In 1898 during the Spanish-American War, the United States liberated the Philippines from the Spanish. Unfortunately, many Filipinos were not any happier to be under American control than Spanish control. Even after the war with the Spanish ended the war in the islands continued. For three years, until July 1902 the United States and the Philippines remained in a state of war. Even an official peace did not stop the fighting. Rebel factions continued to fight the US until June of 1913. Yep, what started in 1898 continued until 1913. This particular conflict had a huge effect on our military and policies.
First and foremost it was during this conflict, that was primarily a guerrilla war against unconventional forces, that the book was written on how to deal with this sort of war. In fact, the original blueprint for dealing with the unconventional tactics of the Viet Cong, came from the lessons learned during this war.
The Philippine Campaign Medal was awarded for military service in the Philippine Islands under any of the following conditions indicated in AR 600-8-22, between the dates 4 February 1899 and 31 December 1913:
Ashore between 4 February 1899 and 4 July 1902.
Ashore in the Department of Mindanao between 4 Feb 1899, and 31 Dec 1, 1904.
Against the Pulajanes on Leyte between 20 July 1906 and 30 June 1907, or on Samar between 2 August 1904, and 30 June 1907.
With any of the following expeditions:
Pala on Jolo between April and May 1905.
Datu Ali on Mindanao in October 1905.
Against hostile Moros on Mount Bud-Dajo, Jolo, in March 1906.
Against hostile Moros on Mount Bagsac, Jolo, between January and July 1913.
Fighting hostile Moros on Mindanao or Jolo between 1910 and 1913.
Any action in which U.S. troops were killed or wounded between 4 February 1899, and 31 December 1913.
Considering that the Spanish-American war is barely remembered today, it is not a surprise that this conflict gets overlooked. It also doesn’t help that the dates of when it ended are up for discussion. Casualties are hard to quantify because of this also. For the US it was somewhere around 10,000 killed and wounded. For the Filipino’s between 12 and 20,000 killed and wounded with civilian casualties estimated at around 200,000 thousand.
That medal above represents a lot of lives in a forgotten conflict.
The Iron Cross is probably one of the most distinctive military decorations that there has ever been. Beyond just a commendation it also became part of the identity of the German army in the past and into the present.
Its design can be traced back to the Crusades when the King of Jerusalem gave the Teutonic Order permission to combine their solid black cross to the silver Cross of Jerusalem. The first award as a military decoration goes back to 1813 and the Napoleonic Wars. The Prussian King decided that it would best symbolize courage and strength. The decoration would be used again during the Franco-Prussian War, World War I and World War II.
As a symbol of the German Army it was used during World War I and retired at the end of the war. Only to be brought to the fore again by the Nazis in 1939. Sometimes even adorned with the swastika. After the war, it fell out of favor but was reinstated in 1956 by the West Germans. After reunification, it remains the symbol of the German Army today in various forms.
Interestingly enough, the Iron Cross citation was never revived in Germany post WWII. Though they did reissue the awards won during the war without the Nazi symbols attached to them. There has been somewhat of a movement to reinstate the Iron Cross award. In the meantime, though a new award has been put in place at the same level, The Cross of Honor for Bravery. Which is more reminiscent in design to an older Prussian medal.
The photo above is a representation of what a regular Confederate Infantry Soldier would have looked like. Notice the nice clean uniform. The musket, canteen, nice hat, bayonet hanging from his belt. There is even a backpack to hold rations and personal belongings. Wow. Looking at this you would think that this fellow was part of a well supplied and outfitted army.
Of course everyone started off with a nice clean uniform. There were a number of regulations that attempted to standardize the type of shirt and pants, the color of the fabric and the hat that should be worn. Unfortunately the South had a difficult time with the mass fabrication of uniforms. There ended up being a lot of variety.
Once the Southern industrial base caught up to war effort the uniforms became more standardized and better supplied. Being able to access cloth imported from Britain also helped. Some of the CSA units at the end of the war were better uniformed than at the start.
The hat worn here is not the regulation Kepi, but a wide brimmed usually wool hat that provided much more protection from the weather. These hats were popular among the enlisted and officers and were almost always of civilian origin.
The grey color of the uniforms was chosen for a number of reasons. First, many of the state militias uniforms were of that color. Or at least a shade or two off. Secondly, is was a cheap color to dye the cloth. Third, even though not actually intentional, the grey provided a basic level of camouflage against the tree lines.
Uniforms that came out of the the Richmond facilities maintained their color. The grey uniforms that were made in the Western and Deep South facilities often faded to a brown or tan color. Sometimes homespun fabric was used that was a similar color. This “butternut” color became almost as iconic as the grey you see above.
In 1931 the Imperial Japanese Army numbered just under 200,000 men and officers. It was with this force that they invaded Manchuria under the guise of protecting Japanese owned railroads against Chinese bandit attacks. This eventually blossomed in all out war between China and Japan. That war that lasted until 1945.
