U.S. WAR CRIMES IN THE PHILIPPINES, (1898-1899). By World Future Fund


Courtesy of: http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/war.crimes/US/U.S.Philippines.htm .

The U.S. occupation of the Philippine Islands came about as a result of military operations against the Spanish Empire during the Spanish-American war of 1898-99.  The seizure of the Philippines by the United States, however, was not unplanned.  American eyes had been set on the Philippines since before the outbreak of war.  To many prominent Americans, establishing a colony in the Philippines was a logical extension of the nation’s “manifest destiny” to play a leading role on the world stage.  An expanded American presence in Asia was also thought to have significant commercial advantages for the nation, since American companies could then participate directly in large Asian markets.

For all the alleged advantages to possessing the Philippines, no thought was given to whether or not native Filipinos would welcome American as opposed to Spanish rule.  The Filipinos were of course never informed of American intentions to stay in the Philippines.  This turned out to be a serious error.  By 1898 Filipinos had already shed a considerable amount of blood since rising up in 1896 to free themselves from Spanish domination.  They would not take kindly to a change in colonial administration from Spain to the United States.

The First Philippine Republic and the End of Spanish Rule

On May 1, 1898, an American fleet under Dewey sailed into Manila harbor and quickly destroyed a small force of Spanish ships anchored there.  Plans for Dewey to commence offensive operations against the Spanish in the Philippines had originated several months before, in February, when Assistant Secretary for the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, had cabled Dewey to say “Your duty will be to see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic coast … start offensive operations in Philippine Islands.”[1]

Because a considerable number of Spanish troops remained stationed throughout the Philippines, including a large force in Manila itself, American diplomats urged resistance leader Emilio Aguinaldo to return to the Philippines from exile in Hong Kong.  Before journeying to his homeland, Aguinaldo, who was overjoyed at the American declaration of war on Spain, cabled resistance members the following message, which clearly expresses his belief that the Americans had come to liberate his people:

Divine Providence is about to place independence within our reach.  The Americans, not from mercenary motives, but for the sake of humanity and the lamentations of so many persecuted people have considered it opportune to extend their protecting mantle to our beloved country. … At the present moment an American squadron is preparing to sail to the Philippines. The Americans will attack by sea and prevent any re-enforcements coming from Spain. … We insurgents must attack by land. … There where you see the American flag flying, assemble in number; they are our redeemers!”[2]

Aguinaldo sent another message several days later expressing the same confidence in American altruism:

Filipinos, the great nation, North America, cradle of liberty and friendly on that account to the liberty of our people … has come to manifest a protection … which is disinterested towards us, considering us with sufficient civilization to govern by ourselves this our unhappy land.[3]

Energized by the seemingly fortunate turn of events, the Filipinos immediately went on the offensive.  Within weeks Aguinaldo’s insurgents had pushed the Spanish back to Manila.  Fighting would continue for another two months, until American forces arrived in enough numbers to complete the defeat of Spanish troops holed up in Manila.  Aguinaldo and his men were ecstatic with their victory and on June 12, 1898 they proclaimed Filipino independence.  The First Philippine Republic had been founded.

What the Americans Promised the Filipinos

The declaration of a Philippine Republic should not have come as a shock to the Americans.  No American military commander or politician had formally promised the Filipinos independence after the end of fighting, but this is not the impression that motivated Emilio Aguinaldo and his men.  Statements made by several of the participants in these events suggest that by supporting the armed resistance of Filipinos to the Spanish, the United States was de facto guaranteeing the Filipinos their independence.  For example, American Consul Wildman in Hong Kong wrote at the time, “the United States undertook this war [against Spain] for the sole purpose of relieving the Cubans from the cruelties under which they were suffering and not for the love of conquests or the hope of gain.  They are actuated by precisely the same feelings for the Filipinos.[4 Admiral Dewey emphasized that during the liberation of the islands the Filipinos had cooperated directly with every American request, as if they were working with an ally and not a ruler.  To quote the admiral, “Up to the time the army came he (i.e. Aguinaldo) did everything I requested.  He was most obedient; whatever I told him to do he did. I saw him almost daily.”[5]  Finally, as General T.M. Anderson, commander of U.S. forces in the Philippines, later concluded, “Whether Admiral Dewey and Consuls Pratt (of Singapore), Wildman ( Hong Kong) and Williams ( Manila) did or did not give Aguinaldo assurances that a Filipino government would be recognized, the Filipinos certainly thought so, probably inferring this from their acts rather than from their statements.”[6]

