Filipino-American War

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Filipino-American War
American Company B troops, First Nebraska Volunteers, near Manila in 1899
American Company B troops, First Nebraska Volunteers, near Manila in 1899
date February 4, 1899 - July 4, 1902
(official end of the war)
February 4, 1899 - June 15, 1913
(actual end of the war)
place Philippines
Exit United States Victory
Parties to the conflict

United States 45United States United States

Philippines 1898Philippines Philippines


William McKinley
Theodore Roosevelt
Arthur MacArthur
John Pershing
Jacob Smith

Emilio Aguinaldo
Antonio Luna
Paciano Rizal
Miguel Malvar
Macario Sakay


4,234 dead
2,818 wounded

~ 12,000–20,000 (soldiers)
~ 200,000 (civilian population)

The Filipino-American War from 1899 to 1902 describes the struggle of the Filipino independence movement against the new colonial power of the United States . Under Emilio Aguinaldo , the Katipunan independence movement proclaimed a national republic that lost its foundation with the end of the resistance. The conflict was a direct result of the Spanish-American War won by the USA in 1898 , in which the independence movement supported the USA against Spain . In a series of campaigns, the American troops succeeded in subjugating most of the islands of the Philippine archipelago and establishing colonial rule that lasted until the Japanese occupation of the islands in World War II . Around 1 million Filipinos (20% of the population at the time) were killed as a result of the war, the purely military losses were significantly lower. The war is seen as genocide in some parts of the research.


From 1896 onwards there was an uprising against Spanish rule in the Philippines, in the course of which a Philippine constitution was created for the first time and the provisional republic of Biak-na-Bato was formed. The rebels could not assert themselves militarily against the Spaniards. At the end of 1897, after negotiations with the Spaniards, their leaders agreed to leave the islands. They founded the Hong Kong Committee in Hong Kong in May 1898 . There it met with representatives of the USA and Emilio Aguinaldo met on May 7th in Singapore with the American ambassador, who assured him the support of the USA, but only in verbal form. After the Spanish-American War broke out in April and the Battle of Manila Bay in May 1898, the exiles returned and began to prepare the country for independence. On June 12, 1898, the young Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence and convened a constituent assembly. At that time, the USA was only represented by the US Asia Squadron under Commodore George Dewey .

In order to break the Spanish rule, but also because of the suspiciously viewed declaration of independence, troops were subsequently marched by the USA, which defeated the Spanish garrison in Manila in August and from then on occupied the city. This was both the final combat action and the conclusion of the Spanish-American War.

In January 1899 the Filipino Constitution was proclaimed in Malolos Cathedral and the First Philippine Republic was founded . A month earlier, however, Spain and the USA had signed the Paris Treaty , according to which the Philippines, as well as Guam , Cuba and Puerto Rico , were to be transferred to the USA as property in return for payment of 20 million dollars. The question of ratification by the US Congress sparked a heated debate, because the acquisition of colonies contradicted the American self-image as a nation that had itself come into being through a rebellion against the motherland.

Reactions in the US

In June 1898 the American Anti-Imperialist League was founded in the USA , which spoke out against the annexation of the Philippines and other areas. The broad league included prominent figures such as Mark Twain , William James , George S. Boutwell , Samuel Gompers and Carl Schurz, as well as the industrialist Andrew Carnegie . During the war, the league published war reports by soldiers to explain the atrocities during the fighting.

In an official statement dated December 21, 1898, US President William McKinley described the annexation of the Philippines as benevolent assimilation . Four months later, he publicly stated:

“In truth, I didn't want the Philippines, and when we got them as a gift from the gods, I didn't know what to do with them. I walked around the White House evening after evening until midnight; and I am not ashamed to admit that I knelt down and approached the Almighty more than once for light and guidance. And one evening late it dawned on me: firstly, that we could not give them back to Spain - that would be cowardly and dishonorable; second, that we could not leave them to France or Germany, our trade rivals in the east; that would be bad business style and discrediting; third, that we couldn't just leave them to their own devices; they were not ripe for self-government; they would soon have had anarchy there and a worse mismanagement than the Spanish one; fourth, that we had no choice but to educate the Filipinos, to uplift them, to civilize and Christianize them and, by God's grace, to do what is best for them as well as for our fellow human beings, for whom Christ died as well. Then I went to bed and fell asleep and had a sound sleep. The next morning, I called the War Department's chief engineer, our cartographer, and ordered him to put the Philippines on the map of the United States, and there they are, and that is where they will stay as long as I am President. "

McKinley's speech makes it clear that the US did not want to abide by the agreements and that the dream of international recognition of Filipino independence should prove to be an illusion. On January 20, McKinley called the Schurman Commission to work out proposals for a civilian colonial government with the participation of the Filipino people.

