25 June 2006

Schoolbooks and Krags

“It was wonderful and fully explained the ease with which our friends, the enemy, have, when beaten, been able to escape destruction. . . He has shed all signs of the soldier, grabbed a white flag and some agricultural tool and gone to work, hard, in the nearest field and shouted “viva America” when the hot American soldier again hove into sight. I caught many wearing two suits, one military, the other, underneath, civilian, so as to be ready for the quicker transformation.”
--COL Robert Lee Bullard

“It has occurred several times when a small force stops in a village to rest the people all greet you with kindly expressions while the same men slip away, go out into the bushes, get their rifles, and waylay you further down the road. You rout them and scatter them they hide their guns and take back to their houses and claim to be amigos.”
--John L. Jordan

Schoolbooks and Krags: The United States Army in the Philippines, 1898 – 1902
John Morgan Gates. Published in 1973 by Greenwood Press, Inc. ISBN 0-8371-5818-4
This book was recommended to me as a study of the issues of Counterinsurgency operations several years ago. I have spent considerable time attempting to secure a copy, and after almost two years on backorder, Amazon.com finally produced it for me recently.

The issue of the performance of the Army in the Philippines is one that is utterly unfamiliar to most even within the service. Those who have heard of it are familiar primarily with the actions and supposed atrocities in Samar and perhaps have heard the ditty alleged to be a popular marching song regarding civilizing the “filthy, khakiac ladrones” with a Krag. As a side note, the ‘Krag’ is the Krag-Jorgenson single-shot breech loading rifle that had a brief service life and was the first rifle adopted by the Army which used smokeless powder and small high velocity bullets.

The immediacy of this study in 1973 and again today is obvious. For all that the vituperation heaped on the United States Army in the Philippines by anti-imperialists at the time and post-modernist or revisionist historians today, we did one hell of a job. The Philippines were not only incorporated into the United States’ Pacific empire, but less than 40 years later were our most enthusiastic supporters and fought the Japanese tooth and nail on our behalf. Even today, a significant number of Filipinos serve in the United States Armed Forces.

So what happened between the surrender by the Spanish to Admiral Dewey and the final surrender of Malvar in April of 1902? This tightly written and fascinating study tells the story well and quite readably.

In 1899, the first significant contingents of the Army arrived in the Philippines. They took possession of Manila and a handful of other locations, but the Filipino insurgents were in effective control of the rest of the islands. Hostilities eventually broke out when Aguinaldo finally realized that the Americans were planning to keep the Philippines. In a short, sharp operation, the Filipino army was defeated utterly, and it was proved incapable of resisting any American force of significant size. Discipline, training, and equipment were too dissimilar for there to be any real contest. Even when assaulting fortified positions, the Americans took few casualties and killed many of Aguinaldo’s troops. The Army, believing that the insurgency was dying, focused on what are today referred to as “civil-military affairs”. The now-familiar acronym of SWEAT was not yet invented, but the same areas of concern were in the forefront of the minds of the American officers. Schools were built, and often staffed by officers and NCOs of the American forces. Sanitation was a major concern due to the risk of disease, and as the liberal idea that we should “respect their culture” was not yet invented, the Army wrote sanitation codes which resembled those in use in American cities at the time. Unemployed men were hired in droves to clean up trash. As a result, the death rate from disease dropped by as much as 60% in some areas. Medical treatment and vaccination programs were set in place and consumed much of the time of Medical Corps officers. The Spanish friars were put in their place, being removed from control of local government and of the school system. Again, where the Filipino culture was an obstacle to good government, the Americans tended to run it over. However, much was preserved where it was not objectionable. Initially the legal system was run along Spanish lines for the civil courts, with military tribunals serving as criminal courts. As the court system matured, more jurisdictions over criminal cases were transferred to them. The Americans did introduce such novel concepts as the inadmissibility of hearsay evidence and other protections of the rights of the accused.

Unfortunately, the insurgency was just beginning. The Filipinos were discarding the conventionalized force structure created to combat and defeat Spanish colonial troops, and instituting a decentralized guerilla structure which operated by means of terror and ambush. Their primary emphasis was on Filipino civilians, because like all guerillas, taking on people who can shoot back is something they just don’t have the guts for. An American unit could roll into a town and do whatever they pleased, but the minute the troops left, anyone who cooperated with them would be at risk of getting their throat cut, buried alive, or beheaded.

This intensified in 1900 in preparation for the presidential election of November of that year.
“[A]dopt all means. . . advisable for strengthening our army, in order that, in this manner the imperialists of the United States will have no cause to contribute to their success at the next Presidential election.”
--Aguinaldo, in his instructions to his generals prior to the 1900 election.