Not content to be fighting bandits and the Chinese army, they used their client state in Manchuria as a launching pad into the Soviet Union. Yes, from 1932 to 1941 the Russians and Japanese were fighting all along the Chinese border. Remember that from the history books? In 1941 the two sides agreed on a non-aggression pact that ended that conflict. There were only a few actual battles. Most of which the Russians won. Very little territory changed hands. Bigger wars were on the horizon for each.
The men that made up the army were conscripted, given medical examinations and classified with Class 1-A. The highest classification that said the men were fit for duty. There were a total of five classifications. Depending on if the nation was at war or not would depend on what happened to the men after they received their classifications. It was possible that a full mobilization of the male population would have been serving in the military in some way shape or form.
In 1941 the Imperial Army numbered around 1.7 million troops, most of which would be serving in China with the rest spread out across the Pacific. By the 1945 the army numbered more than 5.5 million.
As far as casualties suffered during World War Two, approximately 2.5 million killed. Presumed dead and missing totaled around 800,000 and just about 7,500 prisoners of war. Yes, that number is correct and reflects that something in the men behind those numbers. Death was preferable to capture and dishonor. Let that sink in for a minute when you look at the photo.
One other thing to think about. The last official surrender by an Imperial Japanese soldier occurred in December 1974, almost thirty years after the war ended.
A soldier during the Civil War. heck all wars, have to carry their entire world on them. Everything the need to live and fight needs to be within reach. Sure when times were good units would have supply wagons to take some of the burden, but when speed of march is an issue it would not be unusually for the men be a day or two ahead of the wagons. This diagram breaks down how much each piece of a soldiers kit weighed. A little hard to read, so I will break it down here.
Knapsack that contained a wool blanket, gum blanket, shelter half and personal items 16 lbs
Canteen with one quart of water 3 lbs
Haversack with 3 days marching rations 7 lbs
Cap pouch, Waist belt, Bayonet and Scabbard 3 lbs
Shoes and Clothes 5 lbs
Cartridge box and 40 rounds of ammunition 5 lbs
Extra Ammunition (In pockets) 2 lbs
Rifle-Musket 9 lbs
In total about 50 lbs of kit. A normal march would be between 6 and 8 miles a day (sometimes up to 20 or more). In the warm weather of campaign season wearing a wool uniform that does not make for a comfortable day. One thing that the Union troops found out early in the war was that all that equipment tended to make running away much more difficult, so they would ditch anything they could. A long trail of debris would mark the path of a retreating unit. Of course to the pursuing Confederate forces this was a windfall as they could pick up the leftovers and do pretty well.
That above in the photo is a gorget. It is worn over the neck like a necklace. In the 18th century, it was a military symbol of rank worn by commissioned officers.
Gorgets (from the French gorge meaning throat) started off in the Middle Ages as a woman’s fashion piece, usually linen, that wrapped around their neck or was part of a hood. It eventually became a leather or steel collar worn by men to serve as protection for the throat, eventually growing into a full piece of armor itself that would cover the upper portion of the chest as well as the throat.
Gunpowder eventually entered the battlefield and made most armor obsolete. The gorget became more of a decoration for an officer. In this form, it was much smaller than its medieval counterpart. Usually, it hung on a chain or ribbon around the throat. Made with either gold or silver gilt, they served as a badge of rank. Also as an indication that the officer was “on duty”. In the 18th and 19th century most European armies made use of gorgets.
The decorations of the gorgets varied based on the armies. For the British, they were decorated with the royal coat of arms until 1796. The Swedes contained the king’s monogram. Junior officers usually just had them inscribed with their initials.
British and French
British officers wore then until 1830, the French until about 1830. Prussia/Germany kept them until 1914 and brought them back under the Third Reich. the Swedes kept them until 1792 and then replaced them with epaulets. However… they are making a comeback in their original armor form in the US Military as part of the new generation tactical vests.
So that gorget above, kind of pretty all gold and such. That one once belonged to George Washington and was from his days a Virginia Militia officer. The decoration on the piece is the symbol of his Virginia regiment. In fact, it is most likely the very one that he is wearing in this famous painting of the great man.
During the Mexican-American War (1846 to 1848) the US forces matched up against a Mexican Army that was on one hand, well-trained professional soldiers and untrained peasants on the other. While outnumbered in almost every battle the US forces were able to dominate almost every battlefield and successfully win their first war on foreign soil. Winning this war gave the United States most of the Southwest portion of the country.
One of the most colorful units of the Mexican Army was the Tulancing Cuirassiers. They were a heavy cavalry unit that saw action in many battles of the war. The chest piece (or cuirass) and helmet above belonged to one of the soldiers from that unit. In effect these men were tanks. Large, heavily armored and used for smashing into the lines of enemy infantry. Normally they would carry a long sword and two pistols.
The Tulancing Cuirassiers uniform was reportedly something spectacular. The officers (which the piece above probably belonged to) wore a sky-blue coat with crimson cuffs an collars. Their pantaloons were crimson, and most likely had a sky-blue stripe. The helmet made of solid brass with a long black horsetail plume attached. Around the base of the helmet was a band of jaguar skin. They were patterned on the classic French Cuirassier units from the Napoleonic Wars, with a bit of hometown flair.
