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The Water Cure

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There were instances of torture on both sides during the Philippine Insurrection. It is often a surprise to Americans that some of these terrible acts were perpetrated by their own countrymen. The following description by Sergeant Charles S. Riley of the Twenty-sixth Infantry describes a method used to obtain information from Filipino prisoners. It was called the "Water Cure."

The Account:

"The [prisoner] was tied and placed on his back under a water tank holding probably one hundred gallons.

The faucet was opened and a stream of water was forced down or allowed to run down his tbroat.  His throat was held so be could not prevent swallowing the water, so that he had to allow the water to run into his stomach.  He was directly under the faucet, with his mouth held wide open.  When be was filled with water it was forced out of him by pressing a foot on his stomach or else with the bands; and this continued from five to fifteen minutes.  A native interpreter stood immediately over this man as he lay on the floor and kept saying some word which I should judge meant "confess" or "answer."

[If the man did not provide all the information wanted, the process was repeated.  This time a syringe was used to pump water from a five-gallon can.]

The syringe did not have the desired effect and the doctor [Dr.  Palmer Lyons, an Army contract surgeon] ordered a second one.  The man got a second syringe and that was inserted in his nose.  Then the doctor ordered some salt and a handful of salt was procured and thrown into the water.  Two syringes were then in operation.  The interpreter stood over him in the meantime asking for this second information that was desired.  Finally, he gave in and gave the information they sought, and then be was allowed to rise."


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O'Toole, G.J.A., The Spanish War : An American Epic--1898. (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1984) 389.

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