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26 June, 2013
Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare
A General's Attempt to Explain the Figures


General MacArthur said:

It arises from the fact that our soldiers are trained in what we call "fire discipline"; that is, target practice. In other words, they know how to shoot.


He accounts for it also by saying that the Filipinos removed their wounded, adding:

We got very few wounded men around Manila. I was amazed myself. I could not account for it until I made some investigation, and found out how they were organized to prevent precisely that thing. In front of my division we buried approximately four hundred men; and I looked round for the wounded, and we found none.


He admits that "the Boer is the best individual marksman in the world."

Is it to be believed that the best marksmen in the world, opposed to men who notoriously fought in the open, killed only one in four of the men they hit, and that our men killed in many engagements every man they hit, and on an average nearly five out of six? The marksmanship theory is absurd, especially when we read the report of Colonel Garlington, the inspector-general of the division, who on June 30, 1901, writes:

Target practice has been, from the necessities of the case, almost entirely neglected. This important part of the modern soldier's education should receive prompt attention, and be vigorously prosecuted. At present the army is largely composed of new men without practice or skill in shooting.


No soldier certainly can claim that the volunteers who fought in the Philippines were more skilful marksmen than the veterans of Gettysburg and Cold Harbor.

Nor does the explanation that the Filipinos carried off their wounded convince. In almost every case we occupied the field after the battle. The Filipinos were driven off by our fire or our charge. Upon the marksmanship theory they were exposed to a fire under which few men could live. Were the Filipinos, who were carrying off the wounded from the spot where our fire had injured them, proof against our bullets? How did they escape our marksmen? If killed, what became of the wounded they were carrying? If wounded, why did they not swell the list of wounded?

General MacArthur says that the Filipinos were not especially brave, and that "they did not stand up after the very first battles." Yet they must have been brave to an unheard of degree if, when their comrades were falling and the Americans were rushing on, they remained to gather up all the wounded so that where four hundred were slain not one wounded man was found.

Indeed, General MacArthur himself suggests another reason for the lack of wounded men when, speaking of the fact that the Filipinos fired from ambush, he said:

It was a surprising thing that our men were continually walking into bamboo thickets and ravines, and taking their chances without a man being injured; and of course, when the Filipino position was disclosed, there was a relentless pursuit.


It is not believed that surprise and ambush are uncivilized or barbarous methods of warfare. If so, for what did General Funston receive his promotion?

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