the American conquest of the Philippines in his inaugural address. Manila stores were filled with American products like Heinz port and beans and Pabst beer. On July 4 General Arthur MacArthur handed executive power to (future President) William Taft and command of the military to General Adna Chaffee (an experienced fighter against American Indian tribes). [222-223]

U.S. Marine Corps Major Tony Waller fought a harsh war on the island of Samar, the Philippines, and returned to Luzon on February 26, 1902. A few days later he was arrested and told he would be tried in a court-martial for murdering captured rebel (Filipino) prisoners of war. Soon General Miles, thinking of a 1904 presidential run, "leaked the news that the president and Secretary of War Root had denied his request to conduct an inquiry into the Army's conduct of the war." [282-283]

On April 12, 1902, Major Kingsbury delivered the closing argument for prosecution. Noting that the legal status in Samar was military law, not martial law, he explained that there were no grounds for Waller's executions of his prisoners. "A proper military court would have concluded that the Filipinos had done nothing to deserve their fate." By an 11 to 2 vote, Waller was found not guilty of any of the charges. [295]

In an address on April 9, 1902, in Charleston, South Carolina, President Roosevelt, courting southern votes, boasted he "had selected another former Confederate general, Luke Wright of Tennessee, as his vice governor of the Philippines." [299. But possibly he had never risen above the rank of lieutenant in the Confederate Army]

Lieutenant John Day, Waller's adjutant, was also court martialed for the executions. In his testimony he casually brought up the unreported killings of an acting Filipino town president and two other by orders of Major Glenn. The defense argued that John Day was just following orders, and he was acquitted on all charges. [311]

Their superior, Brigadier General Jacob Hurd Smith, was subject to the lesser charge of "conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline." His jurors included General Wheaton "who had pioneered the Army's harsh counterinsurgency tactics in the Philippines" as well as other experienced war criminals. His trial started April 25, and he admitted that he had ordered Waller to take no prisoners, to "kill and burn," to kill all persons capable of bearing arms over the age of 10, and to make Samar "a howling wilderness." [311-312] By this time Roosevelt was on the offensive and the trial was being watched closely back in the States. The court admonished General Smith for his behavior, but gave him no actual punishment. [315-316]

Major Edwin Glenn was tried for his actions at Igbara, Panay, mainly torture using the water cure. His defense was that the water cure caused no harm but was necessary to get Filipinos to betray their independence fighters. But the court "found Glenn guilty of violating the laws of war. it suspended him from duty for one month and fined him $50." Lieutenant Julien Gaujot was sentenced to three months suspension without pay for giving the water cure to three Roman Catholic priests. Lieutenant Norman Cook was acquitted of the murders of 3 Filipinos including the acting president of Basey (alluded to above). [327-328]

The above is just a glimpse of the book. I highly recommend Honor in the Dust for anyone who wants to understand why Asians in particular have never trusted the U.S.

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