American Forces Arrive

The first American soldiers under General Anderson had landed in the Philippines in June 1898 as part of an expeditionary force sent by President William McKinley to secure the archipelago for the United States.  They did not participate in military operations until August 1898 when Manila was captured.  The overwhelming bulk of the fighting had been carried out by the Filipinos themselves.  Nevertheless, once the Spanish signaled their desire to surrender.  General Anderson ordered Aguinaldo to keep his men outside of Manila while American troops marched into the city.  After Manila was secured, Anderson then told Aguinaldo that his men could not enter Manila.  The Filipinos were stunned by this and tensions began to rise between the Americans and Filipinos.

The Americans Double-Cross Aguinaldo

What Aguinaldo and his men had not been told was that the United States never entered the Philippines with the intention of “liberating” the native population and then withdrawing.  Filipinos had done the fighting and dying.  They had, in fact, liberated themselves from Spanish rule while U.S. and Spanish representatives negotiated an end to the war and the future right to territories that neither the Americans nor the Spanish controlled.

Nevertheless, President McKinley made it explicit in Washington that he did not intend to give up the Philippines once the war with Spain had been concluded: “Incidental to our tenure in the Philippines is the commercial opportunity to which American statesmanship cannot be indifferent. The United States cannot accept less than the cession in full right and sovereignty of the island of Luzon.”[7]

McKinley later explained his motives in deciding to seize the Philippines out of a sense of Christian mission:

“One night late it came to me this way – I don’t know how it was, but it came: (1) That we could not give them (i.e. the Philippines) back to Spain – that would be cowardly and dishonorable; (2) that we could not turn them over to France and Germany – our commercial rivals in the Orient – that would be bad business and discreditable; (3) that we could not leave them to themselves – they were unfit for self-government – and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain’s was; and (4) that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died.”[8]

The missionary zeal of President McKinley, as well as a patronizing sense of the inferiority of the Filipino people, was shared by other leading political figures.  For example, Indiana Senator Albert Beveridge argued that “[God] has made us the master organizers of the world. … That we may administer … among savages and senile peoples.”[9]

Double-Cross Complete: The Treaty of Paris

Tensions between the Aguinaldo government and the U.S. Army in the Philippines simmered between August 1898 and February 1899.  There was not yet any general outbreak of violence in the islands.  General Aguinaldo continued to hold out hope that the U.S. would reverse its imperialist course and would grant the independence to the Philippines that he thought American involvement in the war had promised.  With the formal signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, however, it became obvious that the U.S. intended to stay.  One of the treaty’s provisions was that the United States purchased the Philippines from Spain for $20 million, this despite the fact that Spain no longer controlled the Philippines and the Filipinos had formed their own republican government months earlier.

President McKinley finally disabused Aguinaldo of his hopes on December 21, 1898 when he issued the so-called “Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation”.  This proclamation, which McKinley ordered broadcast all over the Philippines signaled once and for all that the United States had no intention of leaving.  In the proclamation, McKinley stated:

“The destruction of the Spanish fleet in the harbor of Manila by the United States squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Dewey followed by the reduction of the city and the surrender of the Spanish forces practically effected the conquest of the Philippine islands and the suspension of Spanish sovereignty therein.  With the signature of the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain by their respective plenipotentiaries at Paris on the 10th instant, and as a result of the victories of American arms, the future control, disposition, and government of the Philippine islands are ceded to the United States.  In the fulfillment of the rights of sovereignty thus acquired and the responsible obligations thus assumed, the actual occupation and administration of the entire group of the Philippine Islands becomes immediately necessary, and the military government heretofore maintained by the United States in the city, harbor and bay of Manila is to be extended with all possible dispatch to the whole ceded territory.

The authority of the United States is to be exerted for the securing of the persons and property of the people of the Islands and for the confirmation of all private rights and relations.  It will be the duty of the commander of the forces of occupation to announce and proclaim in the most public manner that we come not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employment, and in their personal and religious rights.  All persons who, either by active aid or by honest submission, cooperate with the Government of the United States to give effect to these beneficent purposes will receive the reward of its support and protection.  All others will be brought within the lawful rule we have assumed, with firmness if need be, but without severity, so far as may be possible. … it should be the earnest and paramount aim of the military administration to win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of a free people, and by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of a free people, and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of the benevolent assimilation, substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.”[10]

The Philippines would thus not receive the independence that they had fought so hard to achieve.  Instead, it was made apparent to Aguinaldo and his followers that they had simply assisted the transition of rule in the Philippines from one foreign power to another.

