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  The suppress the Filipino nationalist resistance against the U.S. annexation policy of "benevolent assimilation" resulting from the Treaty of Paris.  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." Later, the  U.S. War Department downgraded the title later merely as "insurrection" in order to avoid combat pay. 
  • Title was institutionalized by Pres. Roosevelt's Proclamation and Pardon and/or Amnesty Grant on July 4, 1902 
Conflict was consistently  called "Vietnam War." 


Type of Warfare  Formal warfare turned into guerrilla warfare at later part of the conflict. Guerrilla warfare turned into formal warfare at later part of the conflict.
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, calling the Filipinos "gugus," etc.
  • Use of Castillan "water cure"  torture technique.
  • 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 and undertrained. 
  • North Vietnamese were well armed and trained.
Preceding War 
  • Americans: Spanish-American War
  • Americans: None 
  • Filipinos: Philippine Revolution against Spain 
  • Vietnamese: French Indochina War 
Contemporary Major War Boer Wars (South Africa), and Boxer Rebellion (China) None
Foreign support  Philippines had none, or very little support (few rifles from Japan) 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 contradicted himself by welcoming troops buildup   "The Vietcongs are beaten" but Gen. Westmoreland requested troop buildup
Enlistment Problem Opponents of the war failed to disuade young men to enlist and fight and attract them to  the anti-imperialist cause upon their return as veterans. As war casualty mounted, strong opposition to the War was heavily influenced by returning veterans who questioned the motive and conduct of the war.
Duration of the Undeclared War
(War without act of authorization from the U.S. Congress)
  • Independence War: Feb 4, 1899 to July 4, 1902 (3-1/2 years)
  • Moro Resistance Wars: July 4, 1902 to March 22, 1915 (About  13 years)
  • Jungle Patrol (Silent "Indian Wars") Against:
    • The Bandoleros and Pulajans: 1902 -1907 (About 5 years).
    • The Moros: March 22, 1915 to Jan. 14, 1936 (About 21 years).
  • Total involvement: 37 years (Almost all throughout the entire U.S. colonial period)
Note: Jungle patrol means undeclared war against Filipinos using Filipino recruits but commanded by U.S. officers.
  • Indirect Involvment: Sept. 2, 1945 to Feb. 11, 1955 (Approximately 10 years)
  • Direct Involvement: Feb. 12, 1955 -takes over training of the South Vietnam Armed Froces
  • U.S. military stregth in Vietnam reaches 3,200 at the end of 1961.
  • U.S. withdrew from Vietnam on April 30, 1975 
  • Total direct involvement  20  years
Post-war Resistance The continuous resistacne of the Moro people until the present day. None. Vietnam became totally pacified after the war.
U.S. Troop Buildup 
  • 21,397 (Febuary 4, 1899, outbreak of war)
  • 95,891 (As of Oct. 15, 1900)
  • 300-3,000 (1960-1961);   
  • 3,000-540,000 (1961-1969)

  • [Peak buildup: 541,000 on March 6, 1969]
U.S. War Casualties* 
  • Independence War: About 1,018 killed in action; over 4,000  killed due to all kinds of diseases.
  • Moro Resistance Wars: 1902-1906: 239. Very few because of utilization of native recruits in the Philippine Constabulary.
  • 55,000 soldiers killed in action
First War Casualty Two Filipino soldiers killed by Pvt. William Grayson on Februarry that set off the war on Febraury 4, 1899 Lt. Col. Peter A. Dewey, ambushed by the Viet Min outside of Saigon on Sept. 26, 1945.
Highest Officer Casualty Gen. Greogorio del Pilar, killed at Battle of Tirad Pass on Dc. 2, 1898 Gen. Henry Lawton, killed on Dec. 17, 1899 by a sniper at Battle of San Mateo.
Mental Cases No record 347 cases in a period when approximately 100,000 soldiers served by 1900.
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 F. Aguinaldo; after Aguinaldo's capture on March 23, 1901, the formal Independence War (Christian front) collapsed . Ho Chi Minh; war efforts continued after his death until final victory was achieved on April 30, 1975.
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) 
War Victor 
  • U.S. imperialists as initial victors; 
  • Filipino ilustrados as final victors 
The Vietnamese Communists 
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. Civilian Father-Son 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 1963-1967.
Highest U.S. Military Father-Son Official to Witness Two Asian Wars Gen. Arthur MacArthur, the last Military-Governor of the Philippines who served in May 5, 1900-July 4, 1901 Gen. Doublas MacArthur, son of Arthur MacArthur, who commanded the WW II U.S. Pacific forces, Japan occupation, and Korean War.
Political toll Jennings Bryan, Democrat presidential candidate lost to President William MckKinley in the 1900 elections, for siding with the Anti-imperialists. President Lyndon Johnson, Democrat incumbent president did not seek reelection in the 1968 presidential election after realizing his unpopularity resulting from his mishandling 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. 
* = PAWCI estimates based on conflicting versions from many historians. 



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Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative (PAWCI)