In Every Clime and Place

Our Armed Forces do not make foreign policy; they implement it.  They do not advise the President of the United States; they carry out his orders, presumably with the consent of the Congress of the United States.  We cannot state equivocally, however, that the President, or his cabinet, and certainly not the Congress, have always demonstrate an astute awareness of the world’s realities.

It is impossible for me to consider events in China today without reflecting upon the history of our relationship with that massive country, and the role that the Marines have played in the implementation of US policy toward China.  We refer to them today as the old China hands, or the China Marines, and there continues to exist associations devoted to preserving the history of these Marines.

Marines 1860The first Marines detailed to China service were the leathernecks on board the US frigate USS Congress, dispatched to Lintin Island near Canton in 1818 for a trade protection mission.  The Marines served under detachment officer, First Lieutenant William Nichol. In February 1844, Marines provided security for the US minister to China based in Macao; in June of that year, Marines from the USS St. Louis open fire on a Chinese mob that were attacking the US Legation in Macao.  In 1854, sixty US Marines and sailors from the USS Plymouth fought alongside British Marines and sailors to drive off Chinese Imperial troops that had occupied a portion of the international settlement in Shanghai.

So it comes as no surprise to the student of history that the Marines would subsequently play an even more important role in US/Chinese relations—which along with those of other western nations, steadily worsened.  It is difficult for a thoughtful person to fault the Chinese; after all, China is their country, not ours and does appear that western powers lost sight of this reality [1]. Insofar as the United States is concerned, however, it does not appear these lessons were ever fully appreciated. Nevertheless, as a consequence of many legitimate grievances by the Chinese, a faction calling themselves the Righteous and Harmonious Fists began attacking foreign businesses, missionaries, and consulates.  We called it the Boxer Rebellion.

Boxer Insurgent 001Over several years, Boxers began to increase their strength within the provinces of North China. Concomitantly, by 1898, conservative (anti-foreign) forces gained control of the government and it was there decision to use the Boxers against western usurpers, as much as practicable.  If the western diplomats did not feel safe in China, perhaps they would go back to where they came from.  Provincial governors were encouraged to employ Boxers as local paramilitaries, and in the Chinese Language, the word fists was changed to militias. Among Chinese speakers, it was clear what was actually going on.  Within the Boxer organizations, poorly trained thugs came to believe that they had magical powers that made them impervious to foreign bullets.

The Boxer Rebellion turned very serious in May 1900 when suddenly, missionaries and their converts, foreign businesses, business owners, their families, and foreign diplomats became targets of opportunity for roving Boxer gangs.  Diplomats demanded protection, and initially, a hodge-podge of foreign military personnel was loosely organized to protect the foreign legation in Peking (now, Beijing). The number of military personnel gathered numbered just over 400, including 56 US Marines from two ships of war. British Minister Sir Claude MacDonald telegraphed for help, and no sooner had his message gone out, Boxers cut all telegraph wires.  And now these western devils were stranded in Peking, surrounded by very angry Boxers.

The next shoe to drop was the disruption of railway service from Tianjin (on the coast of China) to Peking and once this had been accomplished, the Boxers began to rampage in earnest. On 13 June, the Japanese Ambassador was slain.  In retribution, the German minister ordered his troops to execute a Chinese boy. That same afternoon, thousands of Boxers broke through city walls, torched Christian churches, and murdered large numbers of Chinese Christians and priests.  American and British missionaries took refuge in the Methodist mission, where American Marines repulsed several Chinese attacks.

Rong lu Jung 001The foreign legations took responsibility for their own defense, and some of these combined their forces. Austrians and Italians abandoned their isolated legations and joined the French and Japanese. A plan was laid out to defend the Fu —a large palace and park where an estimated 2,800 Chinese Christians were taking refuge.  American Marines and their German counterparts held positions on the Tartar Wall, behind their respective legations.  It was a weak plan of defense, overall: 400 troops had to defend an area extending more than 2,000 yards through urban terrain.  MacDonald was selected as overall commander, but he had no authority over foreign troops.  At best, he could only make suggestions.

The number of Chinese Boxers surrounding the legation remains uncertain—but a conservative estimate would number them in the thousands.  The western section included the Mohammedans of Dong Fuiang; on the east were units of the Peking Field Army.  The overall Chinese commander was Baron Rong Lu Jung, an anti-Boxer who disapproved of the siege, but whose loyalty to the Empress Dowager obligated him to command the Chinese efforts.  The Chinese appeared to vacillate between obstinacy and conciliation for most of the 55 days, and several attempts to achieve a cease-fire failed as a result of suspicions and misunderstanding on both sides.

The first Chinese strategy was to set fire to buildings around the British legation, including the Han Lin Academy, the national library of China.  Many irreplaceable books were destroyed.  The Chinese Army then turned its attention to the Fu, which was the domain of Lieutenant Colonel Goro Shiba, the most admired military officer in the siege. Shiba, with a small band of Japanese soldiers, mounted a skillful defense.  The most desperate fighting took place near the French Legation, where 78 French and Austrian troops faced constant assault in convoluted terrain.  But the Germans and American occupied the most crucial of all defensive positions: the Tartar Wall.

Myers John Twiggs 001The Tartar Wall stood 45 feet tall, and about 40 feet wide.  It was vital to the defense of the legation for, were it to fall into Chinese hands, they would have an unobstructed field of fire into the legation quarter. The German defenses faced eastward, while the American positions, 400 yards west of the German position, faced toward the west.  The Chinese strategy was to construct protective barricades facing each of these positions, and then inch them closer each day.  The Marine Commander was Captain John Twiggs. Myers [2], who later said that his Marines felt as though they were in a trap and were simply waiting for the hour of their execution.  At night, Chinese forces employed harassing fire to prevent the German and American contingent from getting any rest.