War Breaks Out by Mistake: The Americans Deliberately Escalate

Hostilities in Manila between Aguinaldo’s resistance fighters and American troops erupted on February 4, 1899.  That day, U.S. troops were extending the American perimeter around Manila when a Filipino man who approached U.S. lines was shot by a sentry.  After this open fighting between Aguinaldo’s men and American soldiers began along the perimeter.  According to the Military Governor, General Elwell Otis, this fighting had not been planned:

“An insurgent approaching the picket (of a Nebraska regiment) refused to halt or answer when challenged. The result was that our picket discharged his piece (killing the Filipino) when the insurgent troops near Santa Mesa opened fire on our troops there stationed. … During the night it was confined to an exchange of fire between opposing lines for a distance of two miles. … It is not believed that the chief insurgents wished to open hostilities at that time.”[11]

Studies have since established conclusively that although the Battle of Manila was deliberately brought on by General Otis.  In this context it is worth quoting from one study.  According to Lichauco and Storey’s, The Conquest of the Philippines,

The next day (Feb. 5) General Aguinaldo sent a member of his staff under a flag of truce to interview General Otis and to tell him that the firing of the night before had been against his orders and that he wished to stop further hostilities.  To bring this about he proposed to establish a neutral zone wide enough to keep the opposing armies apart.  But to this request Otis replied that the fighting having begun must go on ‘to the grim end’. This refusal was followed by an attack on the Filipino forces which lasted all day and resulted in killing some three thousand natives.[12]

The battle was an initial defeat for the Filipinos, but it started a war that lasted until 1913.

The Pacification of the Philippines

At the outset of the fighting, American troops in the Philippines numbered around 40,000, but by 1902 this number had risen to 126,000.  During the first phase of the war, Aguinaldo’s men fought and lost a succession of formal battles against the U.S. Army.  In 1900, however, Aguinaldo abandoned head-on conflicts with the Americans and resorted to the guerrilla warfare tactics that had served him and his men so well against the Spanish.

For all the talk of bringing “civilization” to the Philippines, American commanders responded to the Filipino insurgency with the utmost brutality.  Over the course of the next decade, and especially in the first few years of the conflict, it became commonplace for entire villages to be burned and whole populations to be imprisoned in concentration camps.  No mercy was accorded to Filipino prisoner, a large number of whom were shot.  This certainly was not in keeping with the spirit of “benevolent assimilation” proclaimed by President McKinley.

From Liberators to Killers: American Attitudes Toward Filipinos

The attitudes of American commanders involved in pacifying the Philippines are remarkable for both their disdain for the people they had allegedly “liberated” and their willingness to resort to the most ruthless methods in suppressing resistance. For example, General J.M. Bell, wrote in December 1901:

I am now assembling in the neighborhood of 2,500 men who will be used in columns of about fifty men each.  I take so large a command for the purpose of thoroughly searching each ravine, valley and mountain peak for insurgents and for food, expecting to destroy everything I find outside of towns.  All able bodied men will be killed or captured. … These people need a thrashing to teach them some good common sense; and they should have it for the good of all concerned.[13]

That same month, General Bell issued Circular Order No. 3 to all American commanders in the field:

Batangas, Dec. 9, 1901.

To All Station Commanders:

A general conviction, which the brigade commander shares, appears to exist, that the insurrection in this brigade continues because the greater part of the people, especially the wealthy ones, pretend to desire, but in reality do not want, peace; that, when all really want peace, we can have it promptly. Under such circumstances it is clearly indicated that a policy should be adopted that will as soon as possible make the people want peace, and want it badly.

Commanding officers are urged and enjoined to use their discretion freely in adopting any or all measures of warfare authorized by this order which will contribute, in their judgment, toward enforcing the policy or accomplishing the purpose above announced. … No person should be given credit for loyalty solely on account of his having done nothing for or against us, so far as known. Neutrality should not be tolerated. Every inhabitant of this brigade should either be an active friend or be classed as an enemy….

Another dangerous class of enemies are wealthy sympathizers and contributors, who, though holding no official positions, use all their influence in support of the insurrection, and, while enjoying American protection for themselves, their families and property, secretly aid, protect, and contribute to insurgents. Chief and most important among this class of disloyal persons are native priests.