Mark Twain wrote in the press, among other things:

“Why, we have gotten into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation. "

“We got into a mess, a swamp from which it becomes immensely more difficult to get out with every new step. I would really like to know what we get out of it and what that means for us as a nation. "

Ultimately, the imperialists prevailed with a narrow majority, whereupon the treaty was ratified in February. The Philippines were aware of the danger of a possible war with the United States as a result of the Paris Treaty. The troops of the national army were therefore concentrated around Manila as a precaution, where there were several mutual provocations with US troops. War broke out on February 4 when a US patrol opened fire on a group of Filipino soldiers.

The American stance was also made very clear in the January 9, 1900 speech by the Indiana Republican Senator Albert J. Beveridge to the US Congress as the latter defended the war, the losses and the spending:

“Right behind the Philippines are China's vast markets. We will do our part in the mission of our God-protected race in civilizing the earth. Where will we find the buyers of our products? The Philippines give us a base at the gateway to the east. "

Course of the fighting

In the battle of Manila that followed, the militarily defeated Filipinos suffered a severe defeat and had to retreat inland. Internal power struggles and the resulting assassination of the talented Filipino general Antonio Luna further weakened the resistance, leaving the Filipinos with only guerrilla warfare. The fighting in the first year of the war was concentrated on the main island of Luzon . It quickly became clear that the number of US troops was too small to bring about a decisive defeat for the Philippine army. Most of the time, the Philippine armed forces managed to evade major skirmishes, and they could also count on the support of the population. Since the resistance was not expected to subside, the Americans began to take action against the civilian population. A " scorched earth " tactic was used to gradually dry up the basis of resistance. In March 1899 the Americans succeeded in penetrating Malolos , the first capital of the new republic. The Congreso Revolucionario (Revolutionary Assembly) and the government then moved their seat to Tarlac , which was the capital of the First Republic from July to November 1899. On November 13th, the Americans captured Tarlac and the First Republic came to an end. From then on the Filipinos went over to guerrilla warfare . However, from this point in time at the latest, the Americans had the better logistical infrastructure, as they could use the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan railway to transport troops.

A large-scale operation to conquer the last Filipino resistance nests in Central Luzon failed in 1900 because Aguinaldo was able to escape in time. He then continued the fight from the Cagayan Valley . After this failure, the American commander Elwell Stephen Otis resigned from his post. The new commander was General Arthur MacArthur , the father of the later commanding officer of the Pacific Forces Douglas MacArthur . In the same year William Howard Taft was sent to the Philippines as civil governor general . He managed to win part of the upper class for an American-run civil administration.

“Kill every one over ten” - illustration of mass executions in the Philippine-American war

Under the command of MacArthur and that of his successor, Adna R. Chaffee , the scorched earth strategy was intensified. On the smaller islands, a fixed scheme was used: first, the population was asked to go to assembly camps. Anyone who was found outside the camp after a set period of time was considered an enemy combatant and was shot. The villages thus depopulated were set on fire.

Several war crimes by the US Army found their way into the American press. Torture was used against Filipino prisoners, in particular the notorious water cure , in which water was forcibly poured in through the mouth to induce fear of drowning (see waterboarding ), similar to the Swedish drink . In some villages men, women and children over the age of 10 were murdered indiscriminately.

In 1900 Aguinaldo gave the order to adopt guerrilla tactics, as the previous fighting had shown the hopeless superiority of the Americans in terms of armament and training. There was a brief offensive by the Filipinos in late 1900, shortly before the American presidential elections . The pursued goal of influencing the election campaign was not achieved, President McKinley was re-elected.

In the spring of 1901, Aguinaldo was finally captured in Palanan . Aguinaldo issued a statement on April 20 calling on the Philippine Revolutionary Army to cease fighting. Thereupon Baldomero Aguinaldo surrendered in the province of Cavite . The leadership of the Filipino insurgents took over General Miguel Malvar on the island of Luzon and General Vicente Lukbán on the island of Samar . After Aguinaldo's arrest, the American military were of the opinion that they had in fact won the war 59 American soldiers killed by Philippine guerrillas during a raid . Of the remaining members of the unit, which originally comprised 88 soldiers, 23 were wounded. Only 6 soldiers were uninjured. This was the worst military disaster for the US Forces since the Battle of Little Bighorn .

