Archive for June, 2008

The Philippine Scouts: A Heritage of Valor


The Philippine Insurrection of 1899-1914 was the US military’s first prolonged anti-terrorist/anti-insurgency campaign since the end of the Indian Wars. The four-day battle of Bagsak Mountain (11-15 June, 1913) depicted here destroyed the insurgent leadership, and is considered the decisive engagement. Brigadier General John J. Pershing led the the US Army’s 8th Infantry Regiment and the Philippine Scouts to victory.

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 During the Philippine Insurrection, the Army faced a manpower crisis in the Philippine Islands as many of the Volunteer regiments terms of service were coming to an end. To alleviate the pending shortage of troops, in 1901 the Congress authorized the enlistment of Filipinos into an organization known as the Philippine Scouts.
Companies and battalions of Philippine Scouts fought side by side with stateside regiments to suppress the Insurrection and the subsequent Moro uprising. In combat operations between 1901 and 1915, the Scouts lost 108 killed in action or died of wounds and 174 wounded. Two members of the Philippine Scouts were awarded the Medal of Honor.
In the post-war reorganization of the Army, the Philippines garrison was set at one division, one cavalry regiment and two coast artillery regiments. Six thousand Philippine Scouts would be inducted into the Regular Army for these units. Stateside units were moved to the Philippines and consolidated with the Philippine Scout units to the Philippine Division in 1920. Non-divisional Cavalry and Coast Artillery units were also organized.
Led by Regular Army officers, the Philippine Scouts became the epitome of the professional long service Regulars and the backbone of the Army’s defense forces in the Philippines. War plans in the 1930s called for the defense of the Manila Bay area from Bataan and Corregidor. The garrison of the Philippines was required to hold out until relief forces from the US arrived. As independence was to be granted the islands in 1946, the Philippine Scouts were tapped to provide cadre and trainers for a new Philippine Army.
The Second World War burst upon the Philippines on 8 December 1942. Units deployed to positions covering the approaches to Manila. The 26th Cavalry (PS) advanced to contact and conducted a delay as the Japanese advanced. In January, defensive positions in the Bataan peninsula and Corregidor were occupied.
Heavy Japanese attacks began on 9 January. The fighting raged back and forth for days. Philippine Scout units were committed to counterattack the Japanese penetrations. Despite some success in these counterattacks, the American position deteriorated as the Japanese penetrated the line. The defenders withdrew to the second defensive position.
The Japanese attacked again. Counterattacks contained the Japanese, who were then cut off to form the pockets. On 2 February, units of the Scouts attacked and eliminated the pockets. The Japanese made three amphibious landings on the coast of Bataan. These landings were counterattacked by the Philippine Scouts and wiped out in what was called the battle of the points. The Japanese were forced to suspend their offensive operations. American morale was high because this was the first repulse of the Japanese since the war began. The battle for Bataan settled down to a siege. But could relief arrive in time?
They called themselves the “battling bastards of Bataan, with no mammy, no pappy and no Uncle Sam.” Food supplies dwindled and with malnutrition came disease on top of the malaria. The Cavalry’s horses and later the pack mules were slaughtered and eaten to stretch the food supply. Physical exhaustion set in after two months of reduced rations. With complete control of the sea and air, the Japanese replenished and reinforced their forces besieging Bataan
On 3 April 1942, Good Friday, the Japanese launched a devastating air and artillery bombardment followed by a coordinated tank and infantry attack and achieved a breakthrough. Counterattacks by the Philippine Scouts failed to stop the Japanese. A final defensive line was formed along the Lamao River. By 9 April, organized resistance was no longer possible. The American commander on Bataan surrendered to avoid the useless slaughter of his surviving soldiers.
For the surviving defenders of Bataan, the battle was over but their ordeal was just beginning. In their exhausted, malnourished condition, they were marched 65 miles to Prisoner of War camps. The Japanese had made no provision for food, water or medical care. Along the way, they brutalized the helpless prisoners, beating, bayoneting and murdering them. More than ten thousand men died during this, the infamous Bataan Death March.
The Japanese turned their attention to Corregidor. The island fortress held out for almost a month of bombardment and an amphibious landing before surrendering. The Philippines had fallen. The “battling bastards” paid the last full measure of devotion for their country’s unpreparedness for war. What was expected by the Japanese to be a quick victory turned into a tough fight which lasted five months, thanks largely to the skill and valor of the Philippine Scouts. Each of the Scout units earned three Presidential Unit Citations and three Scouts were awarded the Medal of Honor. Typical of the valor is the record of the 57th Infantry whose members were awarded twenty one Distinguished Service Crosses and sixty eight Silver Stars.
In October 1944, the United States Army returned to the Philippines in force. Surviving Philippine Scouts reported in for duty with the liberating forces. About half of the original Scouts who had been in service in 1941 were still alive. As the Philippines were granted independence in 1946, President Truman decided to disband the Scouts. Members of the pre-war Philippine Scouts were allowed to enlist in the Regular Army and apply for American citizenship. With that, the Philippine Scouts passed into history. They left behind a tradition of faithful service and a heritage of valor.

Text courtesy US Army – Fort Sam Houston Museum


June 27, 2008 at 12:31 am

Trojan War Waged 1159 — 1168 BC

Astronomers believe they may have deduced the dates of the Trojan War and the Odyssey.

 Marcelo O. Magnasco of Rockefeller University in New York and Constantino Baikouzis of the Astronomical Observatory in La Plata, Argentina based their study on astronomical data provided by Homer in the Odyssea.

That data would place the return of Odysseus to Ithaca in the year 1178 BC. His “Odyssey” home from the Trojan War took ten years, which would place the course of the nine-year war between 1159-1168 BC.

Read more here.

June 26, 2008 at 3:50 am