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War Plan Brown - Phillipine Pacification

Comprising almost 7,100 known islands and islets, the Philippine Archipelago lies approximately 500 miles off the Asiatic mainland and extends 1,150 miles almost due north and south from Formosa to Borneo. Strategically situated in the geographic heart of the Far East, the Islands are centrally located in relation to Japan, China, Burma, French Indochina, Thailand, Malaya, and the Netherlands Indies. They lie athwart the trade routes leading from Japan and China through the South China Sea to southeast Asia and the rich supplies of oil and minerals in the Indies. Vital areas in Japan and along the Chinese coast are within quick striking distance by sea and air of the Philippines. Over 5,000 miles from Honolulu and 7,000 miles from San Francisco, Manila, the chief city and capital of the Islands, is only 1,800 miles from Tokyo. Formosa and Hong Kong are less than 700 miles distant, Singapore 1,500 miles, and Truk in the Caroline Islands 2,100 miles.

Since the third century, the Philippine Islands had been under foreign influence, first from Hindu-Malayan empires in Sumatra, Indochina, and Borneo, and then from the Chinese beginning with the early Ming dynasty. Shortly after 1400 Islam was introduced, and for more than one hundred years all of the islands south of Luzon, and the southern portion of that island, were subject to the Mohammedans of Borneo. During this period, the Japanese established a loose control over northern Luzon and maintained a trading post at Aparri, on the north tip of the island.

In 1565, Spanish explorers landed in the Philippines (christening the islands for their monarch, King Philip II) and found a homegrown agricultural society that was easily adapted into their own encomienda system. The Spanish crown issued royal land-grants to colonists, who developed large plantations on the island of Luzon, the nation's agrarian heartland. Filipino landowners were disenfranchised and their tenant farmers were placed under the authority of the new landlords. Former native landlords were either retained by the Spanish to operate the haciendas for them, became sharecroppers themselves, or sought work elsewhere.

Filipinos were quick to react to their loss of land ownership, additional taxes placed upon them by the Spanish, and their worsening economic condition. The first of numerous revolts against the Spanish broke-out in 1583 and was dealt with in the manner of the times -- bloody retaliation. A relatively small Spanish garrison, that did not exceed 600 troops during this period, employed the assistance of several native ethnic groups and ruthlessly crushed the revolt. Subsequent uprisings during the next three hundred years were handled by the Spanish colonial government in much the same manner.

Hints of social reform did not appear in the Philippines until the mid-19th century. A more liberal regime in Madrid allowed some wealthy Filipinos, who rose in social stature via employment as tax collectors and low level administrators for the colonial government, to seek education and operate small tracts of private farmland. The Spanish also started a few small development projects on some of the larger islands, such as Mindinao and Cebu. However, when the enlightened government in Madrid fell, attempts for even minimal reforms were forgotten and the near feudal, pre-reformed status quo returned.

In 1870, Philippine opposition to Spanish rule erupted into a series of guerrilla wars. Despite harsh repression taken against peasant farmers, the fighting continued and by the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Katipunan Revolt (usually credited with beginning in 1896) spread from Luzon to the islands of Panay and Cebu as Spanish troops withdrew for the defense of Manila. In the same year, rebel leader Jose Rizal, was captured and killed by the Spanish. During the Huk insurrection, his descendants again played a role.

When the United States annexed the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, Filipinos were given greater responsibility for governing their own land. Local government was assisted by limited American efforts to improve both economic and social conditions. Philippine officials advanced in the civil service and many of these bureaucrats joined a growing number of prosperous businessmen to replace Spanish haciendas with their own large plantations. Collectively, they formed a new Philippine elite and sought to retain the status quo that had provided them the opportunity to succeed -- whether through business, agriculture, or corruption in government.3 There existed little indeed for honest government servants when the system rewarded corruption, nepotism, and favoritism so handsomely.

American policy toward the Philippines was first tested during the bloody 1899-1902 Philippine Insurrection. Although the nearly three year long war suppressed overt Philippine nationalism, at least for the time, the bitterness it produced among many Filipinos endured well into mid-century. As normalcy returned to the islands in 1903, the United States attempted to address one of the long-term problems faced by the islands--land-tenure. Many large parcels of Church-owned land that had been expropriated by the Spanish in the sixteenth century and given to the Church to administer were offered for public sale.

