The Balangiga Massacre 1901


In 1899, Philippine-American War broke out. This war was fought between Filipino revolutionaries and the U.S. army. American army had arrived in Philippines in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

The Filipino revolutionaries, who aided the American army, hoped that once Spain was defeated, U.S. forces would leave Philippines. But once Spain was defeated, USA took over the colonial rule of the Philippines. This eventually led to war between the Filipino troops and the American forces. In 1901, this war was still going on.

What was the Balangiga Massacre?

The Balangiga Massacre is the name given to an incident in the town of Balangiga at Samar Island during which 48 American soldiers were killed. However, the American army later responded by severe measures and killed an unknown number of Filipino civilians on the island as a punishment. So the Filipino historians call these counter-measures as the real Balangiga Massacre.

Before the Massacre

In August, 1901, a large number of U.S. soldiers arrived in Balangiga. These soldiers shut down the trade of the town. Initially, the relations between the American soldiers and the townspeople were good. But Captain Thomas W. Connell took many measures which angered the town’s population.

These included an informal arrest of around 80 men as well as the cutting down of vegetation in and around the town. At the same time, the townspeople were in contact with the Filipino guerrillas. The guerrillas formed a plan with the townspeople to surprise-attack the American soldiers.

The Attack on American Soldiers

In the last week of September, the townspeople made secret preparations for the attack on American soldiers. They brought weapons into town, distributed these weapons to the town’s population and secretly sent away the women and the children. Then on September 28, they launched the attack.

The American soldiers were taken completely by surprise and initially overwhelmed by the attackers. All the officers of the American army were killed and the army suffered a total of 54 deaths as well as 18 wounded. This was one of the most severe and costly attacks on the American army during the Philippine-American War.

The Counter-Attack by the Americans

The American army and the U.S. government were shocked at this attack. The government asked the army commanders in Philippines to immediately pacify the Samar Island and end the presence of Filipino guerrillas there. This led to the second episode of the Balangiga Massacre.

During this retaliation of the American army, a large number of U.S. soldiers reached the island. When they reached the town of Balangiga, it had been abandoned. They put the town on fire and then proceeded towards the interior of the island. On their way, they burned homes, crops and other property.

A large number of Filipino civilians were also killed in this punitive expedition. Some actions by the American officers during this counter-attack were so severe that the U.S. Army began a court-martial against the officers for their cruelty. For this reason, some historians think that it was this counter-attack which was the real Balangiga Massacre.

The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History (3 Volumes)

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