The bells of Balangiga

In the (believed) friendly village of Balangiga, on the morning of 28 September 1901, local Filipino insurgents fell on the regulars of C Company, 9th U.S. Infantry, during the unit’s breakfast, effectively putting most of the 78-man unit on the casualty list.

As noted by the Army’s Center for Military History in a colossal understatement, “The Army retaliated brutally, killing large numbers of civilians as well as insurgents. When American military authorities court-martialed soldiers accused of atrocities, the trials fed the flames of controversy at home.”

Brig. Gen. Jacob Hurd Smith, USA and Major Littleton Waller, USMC, both underwent separate courts-martial for their roles in the punitive campaign. At their trials, both officers maintained that they had followed orders and Waller was acquitted but Smith drummed out of the service. A veteran of the Battle of Shiloh (from which he carried a Minie ball in his hip for the rest of his life), Smith’s call to leave the area as a “howling wilderness” and effectively shoot any male older than 10 earned him the label of “The Monster” in the press of the day. Regardless, he later was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Part of Smith’s legacy was the capture or otherwise taking away of three church bells during the Samar campaign as war trophies. Today, one is at slated-for-deactivation Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu (former home of the 9th INF), while the other two are rusting away at F.E. Warren AFB (formerly Fort D.A. Russell) in Wyoming. With the only unit of the 9th, the 4th battalion, currently stateside at Fort Carson, and the Philippines increasingly vital to U.S. interests in the Far East (read = South China Sea), Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis visited Warren this week and announced the beginning of the process to return of the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines in front of the two bells located there.

“To those who fear we lose something by returning the bells please hear me when I say the bells mark time, but courage is timeless,” said Mattis. “It does not fade in history’s dimly lit corridors nor is it forgotten in history’s compost.”
Presenting the bells supports our nation’s continued partnership with the Philippines.

Jose Romualdez, Philippine Ambassador to the United States, and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis stand for a photo, Nov. 14, 2018, in front of the bells of Balangiga on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. During the visit, the Bells of Balangiga were officially presented to the Philippine government. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams)

“History teaches us that nations with allies thrive,” said Mattis. “It reminds us too that all wars end. By returning the Bells of Balangiga to our ally and our friend the Philippines we pick up the responsibility of our generation to deepen the respect between our people.”

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

One response to “The bells of Balangiga”

  1. I am Not Cory Booker says :

    What utter pap. It is a hallow gesture that does nothing to alter the basic equation of security needs. I can understand why the military reacted as it did. The question is did it reduce future violence in the area, I’ll bet it did. As for those expressing horror, I’ll bet none of them had ever served, except themselves at some buffet.
    Its interesting to note the Philippines to this day has to deal with the same insurgents in a very violent and bloody campaign. Some things never change.

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