The War in the Philippines

By Robert Couttie, Subic Bay, Philippines


The Philippine-American War is certainly one of the the most forgotten war in U.S. Military history. At best it is perceived as a mere theatre of the Spanish American War, at worst it is seen as America's first Vietnam.
Filipinos had been fighting for their independence from Spain since 1896, under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo, who was in his late 20s at the time.

In Late 1897, lacking weapons, ammunition and food - though not popular support, the Philippine Independence movement was forced into a treaty with the Spanish Authorities. During the negotiations, in a last ditch attempt to maintain the revolution, an appeal was made to the State Department. The State department declined, forcefully, to have any dealings with Aguinaldo.

Aguinaldo and his government went into exile in Hong Kong with a payment of 400,000 pesos from the Spanish government, which the revolutionaries intended to use to buy arms and revivify the revolt.

In the run up to the Spanish-American War, several American Consuls - in Hong Kong, Singapore anmd Manila - sought Aguinaldo's support. None of them spoke Tagalog, Aguinaldo's own language, and Aguinaldo himself spoke poor Spanish. A British businessman, H.W. Bray agreed to act as interpreter.

Aguinaldo, and his British interpreter maintained later that the Philippines had been promised independence in return for helping the U.S. defeat the Spanish.

Aguinaldo was asked to go to Manila by George Dewey. Although they spoke, no-one knows the substance of the discussions - Dewey only spoke Spanish, Aguinaldo spoke it poorly and there was no intermediary.

It s clear that the Filipinos expected independence and believed that the history of the United States, as a former colony of Britain, made independence inevitable.

Dewey landed Aguinaldo on the mainland of Luzon, the large Northern island of the Philippine group, and within two weeks, with no arms supplied by Dewey and following refusals byDewey to provide support, Aguinaldo's forces controlled the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Dewey blockaded Manila from seawards. Spanish forces were forced into Manila and from the landward side blockaded Manila.

Several of Aguinaldo's generals urged him to march into Manila. However, Aguinaldo, and others, were aware that several European powers were interested in the Philippines. Only America promised protection against them.

Thus, Dewey only held the Bay of Manila, but no soil had been occupied by American forces.

In late July, American soldiers, largely volunteers who had actually joined to fight the Spanish, arrived. A series of negotiations began which resulted in a mock battle on August 13, to salve Spanish honor, which resulted in the surrender of Manila. However, the surrender was given by the governor of Manila, not the Spanish governor of the Philippines, who had already left the country.

Negotiations then proceeded between the U.S. government and the Spanish government. Aguinaldo declared independence, created a government and secured control of the Philippines, except Manila.

Neither the Spanish, not the American negotiators considered it important to speak to the Filipinos and conspicuously kept them out of the negotiations.

As negotiations continued, US forces expanded their positions in Manila. Aguinaldo urged his men not to be hostile, even though he was being urged to attack American
forces.

The US administration refused to communicate with Aguinaldo And, for the Filipinos even more worryingly, refused to mention the word independence - a word that was not to become an issue until 1935.

On February 4, two days before the U.S. Congress was due to vote on the Spanish-American Peace Treaty, and while Aguinaldo's staff were on vacation, an American Priovate, Willy Grayson, shot and killed a Filipino soldier who was apparently making fun of him.

Within hours, fighting had broken out along the demarkation line between US and Filipino forces.

In the years that followed, fifteen U.S. soldiers died for every man dead in Cuba, at a cost of $600 million, and 200,000 Filipinos died, of whom 20,000 were combatants.

Ironically, America had, in part gone to war because of the reconcentration camps introduced by the Spanish General, Weyler. The US finally won the Philippine American War by introducing the same technique in the Philippines.

By mid-1901, the US won had won the Philippine war of independence, at the cost of its innocence.


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