War Atrocities

"Water Cure" and Balangiga Massacre
The study of the Philippine-American War is never complete without mentioning the "water cure" and the Balangiga Massacre, an incident that brought the Americans their worst nightmare of the war.  But nobody have ever bothered to ask: "What motivated the Samarenos, armed only with bolos and sheer courage, to carry out the early morning surprise attack against the Americans?"

If there was the Balangiga Massacre describing the "treachery" of the Filipinos, there was even an earlier American-perpetrated war atrocity that occured in Lonoy, Jagna, Bohol on the Easter Sunday, March 1901, where 406 "insurrectos"  were ambushed and eliminated through "civilized" warfare leaving only a few survivors, who pretended to be dead, to tell the stories of their horrowing experience.

The nightmarish impact of the Balangiga Massacre felt by the Americans may never be felt the same by the Filipinos when mentioning their very own Lonoy Massacre, exept to know that there is a historical marker placed at the Jagna battlesite.

      • P.A.W.C.I.
Photo of reenactment of  "water cure" torture technique to make the "amigo" talk. The name "amigo" denotes
treacherous Filipinos that needs to be "civilized".
A cartoon depicting the order to  "kill every one over ten" Filipinos by American Gen. Jacob "Howling Jake" Smith, in retaliation to the Balangiga Massacre.
Photo of Filipino nationalist soldiers taken as prisoners of war by the Americans. But as dehumanization took effect on the Americans soldiers during the later part of the war, they  no longer took prisoners as evidenced by the Lonoy, Jagna incident.

Definition of Terms:

Atrocity  --atrocious behavior or condition; brutality; cruelty.
Massacre --the indiscriminate;  mercilles killing of a number of human beings.

Retaliation --the act of returning an injury, wrong, etc.;  to return evil for evil.

Lonoy Massacre: Early Attrocity
Six months previous to the Balangiga Massacre, the Americans committed perhaps one of the worst atrocity of the war when they ambushed the brigade commanded by Capt. Gregorio Casenas on Easter Sunday, March 10, 1901, at Lonoy, Jagna, Bohol resulting in the death of 406 "insurrectos." According to the relatives of the few survivors, the Americans shoot every "insurrecto" who were surrendering and giving up which means that the Americans were not to take any prisoner. The worst account of the atrocity came from the survivors who lived to relate their experiences to their kin --that they were bayoneted repeately and mercilessly.

In his book Philippine Islands, John Foreman wrote:

    "In January, 1901, the cry of rebellion was raised by one Pedro Samson, whose band of Boholanos, augmented by levies from Leyte, Samar, and Panay Islands numbered about 2,000."
Based on this account, it is possible that there were Samareno victims out of the 406 "insurrectos" ambushed and killed in Lonoy, Jagna. The news of their death in the hands of the Americans may have reached their relatives in Samar thereby provoking anger and hatred towards the enemy.
Photo of historical marker 
at Lonoy, Jagna, Bohol, to 
commemorate a "war incident"
that ocurred six months earlier
to the Balangiga massacre. For 
more details, see "Historical 
Shrines and Markers" page.
[Note: Col. Pedro Samson was the over-all commander of Filipino nationalist forces in the Bohol province for which Capt. Casenas served under his command. ]

Chilling words from Massacre Survivors

Balangiga Massacre: Motive

Much has been written about the Balangiga massacre and the treachery of the Filipinos in planning and carrying the attack. But nobody has written or bother to ask what was the motive of the Filipinos to fight the well--armed American tropps belonging to Company "C" of the 9th Regular Infantry bivuoacked in Balangiga on that fateful day of September 27, 1901? Where did the Samarenos got their sheer bolo-yeilding courage. Why?

Many theories were offered as an answer to Samarenos' motive, such as the traditional attrocities of rape, confiscation of farm animals without compensation, and other crimes of warfare.  But no one has come up or dare to ask for the motive --that of the possibility that the Balangiga Massacre was a retaliation by the Filipinos by a previous incidents of atrocities committed by the Americans.

Opportunity to Retaliate

The Balangiga Massacre in Samar occurred some six months after the Lonoy Massacre in Bohol.  There was plenty of time for the Samarenos to plan and prepare for the retaliatory attack that was motivated by revenge for their fallen comrades in Lonoy.  Thus it is safe to advance the Retaliation Theory in explaining the real reason and motive behind the Filipinos' 'treachery' in carrying out the early morning attack against the Americans stationed in Balalngiga.

Although the attack may not be 'civilized' but it was part of war, unfotunately.  Facing a formidable enemy, and knowing that they were underamed, the Filipinos had no recourse but to use their bladed weapons and to take every opportunity to surprise the enemy.

Table of Known Massacres with U.S. Involvement
Date Massacre Name Location Casualties Commander Name of Miniwar Name of Bigger War
November 28, 1864 Sand Creek Massacre Southeatern Colorado 200 Cheyenes Indians, two-thirds of them women and children, and 9 chiefs were killed Col. John M. Chivington Cheyene-Aparaho War Indian Wars
January 23, 1870 Piegan Village Massacre Montana 173 (53 women and children) Major Eugene M. Baker -
June 25, 1876 Custer's Last Stand Little Bighorn River 264 U.S. Cavalry soldiers Indian Chief Crazy Horse Sioux War for the Black Hills (1876-1877)
April 30, 1871 Camp Grant Massacre Arizona 86 Apache Indians  - Victims  were under the protection of the Army's Camp Grant; 29 children sold into slavery
December 29, 1890 Wounded Knee Pine Ridge Reservation 146 Sioux Indians including Chief Big Foot, including 44 women and 16 children Col. James W. Forsyth Religious "Ghost Dance"
March 10, 1901 Lonoy Massacre Lonoy, Jagna, Bohol 406 Capt. Andrew Rowan  Native traitor betrayed location of "insurrectos" Independence War
September 27, 1901 Balangiga Massacre Balangiga, Samar 54 out of 74 Gen. Vicente Lukban and Major Eugenio Daza Early morning surprise attack
1901 Balangiga Retaliation Samar Province No record Gen. Jacob "Howling Jake" Smith Punitive Expidition
March 7, 1906 Bud Dajo Jolo, Sulu  900 Gen. Leonard Wood Battle of Bud Dajo Moro Resistance Wars
June 11, 1913 Bud Bagsak Jolo, Sulu 2,000, including 196 women and 340 children Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing  Battle of Bud Bagsak
March 16, 1968 My Lai Massacre  My Lai Village, Vietnam (including the village of My Khe) 300 to 550,   to include neighboring My Khe village Lt. Wiliam Calley, Jr., commanding the elements of the Task Force Barker. "Search and destroy" patrol by U.S. troops Vietnam War

[Note:  In the above table, only the Custer's Last Stand and the Balangiga Massacre were not initiated by the Americans wherein they became the "victims" instead of "perpetrators" of atrocities.

        "We have to kill one or two every night."         "In substantially every case the report [of cruelty] has proved to be either unfounded or grossly exaggerated."

                            — Elihu Root, Secretary of War

On Taking Prisoners of War

"To keep them prisoners would necessitate the placing of the soldiers on short rations if not starving them.  There was nothing to do but to kill them."

Links to Balangiga Massacre References:

1.  Axelrod, Alan, Chronicle of the Indian Wars, From Colonial Times to Wounded Knee, Konecky & Konecky, New York, 1993.

2.  Tegtmeier, John, Vietnam War Internet Project, LBJ Library, University of Texas.

Copyright ©1998. All rights reserved
Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative (PAWCI)