Parallels to the Vietnam War 

America's 'First Vietnam': A Forgotten Experience 

"There are other, more tragic parallels between these two American wars in Asia. In retrospect, each one appears to have been so unnecessary. Both Emilio Aguinaldo and Ho Chi Minh started out with enormous admiration for the United States. The Filipinos, particularly the ilustrado elite that so influenced Aguinaldo, were ready to accept the status if an American protectorate in return for domestic autonomy (which would describe our relationship following the war)."

"Ho was understandably suspicious of China and may have been valuable as a kind of Asian Tito, Lieutenant William Calley and My Lai are now leaving our collective memory as rapid as General Jacob Smith and Samar once did. This forgetfulness may partially be due to the paucity of popular literature dealing with two wars, although recent novels and movies are making the war in Vietnam more fertile in this respect."

"Possibly, a literary lacuna is an unconscious means of forgetting an unpleasant history." 

      • Stuart C. Miller, in his book Benevolent Assimilation 
  [ Note: Tito is the short name for Marshal Tito, the strong leader of Yugoslavia who ruled his country for almost 35 years taking an independent national policy of his own. He developed Yugoslavia's own brand of communism while preserving a neutral position in foreign affairs and accepting aid from both the Eastern and Western donors.] 
Table of Comparison Between Two Asiatic Wars 
Activity Description  Philippine-American War 
('First Vietnam') 
Vietnam War 
('Last Vietnam') 
War Objective  To carry out the U.S. annexation policy of "benevolent assimilation"  To bail out proxies of democracy - the South Vietnamese 
Ideology Motivation 
  • Independence war by the Christians; 
  • Resistance to new colonizers by the Mindanao Muslim Moros. 
An Independence War turned into Ideological War (Communism vs. Capitalism) 
Title of Conflict 


  • Originally was called "war" but the U.S. War Department downgraded the title later merely as "insurrection" to avoid combat pay. 
  • Title was institutionalized by Pres. Roosevelt's Proclamation and Pardon and/or Amnesty Grant on July 4, 1902 
Conflict was always called "Vietnam War." 


Type of Warfare  Formal warfare turned into guerrilla warfare at later part of war Guerrilla warfare turned into formal warfare at later part of war 
War Front/
Divide and Conquer Strategy
Bates-Sultan of Jolo Treaty created two war fronts: 
  • Luzon/Visayan Christians,  and 
  • Mindanao Muslim Moros 
The apparent purpose of the treaty was to diffuse and contain the Moslems while the U.S. was carrying out the Independence War of the Filipinos.
Political front in U.S. (the anti-war movement);  battlefront in Vietnam 
Atrocities  Similarities: 
  • Revenge motivated 
  • Burning of villages 
  • Rape 
  • Revenge motivated 
  • Burning of villages 
  • Rape 
  • Racially motivated 
  • Use of "water cure"  
  • No racial motive 
  • No "water cure"  
Concentration of Non-Combatants  Similarities: 
  • Concentration of non-combatants in reconcentrados 
  • Strategic hamlets 
  • Extermination of hundreds of thousands 
  • No known hamlet-related death 
Weaponry  Similarities: 
  • Use of innovation in weaponry 
  • Use of innovation in weaponry 
  • Filipinos were underarmed 
  • North Vietnamese were well armed 
Preceding War 
  • Americans: Spanish-American War
  • Americans: None 
  • Filipinos: Philippine Revolution against Spain 
  • Vietnamese: 

  • French Indochina War 
Foreign support  Philippines had none, or very little support from foreign countries  North Vietnam was supported by China and Russia 
Geography  Sea separates the islands that gave no place for Aguinaldo and his forces to hide and rearm. Neighbor countries gave Vietnamese guerrillas place to hide 
Political Division in the U.S.  U.S. divided into "imperialists" and "anti-imperialists"  U.S. divided into "hawks" and "doves" 
Optimism of Overall Command "Aguinaldo is beaten" but Gen. Otis welcomed troop buildup   "The Vietcongs are beaten" but Gen. Westmoreland requested troop buildup
Duration of Undeclared War
  • Independence War: Feb 4, 1899 to July 4, 1902 (3-1/2 years)
  • Moro Resistance Wars: 1902-1913 (Over 11 years)
February 12, 1955 to April 30, 1975 (Over 20 years)
U.S. Troop Buildup 
  • 16,405 in 1898   
  • 30,000-70,000 (1899-1901)
  • 300-3,000 (1960-1961);   
  • 3,000-540,000 (1961-1969)
U.S. War Casualties* 
  • Independence War: About 5,000     
  • Moro Resistance Wars: No figure 
55,000 soldiers 
Civilian Casualties (Duration of Undeclared War)* 
  • Independence War: 500,000 (3-1/2 years)     
  • Moro Resistance Wars: 10,000 (14 years) 
U.S. Vietnamese involvement  lasted for 
approximately 20 years 
Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Weapons Experimentation 
  • Introduction of "thorite" and "flame throwers" made of fire engines 
  • Use of assault artillery as weapons of mass destruction 
  • Array of modern conventional weapons of mass destruction 
  • Use of "crater bombs" and carpet bombing as weapons of mass destruction 
Symbol of Resistance  Emilio Aguinaldo; upon his capture, the war efforts collapsed  Ho Chi Minh; war efforts continued after his death until final victory 
Controversial Officer  General Jacob Smith (retaliatory expedition for the Balangiga Massacre) Lieutenant William Calley (My Lai Massacre)
Utilization of Mercenaries  Macabebes as mercenaries  Montagnard tribesmen as mercenaries 
Substance Abuse  Alcohol  Alcohol, drugs (marijuana and cocaine) 
Localization of Troops Army Reorganization Act of 1901 authorizing the enlistment of 12,000 Philippine Scouts "Vietnamization" of ground combat; U.S. ground combat role is terminated, leaving a force of less than 60,000 military advisers on June 1972.
Prominent U.S. Official to Witness Two Asian Wars U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge who belonged to the "Imperialist" political camp favoring Philippine annexation. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., son of the U.S. Senator; served as U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam in January 1969
Political toll Jennings Bryan, a Democratic presidential candidate who lost to President William MckKinley in the 1900 elections, for siding with the Anti-imperialists. President Lyndon Johnson, a Republican who did not seek reelection in the 1968 presidential election when he realized his unpopularity in handling the conduct of the war.
Counter-intellegence None formal The presence of the Central Intellegence Agency in conducting an "invisible war" against civilians including their role in coup de etat of and assasinations of Vietnamese leaders. 
War Victor 
  • U.S. imperialists as initial victors; 
  • Filipino ilustrados as final victors 
The Vietnamese Communists 
* = PAWCI estimates based on conflicting versions from many historians. 



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Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative (PAWCI)