In response to this event, two American brigades were tasked with fighting the remaining insurgents. One brigade under the command of General J. Franklin Bell was deployed on Luzon, the other under General Jacob H. Smith on Samar. While Bell's actions are still regarded by American military scientists as an example of a successful fight against a guerrilla movement, Smith's brutal actions led to a public scandal and a military trial against him. In retaliation, Smith, who was a veteran of the wounded knee massacre , ordered the whole island of Samar to be turned into a “howling wilderness”: “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. " General Smith's troops did not become known in the United States until March 1902, but led to great outrage there.

From January to June 1902, under the presidency of Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a Senate investigation into the crimes of the Philippine-American War took place. The investigation did not lead to any result, apart from the publication of several extensive reports.

It was not until the new US President Theodore Roosevelt declared the war over on July 4, 1902, American Independence Day . Between 200,000 and 1.5 million Filipino civilians were killed in fighting during the war and a cholera epidemic. In addition to cholera, the civilian population has also suffered from tuberculosis , plague and starvation. The military losses were significantly lower and amounted to 4,234 dead and 2,818 wounded for the US armed forces. Of the around 80,000 to 100,000 Filipinos mobilized during the war, around 16,000 died in battle.


From around 1901, large parts of the islands were under American administration. In isolation, resistance continued for over a decade, from the Moros in the south of the islands until 1916. In that year, power was handed over to the Filipinos. The country remained with the interruption by the Japanese occupation in World War II, until 1946 de facto American colony, first as unincorporated territory ( unincorporated territory ), in 1935 as a Commonwealth .

See also


  • Elisabeth Glaser-Schmidt: The Philippines for the Filipinos. The American Debate on Economic and Administrative Policy in the Philippines, 1898–1906. Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1986, ISBN 3-8204-9646-7 ( European university publications . Series 3: History and its auxiliary sciences 311. At the same time: Cologne, Univ., Diss., 1984)
  • M. Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace. Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, New York 2002, pp. 99-128.
  • Brian McAllister Linn: The Philippine War. 1899-1902. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence KS 2000, ISBN 0-7006-0990-3 ( Modern War Studies ).
  • Dieter Ruloff : How wars begin. Causes and forms. 3rd completely revised edition. Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51084-1 ( Beck'sche series 294).
  • Frank Schumacher: "You should burn down, plunder and kill." The US colonial war in the Philippines. In: Thoralf Klein, Frank Schumacher (ed.): Colonial wars. Military violence under the sign of imperialism. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-936096-70-8 , pp. 109-144.
  • Edward J. Filiberti: The Roots of US Counterinsurgency Doctrine. In: Military Review. 68, January 1988, ISSN  0026-4148 , pp. 50-61.
  • War Department, Bureau of Insular Affairs; Compilation of Philippine insurgent records. Contains telegraphic correspondence of Emilio Aguinaldo, July 15, 1898, to February 28, 1899. Translated and annotated by John RM Taylor, Captain, 14th Infantry. 1903 ( Combined Arms Research Library has .pdf)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ M. Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace. Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, New York 2002, p. 125.
  2. ^ Robert Peckham: Epidemics in Modern Asia. Cambridge, 2016, p. 200
  3. ^ M. Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace. Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, New York 2002, p. 125.
  4. Jürgen Osterhammel : The Metamorphosis of the World, p. 1183.
  5. ^ The Kong Kong Junta on the National Historical Institute website. National Historical Institute (English)
  6. ^ Library of Congress: Anti-imperialist league
  7. ^ Howard Zinn: A People's History of the United States . Harper Perennial, New York 2005, ISBN 0-06-083865-5 , p. 315
  8. US Library of Congress, United States Rule (English)
  9. ^ Bernard A. Weisberger: Reaching for Empire. New York: Time, 1964. (The Life History of the United States, Vol 8: 1890–1901), p. 138 (English)
  10. Arnaldo Dumindin: Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 (documentation, English)
  11. ^ A b Maj. Edward J. Filiberti: The Roots of US Counterinsurgency Doctrine. Military Review LXVIII (January 1988), pp. 50-61
  12. ^ [Smallman-Raynor, Matthew; Andrew D Cliff (January 1998), "The Philippines Insurrection and the 1902-4 cholera epidemic: Part I - Epidemiological diffusion processes in war", Journal of Historical Geography 24 (1): 69-89, doi : 10.1006 / jhge.1997.0077 Smallmann-Raynor]
  13. ^ Robert Peckham: Epidemics in Modern Asia. Cambridge, 2016, p. 200

Web links

Commons : Philippine-American War  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files