However sincere the effort, few Filipinos were able to take advantage of this opportunity. Those who attempted to purchase land were often victims of usury and fraud at the hands of local officials more interested in graft than in helping the peasants acquire land. The land sale program failed to transfer land ownership to the farmers but did allow those few Filipinos with resources to increase the size of their holdings. This had the effect of perpetuating the landlord-tenant relationship that had become synonymous with Philippine agriculture. Rampant corruption in government, coupled with an unchanging socioeconomic climate, continued under the new American administration in Manila throughout the 1920s.

A succession of able American governors established a happy relationship between the two countries, and a steadily increasing sentiment for Philippine independence found ready support in the American Congress. A bill for Philippine independence was passed by Congress, over President Hoover's veto, in January 1933, but vetoed by the Philippine legislature. It was passed again, with some changes, as Public Law 127, the Tydings-McDuffie Act, on 24 March 1934, and this time approved in May 1934 by the Philippine legislature.

The Tydings-McDuffie Act promised full Philippine independence on 4 July 1946 and established conditions under which the islands would be governed until that time -- the Philippine Commonwealth. The United States retained control of Philippine foreign relations, defense, and major financial transactions but granted the Philippine president and legislature power to administer internal affairs. During the ten-year transitional period the United States would be allowed to "maintain military and other reservations and armed forces" in the Islands, and the President of the United States would have the power "to call into the service of such armed forces all military forces organized by the Philippine Government." When the transitional period was over, the United States would abandon all military installations in the Islands.

The Tydings-McDuffie Act left open the question of naval reservations, but authorized the President to negotiate with the Philippine Government for American naval bases in the Islands. The closing date for such negotiations was set at two years after the recognition of independence. Until then "the matter of naval reservations and fueling stations," the Act provided, "shall remain in its present status." A year after the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the Filipinos adopted a liberal constitution based on the American model and established an interim government known as the Commonwealth. Elections in which Manuel Quezon was chosen as president followed soon after, and before the end of 1935 the Philippine National Assembly met to draft plans for local defense.

The Tydings-McDuffie Act created dissension within the Philippine government, for it promised independence at the price of formalizing economic ties with Washington for the next twelve years. Many critics in Manila, and in the growing communist and socialist parties as well, objected strongly to the near total disregard for Philippine nationalism that these strict controls mandated.

Before the establishment of the Commonwealth Government in 1935, no effort was made to prepare the Philippines for their own defense. The United States had assumed all obligations for national defense and maintained a garrison in the Islands for that purpose. This garrison numbered about 10,000 men, half of whom were Philippine Scouts, a U.S. Army unit in which the enlisted men, with some exceptions, were native Filipinos and most of the officers American. After 1913 the Philippine garrison was called the Philippine Department, a regular U.S. Army establishment commanded by an American general officer. The Philippine Constabulary, first organized in 1901, was the national police force, but by training and organization had a military character. Thus, except for their experience with the Constabulary, the Filipinos had had no military tradition upon which to build a national army.

By the mid-1930's the American military planners had finally concluded that Japan could be defeated only in a long, costly war, in which the Philippines would early be lost, and in which American offensive operations would take the form of a "progressive movement" through the mandated islands, beginning with the Marshalls and Carolines, to establish "a secure line of communications to the Western Pacific." After the passage of the Philippine Independence Act (Tydings-McDuffie bill) in 1934, the belief gained ground in the War Department that the United states should not run the risk nor incur the obligation of fighting the Japanese in the western Pacific. When the question finally came up in the fall of 1931, the Army planners took the position that the United States should no longer remain liable for a fruitless attempt to defend and relieve the Philippines and the costly attempt to retake them.

When General MacArthur stepped ashore on Leyte on 22 October 1944, he was accompanied by Sergio Osmena, the former Philippine vice-president who succeeded President Manuel Quezon who died in August 1944 while in exile in the United States. With U.S. forces pushing the Japanese from the islands, Osmena was brought back to reestablish a legitimate civilian government, to oversee post-war recovery, and to prepare the Philippines for independence. Three days after his arrival in Leyte, MacArthur returned civil control of liberated areas to the commonwealth president and, on 27 February 1945, he granted Osmena civil control over the entire Philippines. Unfortunately, Osmena was considered by many to be a weak and ineffectual leader, lacking the skill and charisma of his predecessor. But what of the nation Osmena was given charge of? The islands were devastated. General Eisenhower remarked that, "Of all the wartime capitals, only Warsaw suffered more damage than Manila."

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:36:29 Zulu