OLD SCHOOL PH: Battle of Bud Dajo also known as the Moro Crater Massacre

114 years ago today in 1906, U.S. forces in the Philippines engaging in counter-insurgency against the Muslim Moros achieve a decisive victory against a Moro stronghold in the battle of Bud Dajo, also known as the Moro Crater Massacre.

With the arrival of the United States military into Moroland, it didn’t take long for American soldiers to be killed by Moro guerrillas. Starting from 1903 and lasting all the way until 1913, the United States made slow progress bringing Moro territory under their control through punitive expeditions against rebellious Datus who took shelter in their mountaintop fortresses called cottas. The United States found the Moro customs repulsive and over time forced them to abolish slavery and polygamy. Numerous reports from American soldiers over the decade long insurrection commented on the Moro berserker-like tendencies where they would consume Areca nuts with stimulant-like properties and could sustain many gunshots in combat.

One of the most famous Moro cottas was located at Bud Dajo on Jolo Island. It was inside a large volcanic crater on a massive mountain that was housing over 1,000 Moro people. On March 2nd, commander of the U.S. forces in the Philippines Leonard Wood ordered an expeditionary force to land on the island and address the defiant Moros who would not come down. U.S. forces sent emissaries up the mountain to plead with the Moros to let their women and children leave the mountain, but they refused.

In the upcoming 3 day battle, many of the Moro women engaged in the fighting, and one American officer was nearly killed by one in front of his troops which helped set the tone that they would be treated as enemy combatants. The fighting for U.S. troops was brutal as they scaled up a mountain under gunfire by defenders who would then fight to the death in melee combat. Over 20 Americans would die in the fighting and 70 more would be seriously wounded. As the Americans made their way up the mountain, they would carry their artillery pieces with them. Explosive shrapnel proved devastating to the Moro and all of them would be killed.

The United States occupation of the Philippines was already drawing a large anti-imperialism movement in the United States and when news and pictures of Bud Dajo reached the homeland, Americans were outraged. The events became hyper-sensationalized and the event was better known as the Moro Crater Massacre. The Moro Rebellion would continue until 1913. The anti-imperialist movement would use the suppression of the Moro people to tarnish the image of the United States military and foreign policy. Today it is an unknown and overlooked conflict. The Moro people are still the largest non-Christian minority in the Philippines and continued insurrection throughout the 20th century, including as recent as 2018 against current Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte.

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