Then, like today, the “anti-Imperialists” were hard at work to sabotage the war effort. They sent propaganda to the Filipinos and even to American troops to attempt to demoralize them. They accused McKinley of being more or less the root of all evil. The insurgents were very aware that if William Jennings Bryan were elected president, the Americans would pack up and leave all the “Americanistas” to the dubious mercies of their fellow countrymen. Oddly enough, the Army was quite aware of this as well, and letters are preserved from some of the officer corps expressing disgust with the anti-Imperialist crowd.

By mid-1900, the policy of benevolent pacification and governance were put in jeopardy. Since the average Filipino was playing both sides against the middle, attempting to placate both the insurgents and the Americans, this caused a great deal of frustration on the part of many officers. The Macabebe (Filipino tribe) scouts that were attached to American units engaged in the “water cure” and other forms of terror. Official policy was strongly against such behavior. In Leyte, a Circular was issued by the Headquarters of First District, Department of Visayas, that instructed that Filipino were to be treated “with the utmost kindness and consideration unless it is positively known that they are insurgents.” In Luzon, an order was published that reminded the troops that “no end can be so desirable or important to justify a departure from the recognized laws of war or a resort to any deliberate measures of cruelty.” Still, incidents occurred.

In late 1900, there was a great deal of discussion of a change of policy. Especially for officers who had seen a great deal of benevolence and seemingly little return in terms of intelligence they could use to root out guerillas, harsher reprisals seemed to be required. In the words of General Loyd Wheaton, “You can’t put down a rebellion by throwing confetti and sprinkling perfumery.” To be fair, he also was of the opinion that if the majority of the Filipino people could be protected from insurgent violence and terror, that they would accept the authority of the United States and not cause further trouble.

One issue was that the American forces were acting with far greater consideration that was necessary under the Laws of Land Warfare. At that time, the controlling document was General Order No. 100, 1863. This, in paragraphs 82-85 authorized the death penalty against murderers, highway robbers, persons destroying property, spies, conspirators, and the part-time guerilla. These persons did not have the right to a military tribunal or the privileges of a prisoner of war, but could be summarily executed. This order had widespread international approval, having been adopted in 1870 by the Prussian Army and having been used as the framework for the Hague Convention in 1899.

For a comparison, look at the amount of paperwork required for military personnel to detain a person in Iraq, as compared to the strict law of the Geneva Conventions, under which a person taken in civilian clothing who participated in attacks against military targets (easily provable with ex-spray) can be executed by the sentence of a summary court-martial conducted in the field.

General Order 100 recognized the right of retaliation and classified guerillas in the same heading as “highway robbers or pirates.” Any person having communication with them could be subject to severe penalties, including death. Meanwhile, Washington was pressuring the military high command to do something to end the war quickly, preferably before the elections. The civil government commission, headed by William Taft, did not clarify matter much. He favored leniency and harsh treatment at the same time in different communications.

General MacArthur, under a great deal of stress and pressure, was not short of advice. It came from every quarter. The most useful bit of it came in the form of a study by 1LT W. T. Johnston on insurgent methods. To his everlasting credit, the General refused to compromise his basic belief in the efficacy of ‘beneficent republican American institutions’ and his policy retained the emphasis on benevolence towards the majority of the Filipinos. Another bulwark of the new policy was on the expansion of the educational system. Illustrating another unchanging facet of America’s relationship with her military, General MacArthur was now soundly criticized by Taft for being too lenient, where formerly he had been blasted by the same politician for being harsh and arbitrary.

Because American policy in the islands was tied to the election of 1900, General MacArthur decided to begin his offensive upon receipt of the news of McKinley’s reelection. This was a blatant attempt to capitalize upon the presumed demoralization of the insurgents, whose propaganda had been stressing the idea that it would only be necessary to hold out until Bryan was elected. By mid-December, there were 70,000 troops in the Philippines, most of whom were veterans. On December 19, MacArthur issued an order which stated that the objective of the forthcoming campaign was to “interrupt and, if possible, completely destroy this system,” by which he meant the shadow government network which provided supplies and recruits to the insurgents. He also issued a proclamation which outlined the provisions of the laws of war based on General Order 100. Persons who engaged in terrorist attacks upon civilians residing in occupied territory who were cooperating with the Americans were to be tried by the military. They would be charged with murder, assault, or arson as applicable, but would also be charged as ‘war rebels’ which could carry the death penalty. He also explained to the part-time guerilla something which could be usefully explained to certain people today.