The same course should be pursued with all of this class; for, to arrest anyone believed to be guilty of giving aid or assistance to the insurrection in any way or of giving food or comfort to the enemies of the government, it is not necessary to wait for sufficient evidence to lead to conviction by a court, but those strongly suspected of complicity with the insurrection may be arrested and confined as a military necessity, and may be held indefinitely as prisoners of war, in the discretion of the station commander or until the receipt of other orders from higher authority. It will frequently be found impossible to obtain any evidence against persons of influence as long as they are at liberty; but, once confined, evidence is easily obtainable.”[14]

Even worse, perhaps, is the fact that the policies instituted by General Bell and other American commanders were endorsed by Secretary of War Elihu Root.  In an amazing letter to the Senate dated May 7, 1902, Root argued that

“The War Department saw no reason to doubt that the policy embodied in the above-mentioned orders was at once the most effective and the most humane which could possibly be followed; and so, indeed, it has proved, guerrilla warfare in Batangas and Laguna and the adjacent regions has been ended, the authority of the United States has been asserted and acquiesced in, and the people who had been collected and protected in the camps of concentration have been permitted to return to their homes and resume their customary pursuits in peace.  The War Department has not disapproved or interfered in any way with the orders giving effect to this policy; but has aided in their enforcement by directing an increase of food supply to the Philippines for the purpose of caring for the natives in the concentration camps.[15]

Like many of their officers, American troops also showed incredible callousness toward the Philippine civilian population.  A man named Clarence Clowe described the situation as follows in a letter he wrote to Senator Hoar.  The methods employed by American troops against civilians in an effort to find insurgent “arms and ammunition” include torture, beating, and outright killing.

At any time I am liable to be called upon to go out and bind and gag helpless prisoners, to strike them in the face, to knock them down when so bound, to bear them away from wife and children, at their very door, who are shrieking pitifully the while, or kneeling and kissing the hands of our officers, imploring mercy from those who seem not to know what it is, and then, with a crowd of soldiers, hold our helpless victim head downward in a tub of water in his own yard, or bind him hand and foot, attaching ropes to head and feet, and then lowering him into the depths of a well of water till life is well-nigh choked out, and the bitterness of a death is tasted, and our poor, gasping victims ask us for the poor boon of being finished off, in mercy to themselves.

All these things have been done at one time or another by our men, generally in cases of trying to obtain information as to the location of arms and ammunition.

Nor can it be said that there is any general repulsion on the part of the enlisted men to taking part in these doings. I regret to have to say that, on the contrary, the majority of soldiers take a keen delight in them, and rush with joy to the making of this latest development of a Roman holiday.[16]

Another soldier, L. F. Adams, with the Washington regiment, described what he saw after the Battle of Manila on February 4-5, 1899:

In the path of the Washington Regiment and Battery D of the Sixth Artillery there were 1,008 dead niggers, and a great many wounded. We burned all their houses. I don’t know how many men, women, and children the Tennessee boys did kill. They would not take any prisoners.[17]

Similarly, Sergeant Howard McFarland of the 43rd Infantry, wrote to the Fairfield Journal of Maine:

I am now stationed in a small town in charge of twenty-five men, and have a territory of twenty miles to patrol…. At the best, this is a very rich country; and we want it. My way of getting it would be to put a regiment into a skirmish line, and blow every nigger into a nigger heaven. On Thursday, March 29, eighteen of my company killed seventy-five nigger bolo men and ten of the nigger gunners. When we find one that is not dead, we have bayonets.[18]

These methods were condoned by some back at home in the U.S., as exemplified by the statement of a Republican Congressman in 1909:

You never hear of any disturbances in Northern Luzon; and the secret of its pacification is, in my opinion, the secret of pacification of the archipelago.  They never rebel in northern Luzon because there isn’t anybody there to rebel.  The country was marched over and cleaned in a most resolute manner.  The good Lord in heaven only knows the number of Filipinos that were put under ground.  Our soldiers took no prisoners, they kept no records; they simply swept the country, and wherever or whenever they could get hold of a Filipino they killed him.  The women and children were spared, and may now be noticed in disproportionate numbers in that part of the island.[19]

The Example of Samar: A “Howling Wilderness”

