9 Forgotten American Wars Your History Teacher Never Taught You

US troops pose with Moro casualties in 1906, during the Moro Rebellion. Wikimedia

Moro Rebellion 1899-1913

The Moro are a Muslin people who reside in many of the islands which make up the archipelago of the Philippines, mostly in the southern part of the chain. After the forced withdrawal of the Spanish in 1899 American troops occupied many of the southern islands and began colonizing territory which had formerly been lands occupied by the Moro.

American diplomacy included enlisting the support of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to convince the Moro not to resist the new American occupation (by appealing to them as Muslims), which while forthcoming was ineffective. Once the Americans had largely pacified the Northern Philippines in the Philippine-American War it shifted its attention to the southern islands around Sulu and Mindanao, occupied by the Moro.

American military governors, including Major Leonard Wood and General John Pershing, used a variety of methods to suppress the Moro, including military actions against the tribes and edicts to suppress the Muslim religion, which Pershing referred to as “Mohammadism”. In the 21st centur, Pershing has been frequently accused of using anti-Muslim tactics against captured insurrectionists during this conflict.

In his autobiography, Pershing later wrote of the practice of burying the bodies of slain Moro tribesmen in mass graves accompanied with dead pigs. Another American officer, who would later rise to the rank of Rear Admiral, wrote than Americans buried dead Moro tribesmen wrapped in pig hides “…stuffing their mouths with pork.”

Because of American side-arms often failing to knock down charging Moro tribesmen – the standard US pistol was a .38 caliber – the US Army shifted to the Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber automatic, which would remain its standard side-arm well into the 1970s. The Moro Rebellion was costly to the United States in money and materials, although military casualties were light given the length and nature of the conflict. The Americans suffered about 400 killed or wounded in combat, and lost about another 500 to disease throughout the rebellion. Moro casualties were significantly higher and have never been accurately estimated. Another Moro insurgency has been ongoing on the island of Mindanao since 1969, more than 48 years, with more than 6,000 dead.