“Men who participate in hostilities without being part of a regularly-organized force, and without sharing continuously in its operations, but who do so with intermittent returns to their homes and avocations, divest themselves of the character of soldiers, and if captured are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war.”

Compulsion, intimidation, or fear would not be accepted as excuses, in an attempt to make cooperation with insurgents as dangerous as refusal. Even Taft noted that as a result, “it has ceased to be a good joke to be an insurrecto.” Filipinos detained were held in prisons in Manila or deported to Guam and it was made clear that they would continue to be held until the cessation of hostilities. And for the first time, a Division of Military Information was set up in Manila, which began by analyzing the mounds of captured insurgent documents.

Garrisons were set up in many more localities, increasing from 400 to 502 within a few months. They occupied every important municipality and strategic point, and also set up blocking positions on trails used by insurgents. On the island of Marinduque, the American commander began concentrating the populace in those towns that were garrisoned due to his lack of troops to put out more detachments. Aggressive scouting and patrolling was also part of the offensive. Pushing detachments into mountain trails previously considered inaccessible located numerous hidden supply caches.

By mid-1901, most insurgent bands were reduced to terrorizing their own people and firing shots at random into town garrisoned by the Army in the middle of the night. Their outside support was shut down by a tight naval blockade which enforced a system of licensing commercial craft and the guerilla’s influence in the hemp trade was curtailed. At this point, MacArthur began the first program in the Philippines which was intended to replace every road in the islands with a system of good all-weather roads.

In response to a War Department order to return 28,000 Volunteer troops to the United States, he put an emergency priority on developing the Filipino police forces, and instructed his commanders to recruit as many scouts as they felt safe arming. Nearly 12,000 Filipinos became either Scouts or police by June 1901.

While the more severe policy was described enthusiastically by some as substituting “the effective noose for the ineffective schoolbook,” this is not the case. The men who committed crimes and cruelty against Filipinos were a minority, and were punished when discovered. The work of organizing municipal government, sanitation and public health, reform of the fiscal system, and public works continued with no change. Vaccination programs reached their millionth inhabitant before the end of 1901. School affairs were transferred to the Taft Commission on September 1st, 1900 but continued along the lines originally proposed by Captain Todd and the military continued their role as school organizers, builders, and teachers.
Filipinos insurgents were encouraged to surrender voluntarily and paid well to do so. The payment of $30 (Mexican silver dollars) for each weapon surrendered was enough to give them a chance to return to peaceful existence in the community. Or, a surrendered weapon could earn the release of a prisoner. Wives, sweethearts, and parents purchased their insurgent’s freedom with his weapon.

The formation of the Filipino Federal party by conservative Filipinos was an important alternative to Aguinaldo’s independence movement. The party was supported by middle- and upper- class Filipinos who considered that continued conflict only brought economic ruin.
The response of the insurgents was more terror. They vented their rage by torturing, mutilating, and slaughtering civilians caught in the process of aiding the Americans. Aguinaldo’s government proclaimed a death sentence for any Filipino joining the Federal Party, turning in a weapon to the Americans, or any other act which could be construed as supporting the Americans. Towns organized against them. In Zambales Province, three towns met jointly and passed a resolution to be transmitted to the rebel leaders in the area notifying them of the formal withdrawal of support. They also suggested that the insurgents should surrender their weapons and promised that if they did not do so, the townspeople would lead American forces to their hiding places. Another town president upset a revolutionary leader by bombarding his troops with comparisons of the great hardships of guerilla campaigning to the easy life in town under American protection. The Federal Party organization was in direct competition for Filipino support, and as it was in favor of peace and stability, it had great appeal to the local people. The tally of surrendered and captured guerillas is testimony to the results of this loss of control of the municipalities.

The operation which captured Aguinaldo was a good example of the new spirit of cooperation. Aguinaldo dispatched some letters to his local commanders, and one of the messengers was persuaded by a town president to surrender to the Americans. A handful of officers commanding a force of 81 Filipino Scouts used the messenger as a guide to Aguinaldo’s headquarters, and captured him.

By the end of September 1901, nearly the entire archipelago had been pacified with the exception of Samar and Batangas. On the previous island there was an incident which nearly upset the good groundwork laid for the future government of the islands. The inhabitants of the town of Balangiga, in combination with bands of insurgents, turned upon their garrison, 3 officers and 71 men of C Company, 9th Infantry. Only 26 men survived. Unfortunately, the command in the Philippines had recently transferred to General Chafee and General MacArthur had been sent home. The Army in the Philippines had a certain amount of suspicion of the Filipinos and there were some reactions, arbitrary arrests and similar occurrences. Chafee was convinced that the Philippines were a powder keg, ready to explode at a touch. More accurately, most of the islands were in excellent shape. Cebu was pacified by an aggressive campaign from September to November 1901, and then Bohol was pacified by December. 75% of the population was in areas under civil authorities and the Philippine Constabulary was doing an adequate job of keeping the peace other than in Samar and Batangas.