Early in the morning on September 28, 1901 the residents of the small village of Balangiga (located in the Samar Province) attacked the men of U.S. Army Company C, Ninth U.S. Infantry, who were stationed in the area.  While the Americans ate breakfast, church bells in the town began to peal.  This was the signal for hundreds of Filipinos armed with machetes and bolos to attack the garrison.  Forty-eight U.S. soldiers, two-thirds of the garrison, were butchered, in what is called the Balangiga Massacre.  Of the Filipinos who attacked, as many as 150 were killed.[20]

American troops began retaliating as soon as the next day by returning to Balangiga in force and burning the now abandoned village.  General Jacob H. Smith, however, sought to punish the entire civilian population of the Samar province.  Arriving in Samar himself toward the end of October, Smith charged Major Littleton Waller with responsibility for punishing the inhabitants of Samar.  Smith issued Waller oral instructions concerning his duties.  These were recounted as follows (see below) in Smith and Waller’s court martial proceedings the following year in 1902.  These proceedings, indeed attention to the entire matter of U.S. Army conduct in the Philippines, were driven by the appearance of an interview with General Smith in the Manila Times on November 4, 1901.  During this interview, Smith confirmed that these had truly been his orders to Major Waller.

“‘I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn: the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me,’ and, further, that he wanted all persons killed who were capable of bearing arms and in actual hostilities against the United States, and did, in reply to a question by Major Waller asking for an age limit, designate the limit as ten years of age. … General Smith did give instructions to Major Waller to ‘kill and burn’ and ‘make Samar a howling wilderness,’ and he admits that he wanted everybody killed capable of bearing arms, and that he did specify all over ten years of age, as the Samar boys of that age were equally as dangerous as their elders.”[21]

Smith carried out his mission by having U.S. troops concentrate the local population into camps and towns.  Areas outside of these camps and towns were designated “dead zones” in which those who were found would be considered insurgents and summarily executed.  Tens of thousands of people were herded into these concentration camps.  Disease was the biggest killer in the camps, although precisely how many lives were lost during Smith’s pacification operations is not known.  For his part, Major Waller reported that over eleven days between the end of October and the middle of November 1901 his men burned 255 dwellings and killed 39 people.  Other officers under Smith’s command reported similar figures.  Concerning the overall number of dead, one scholar estimates that 8,344 people perished between January and April 1902.[22]

The Death Toll of American Occupation

The overall cost in human lives of American actions in the Philippines was horrific.  One scholar has concluded concerning the American occupation that “In the fifteen years that followed the defeat of the Spanish in Manila Bay in 1898, more Filipinos were killed by U.S. forces than by the Spanish in 300 years of colonization. Over 1.5 million died out of a total population of 6 million.”[23]

A detailed estimate of both civilian and American military dead is offered by historian John Gates, who sums up the subject as follows:

“Of some 125,000 Americans who fought in the Islands at one time or another, almost 4,000 died there.  Of the non-Muslim Filipino population, which numbered approximately 6,700,000, at least 34,000 lost their lives as a direct result of the war, and as many as 200,000 may have died as a result of the cholera epidemic at the war’s end. The U. S. Army’s death rate in the Philippine-American War (32/1000) was the equivalent of the nation having lost over 86,000 (of roughly 2,700,000 engaged) during the Vietnam war instead of approximately 58,000 who were lost in that conflict.  For the Filipinos, the loss of 34,000 lives was equivalent to the United States losing over a million people from a population of roughly 250 million, and if the cholera deaths are also attributed to the war, the equivalent death toll for the United States would be over 8,000,000.  This war about which one hears so little was not a minor skirmish.”[24]

Yet another estimate states, “Philippine military deaths are estimated at 20,000 with 16,000 actually counted, while civilian deaths numbered between 250,000 and 1,000,000 Filipinos.  These numbers take into account those killed by war, malnutrition, and a cholera epidemic that raged during the war.”[25]

That U.S. troops slaughtered Filipino civilians out of proportion to the conventions of so-called “formal” warfare was remarked upon during the Senate investigation of the war‘s conduct.  As one official from the War Department estimated,

“The comparative figures of killed and wounded – nearly five killed to one wounded if we take only the official returns — are absolutely convincing. When we examine them in detail and find the returns quoted of many killed and often no wounded, only one conclusion is possible.  In no war where the usages of civilized warfare have been respected has the number of killed approached the number of wounded more nearly than these figures. The rule is generally about five wounded to one killed.  What shall we say of a war where the proportions are reversed?[26]


The United States Senate Investigating Committee on the Philippines was convened from January 31, 1902 after word of the Army’s Samar pacification campaign reached Washington via the Manila Times story of November 4, 1901.  Chaired by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the committee heard testimony concerning crimes that had allegedly been committed by U.S. troops and officers in the Philippines.  The policies behind the U.S. occupation were also examined.