The piece above is missing some parts and it’s a little hard to imagine what it looked like back in the day. The picture under the display gives you an idea of what the full piece looked like. The gentleman in the middle shows the entire uniform in all its glory. All in all, while not much actual protection on the battlefield, but they certainly made for some snappy dressers.
Who would want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Well, there were many men who did during WWII. In operations that ranged from the Normandy Invasion to Operation Market Garden to the final jump into Germany the Airborne troops took their life in their hands to end up where there were needed, when they were needed.
101st Airborne Division
The most famous of the airborne troops in the US Army came from the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles who first saw battle during the Normandy invasion. Tasked with jumping behind the German line to capture strategic targets in advance of the landings, they were to use a combination of parachute drops and gliders to reach their targets. It did not go well. The start of their offensive led to the troops ending up widely scattered, sometimes miles from their targets.
That first night they lost almost 1,500 men. But with an incredible fighting spirit and some reinforcements they were eventually able to reach their goals. During the rest of the campaign they would serve as a mobile reserve, filling gaps in the line and relieving other units. As one of the best units they saw a lot of action. But the heavy losses of men and material took its toll. The spent the summer of 1944 refitting and reinforcing the unit. Called upon several more times to make drops and fill gaps in the lines the 101st would eventually find its place in history at Bastogne where they stood surrounded by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge.
The uniform in the picture would be an example of the in from these men wore. They were light troops, fast and mobile but often lacked the heavier weapons of regular infantry. But all things considered it was not the weapons that made them the best . It was the warrior nature, the never say die attitude. Whatever drove these men to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, showed itself even more once they hit the ground.
Colonial Williamsburg is an interesting place. During the day you are treated to a series of events that take you back to the town during the era of the revolution. These events begin at the start of the day and continue to the end. As the day progresses the timeline progresses so that during the course of one visit you can actually see how events changed the people in the town and actually “live” the events as they happened.
To break the fourth wall for a minute I need to say this. I have studied Benedict Arnold and he was a complicated man. He is at the same time our greatest warrior and our basest traitor. I do not condone his actions and prefer to remember him for what he did prior than dwell on what he did after.
After switching sides Arnold was given a general’s commission in the British army. In Late 1780 and into 1781 he was tasked with leading raids through Virginia which led to the capture of Richmond and Williamsburg among other towns.
The picture above, from Colonial Williamsburg is of the event that portrays General Arnold taking control of Williamsburg. The gentleman playing Arnold knew his craft. He portrayed Arnold as an angry, haughty man, one that truly believed he had done the right thing. To the point that he, as Arnold, railed against the American Congress and suggested we should be glad if the British were to win, as they looked to save us from that corrupt body. In his mind he had reasons for what he did, and the actor was brilliant in his role.
It could not or at least should not have been easy. Arnold was a complicated man. Standing in the crowed, watching the event take place brought about the mixture of emotions that can only come from the study of such a complex man. Had he died of his wounds after the battles in Saratoga in October 1777, he would have been our greatest hero, second only to Washington. But his path lay down a darker road.
After the end of WWI the United States struggled to find its place in the world. Still largely an isolationist nation, we had come out of our shell in a major way by sending troops to the fields of France. The Entente powers ended up winning the war against Germany, but something more interesting was happening in Russia which would test America’s new role in the world.
In October 1917 the communist forces came to power in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution and immediately signed a treaty with Germany. This freed up many resources for the Germans and placed the outcome of the war in doubt. Russia was gripped in a terrible civil war as the Bolsheviks and Tsarists battled for the soul of their country.
The Allies had other issues besides the massive reinforcements the Germans were looking to throw their way. First off they had spent a lot of money and sent a lot of supplies to the Russians during the war, and no one wanted any of that to fall into the hands of the Communists. Second, all 50,000 Czechoslovakian troops were stuck in Russia, and were being attacked. They had one way out and that was through Vladivostok in Siberia. So the allies had to do something and the decision was made to intervene in the Russian Civil War on the side of the Tsar. England and France were tapped out for resources, so it was decided the US would lead the way.
In July 1918 President Wilson ordered 5,000 men to North Russia (The Polar Bear Expedition) and 10,000 to Siberia (The Siberian Expedition) with the mission to secure whatever war materials they could from the communists, and to help facilitate the evacuation of the Czech troops. As part of the expedition Imperial Japan occupied part of Siberia and China sent several thousand troops. The occupation ended in June 1920 when the Allies felt they had accomplished their goals, the Japanese however stayed untill 1922.
The uniform in the picture belonged to First Lieutenant Verner C. Aurell of the 27th Infantry Regiment, “The Wolfhounds” served in the expedition until April 1920. A very interesting artifact from the time the US invaded, and occupied Russia.
People, Places and Things from US Military History