Samar was never controlled completely by the Spanish in the centuries of their occupation, and it was 5,276 square miles of crap terrain and 250,000 inhabitants scattered in tiny coastal towns and villages. The hinterlands were jungles crossed by poorly marked trails. The guerillas harvested hemp and sold it to foreign firms in exchange for cash and contraband which made them better supplied than most. General Jacob H. Smith and his Sixth Separate Brigade were given orders by General Chaffee in a face to face conference. “We have lost 100 rifles at Balangiga and 25,000 rounds of ammunition. You must get them back. You can have $5,000 gold. Capture the arms if you can, buy them if you must; whichever course you adopt, get them back.” Smith and his troops were animated by the spirit of revenge. He declared to Major Waller, a Marine officer, that he wanted “no prisoners.” He wanted to make the interior of the island a “howling wilderness.” This overlooked the fact that it pretty much already was, but such orders in a pacification campaign are unfortunate at best and criminal in any case. He regarded all Filipinos as enemies and instructed his officers to treat them as such until they proved themselves friendly by providing useful information. He destroyed buildings, killed draft animals, and otherwise mostly terrorized the inhabitants. The Judge Advocate General of the Army observed that only the good sense and restraint of the majority of Smith’s subordinates prevented a general reign of terror. Smith interfered with civil government, and infuriated the acting governor, Commissioner Wright. After three months, even General Chaffee recognized that he was causing more problems than he was solving and he pressured Smith into restraining himself. Whether he modified it himself, or was ordered to do so, his new policy from January 1902 was now modeled after that on Batangas and carried out by General Bell. Eventually Lukban, the insurgent commander on Samar, was captured on Feb 18, 1902 and his successor, upon seeing the new program surrendered himself by the end of April. Smith’s policies inspired parts of Leyte to revolt, which was answered by Captain Allen and the Constabulary. In early April he was relieved of his command and sent to Manila for an investigation that would end his career.

General Bell’s operation in the southern Luzon province of Batangas was something quite different. The goals were to isolate the guerilla from the popular support, protect all Filipinos seeking freedom from the revolutionaries, and punishing swiftly those who aided the guerillas. He carefully repudiated any use of torture, burning, or unauthorized severity. He set up protected zones and relocated the population into them. Those suspected of supporting the guerillas were arrested on suspicion, though it was noted that once a suspect was confined evidence was obtained easily. American units scouted and patrolled constantly, destroying caches of food or stores found outside the protected zones. Anyone found outside protected zones was detained and escorted back. The application of General Order 100 and the arrest of members of the elites who supported guerillas put a great deal of pressure on the people to help the Americans to bring about the end of the war. The constabularies in other provinces patrolled the border to prevent terrorists taking refuge outside of the sector, and a pass system to control movement was instituted. The leader of the Philippine insurgents and successor to Aguinaldo, Malvar, was in direct control over the province, and surrendered on 16 April 1902 after finding himself separated from his escort by a sudden American attack and with his entire staff already captured. General Bell used a mere 10,000 troops to capture over 1,000 guerillas and accept the surrender of 3,700 more. Over 4,000 firearms were captured as well. It is not provable but probable that the force on Batangas had at least another 4,000 guerillas who simply faded back into society.

At this point, the civil and military authorities began to think in terms of amnesty and reconstruction. The amnesty was published on July 4th, 1902 and covered all Filipinos who participated in the revolt, excepting those who had been convicted of murder, rape, arson, or robbery or who committed crimes after 1 March 1902. At the same time the War Department ended the office of military governor and gave the civil authorities supreme authority in the islands. A number of ex-guerillas remained in the hills as bandits, but this was the problem of the civil government, which included a number of former guerillas in local offices. Ironically, it was about this time that the first reports of problems in Mindanao presaged the outbreak of the Moro revolt.


Blogger Tim Covington said...

This reminded me of a travesty I saw at the last gun show I went to. Someone had butchered a Krag in an attempt to sporterize the stock and add a scope to it. I almost cried.

1:07 AM  
Blogger A Soldier's Girl said...

Hmmm...I think I'm jealous. ;-)

5:43 PM  
Blogger Michael Z. Williamson said...

Actually, the Krag fed from a side-opening magazine and had a cutoff for single shot. One of the easier rifles to reload. Open, dump in rounds, close.

7:24 AM  

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