For six months officers and political figures involved in the Philippine adventure, both pro and anti-imperialists, testified as to the brutal nature of American anti-insurgent operations.  Although attempts were made to justify the amount of damage U.S. troops were doing, as well as the number of Filipino lives lost, the evidence provided by several individuals was damning.

Major Cornelius Gardener, for example, a West Point graduate and the U.S. Army’s Provincial Governor of the Tayabas province in the Philippines, submitted the following evidence via letter on April 10, 1902:

Of late by reason of the conduct of the troops, such as the extensive burning of the barrios in trying to lay waste the country so that the insurgents cannot occupy it, the torturing of natives by so-called water cure and other methods, in order to obtain information, the harsh treatment of natives generally, and the failure of inexperienced, lately appointed Lieutenants commanding posts, to distinguish between those who are friendly and those unfriendly and to treat every native as if he were, whether or no, an insurrection at heart, this favorable sentiment above referred to is being fast destroyed and a deep hatred toward us engendered.

The course now being pursued in this province and in the Provinces of Batangas, Laguna, and Samar is in my opinion sowing the seeds for a perpetual revolution against us hereafter whenever a good opportunity offers. Under present conditions the political situation in this province is slowly retrograding, and the American sentiment is decreasing and we are daily making permanent enemies.”[27]

The letters of American troops home to the U.S. were also introduced as evidence of war crimes.  In this case, a letter written in November 1900 by one Sergeant Riley described an interrogation torture procedure used on Filipino captives:

“Arriving at Igbaras at daylight, we found everything peaceful; but it shortly developed that we were really “treading on a volcano.” The Presidente (or chief), the priest, and another leading man were assembled, and put on the rack of inquiry. The presidente evaded some questions, and was soon bound and given the “water cure“. This was done by throwing him on his back beneath a tank of water and running a stream into his mouth, a man kneading his stomach meanwhile to prevent his drowning. The ordeal proved a tongue-loosener, and the crafty old fellow soon begged for mercy and made full confession. … The presidente was asked for more information, and had to take a second dose of “water cure” before he would divulge.”[28]

Committee proceedings adjourned on June 28, 1902.  For two months after this the legal team presenting evidence for the committee compiled its report.  This report was released on August 29, 1902 under the title Secretary Root’s Record: “Marked Severities” in Philippine Warfare, An Analysis of the Law and Facts Bearing on the Action and Utterances of President Roosevelt and Secretary Root.  The report was a damning indictment of U.S. policy in the Philippines and the almost criminal conduct of the war by War Secretary Elihu Root, who multiple times had expressed support for the extreme measures implemented by the U.S. Army.

Altogether thirteen conclusions were drawn from the evidence, the most significant of which were:

1. That the destruction of Filipino life during the war has been so frightful that it cannot be explained as the result of ordinary civilized warfare.

2. That at the very outset of the war there was strong reason to believe that our troops were ordered by some officers to give no quarter, and that no investigation was had because it was reported by Lieut.-Colonel Crowder that the evidence “would implicate many others,” General Elwell Otis saying that the charge was “not very grievous under the circumstances.”

3. That from that time on, as is shown by the reports of killed and wounded and by direct testimony, the practice continued.

4. That the War Department has never made any earnest effort to investigate charges of this offence or to stop the practice.

5. That from the beginning of the war the practice of burning native towns and villages and laying waste the country has continued.

6. That the Secretary of War never made any attempt to check, or punish this method of war.

7. That from a very early day torture has been employed systematically to obtain information.

8. That no one has ever been seriously punished for this, and that since the first officers were reprimanded for hanging up prisoners no one has been punished at all until Major Glenn, in obedience to an imperative public sentiment, was tried for one of many offences, and received a farcical sentence.

9. That the Secretary of War never made any attempt to stop this barbarous practice while the war was in progress.

11. That the statements of Mr. Root’s, whether as to the origin of the war, its progress, or the methods by which it has been prosecuted, have been untrue.

12. That Mr. Root has shown a desire not to investigate, and, on the other hand, to conceal the truth touching the war and to shield the guilty, and by censorship and otherwise has largely succeeded.

13. That Mr. Root, then, is the real defendant in this case. The responsibility for what has disgraced the American name lies at his door. He is conspicuously the person to be investigated. The records of the War Department should be laid bare, that we may see what orders, what cablegrams, what reports, are there. His standard of humanity, his attitude toward witnesses, the position which he has taken, the statements which he has made, all prove that he is the last person to be charged with the duty of investigating charges which, if proved, recoil on him.”[29]


Chronology of the Spanish-American War

The Philippine-American War

The Balangiga Massacre

The Burning of Samar

The Philippine Revolution

The Philippine-American War

Biography of Emilio Aguinaldo

Emilio Aguinaldo and the Philippine Revolution

Biography of Admiral George Dewey

History of the Lodge Committee


William McKinley On Why the U.S. Should Take the Philippines

The “Benevolent Assimilation” Proclamation of President Wm. McKinley, December 21, 1898

Secretary Root’s Record: “Marked Severities” in Philippine Warfare

Letters from American Soldiers During the Philippines War

The Anti-Imperialist League, “Soldiers’ Letters: Being Materials for the History of a War of Criminal Aggression” (1899)

John Gates, The U.S. Army and Irregular Warfare, Chapter 3, “The Pacification of the Philippines”

Sean McEnroe, “Painting the Philippines with an American Brush: Visions of Race and National Mission Among Oregon Volunteers”

Apolinario Mabini, The Philippine Revolution
A history of the revolution from one of its participants.

Don Emilio Aguinaldo, True Version of The Philippine Revolution
A history of the Philippine Revolution written by the President of the Philippine Republic.


  • John M. Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags: The U.S. Army in the Philippines, 1898-1902 (Westport, 1973).
  • John M. Gates, “The Pacification of the Philippines, 1898-1902,” in Joe E. Dixon, ed., The American Military in the Far East: Proceedings of the 9th Military History Symposium, U.S. Air Force Academy (Washington D.C.,1982).
  • Moorefield Storey and Julian Codman, Secretary Root’s Record: “Marked Severities” in Philippine Warfare (Boston, 1902), 11.
  • Marcial P. Lichauco and Moorfield Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925 (NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926.
  • Richard E. Welch, Jr., “American Atrocities in the Philippines: The Indictment and the Response,” Pacific Historical Review, 43 (1974).
  • Stanley Karnow, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York, 1989).
  • Brian McAllister Linn, The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902 (Chapel Hill, 1989).
  • Peter W. Stanley, A Nation in the Making: The Philippines and the United States, 1899-1921 (Cambridge, Mass., 1974).
  • Stuart Creighton Miller, “Benevolent Assimilation”: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899–1903 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).
  • Angel Velasco Shaw, Vestiges of War: The Philippine-American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream, 1899–1999. (New York, 2002).


1) Marcial P. Lichauco and Moorfield Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925 (NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926), pp. 36f.

2) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 46.

3) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 47.

4) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 47.

5) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 48.

6) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 51.

7) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 70.

8) President McKinley Defends U.S. Expansionism

9) PBS: War in the Philippines

10) The “Benevolent Assimilation” Proclamation of President Wm. McKinley, December 21, 1898

11) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 92.

12) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 93.

13) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 120.

14) “The Orders of Bell and Smith” from Secretary Root’s Record

15) “Secretary Root Approved this Policy” from Secretary Root’s Record

16) “The Orders of Bell and Smith” from Secretary Root’s Record

17) “The First Reports of Cruelty” from Secretary Root’s Record

18) “The First Reports of Cruelty” from Secretary Root’s Record

19) Lichauco and Storey, The Conquest of the Philippines by the United States, 1898-1925, p. 120.

20) “The History of Samar” from Secretary Root’s Record

21) “The History of Samar” from Secretary Root’s Record

22) The Burning of Samar and The Balangiga Massacre

23) The Philippine-American War, See Note 1

24) John Gates, The U.S. Army and Irregular Warfare, Chapter 3, “The Pacification of the Philippines”

25) The Philippine-American War

26) “Evidence from Statistics as to Killing Wounded Men and Prisoners” from Secretary Root’s Record

27) See The Lodge Committee and The U.S. Senate Committee on the Philippines

28) Lodge Committee Report Summary: Secretary Root’s Record of “Marked Severities” in Philippine Warfare

29) Secretary Root’s Record: “Marked Severities” in Philippine Warfare

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