The most critical threat of the siege came in early July when the Chinese forced the Germans to abandon their position on the Tartar Wall, abandoning the Marines to face the Chinese alone. Then, at 2 a.m. on 3 July, the Marines, reinforced by 26 British, and 15 Russians, assaulted the Chinese barricade.  Twenty Chinese were killed and the rest were expelled from the Tartar Wall. The Chinese did not attempt to retake the wall for the remainder of the siege.  Humiliated by the American Marines, the Chinese threw themselves against the Japanese and Italians in the Fu —driving them back to their last line of defense.  The Chinese detonated a mine beneath the French legation, destroying it completely. MacDonald reported that 3 July was the most harassing day of the siege.

Boxer RebellionChinese aggression dissipated after 17 July when it was learned that a relief force of 20,000 troops had landed in China. An international force finally arrived in Peking on 14 August 1900, relieving the foreign legations besieged there for 55 days.  The Empress Dowager fled Peking, taking her court to Xi’an, leaving behind a few princelings to conduct negotiations.  After extensive discussions, a protocol was finally signed in September 1901, ending hostilities and obligating Chinese to pay reparations to the foreign powers.  The western nations learned no meaningful lessons in this entire episode.



[1] There are many downsides to western imperialism, not the least was the blatant racism exhibited toward the Chinese by the western nations.  The behavior was at the least ill-mannered, and at most deplorable.

[2] Severely wounded on 3 July 1900. Myers, known as “Handsome Jack” was also the Marine Captain commanding the detachment of Marines during the Perdicaris Incident (1904) and the son of Abraham Myers, for whom Fort Myers, Florida is named.  Myers passed away in 1952.


Sergeant Major Quick

John Henry Quick
John Henry Quick

Marine Corps chronicler John W. Thomason wrote of the “old breed” with considerable reverence, as well he should.  “And there were also a diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders, and bone-deep sunburn and an intolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth.  They were the leathernecks, the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home.  And they transmitted their temper and character and viewpoint to the high-hearted mass, which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.”

Now a point of clarification: in today’s parlance, the Old Breed refers to Marines of the 1st Marine Division who fought the island battle of Guadalcanal in World War II.  To John Thomason and other Marines of his time, the term old breed referred to the Marines prior to World War I.

Additionally, Thomason’s reference to “leatherneck” refers to American and British Marines who wore a leather stock [1] around their necks (1798-1840, 1899-1902).  One stock was issued to each Marine annually, and it is a tradition that continues today, represented by the standing collar of the Marine Corps dress blue uniform.  Marines reintroduced the leather stock for use during the American-Philippine War (1899-1902) to protect against decapitation from Filipino machetes; in Thomason’s day, these were the old salts of the Corps.

In Thomason’s view, Old Corps Marines stood head and shoulders above most of the soldiery of his day; he believed these old salts laid the foundation for what the Marine Corps would one day become.  By passing these long-time traditions down from one generation of Marine to the next, the old breed of Marine became the cement of our tradition and the genesis of much of our lore.  They served as models for such now-famous personages of World War II fame as John Basilone, Lou Diamond, and Bob McTureous.

One of these old regulars was a man named John Henry Quick, whose exploits over more than 26 years of service would inspire the imaginations of many Marines after 1898.  Quick was born in Charles Town, West Virginia in 1870.  He enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps on August 10, 1892 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which made him a six year veteran by the time war broke out with Spain in 1898.

During the morning of 14 June 1898, two companies of Robert W. Huntington’s battalion and fifty additional Cubans moved through the hills to seize Cuzco Well, the main water supply for the Spanish garrison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The USS Dolphin (PG-24) moved east along the shore ready to furnish naval gunfire support upon call.  The Spanish detected the Marines’ movements and alerted their main body near Cuzco Well.  The Marines occupied the hill overlooking the enemy’s position, but were immediately exposed to long rifle fire directed upon them by the Spanish garrison.  Captain George F. Elliott [2] signaled the Dolphin to shell the Spanish position, but because the sender of the message was not clearly visible to the ship, the vessel began dropping fire on a detachment of Marines who were en route to join the battle.

Sergeant Quick quickly arose, announced to his captain that he was a signalman, and was able to produce from somewhere a blue polka-dot neckerchief as large as a quilt.  Security the scarf to a long crooked stick, he rushed to the top of the ridge and, turning his back to the Spanish long rifles, began to send his message to the Dolphin causing them to cease-fire.  At this time, a war correspondent named Stephen Crane was with the Marines.  He later reported, “I saw Quick betray only one sign of emotion during his heroic action.  As he swung his clumsy flag to and fro, an end of it once caught on a cactus pillar, and he looked sharply over his shoulder to see what had it.  He gave the flag an impatient jerk.  He looked annoyed.”

Navy Medal of Honor (1862)
Navy Medal of Honor (1862)

As soon as the Dolphin answered his signal, Quick retrieved his service rifle and rejoined the firing line.  Dolphin shifted her fire, and within a short time, the Spanish vacated their position.  For Quick’s gallant and selfless conduct, Quick was awarded the Medal of Honor.

During the Philippine-American War, Quick served as a Gunnery Sergeant under Major Littleton W. T. Waller and the campaign across Samar.  During the Battle of Sohoton Cliffs, Quick’s direction of concentrated fires dislodged well-entrenched Filipino insurrectos, which enabled the Marines to capture the leading Filipino general and several of his lieutenants.

During the military expedition to Vera Cruz (1914) Quick was again cited for valor during the assault of the city, for which he was commended by the Secretary of the Navy, as follows: “He was continually exposed to fire during the first two days of the operation and showed coolness, bravery, and judgment in the prompt manner in which he performed his duties.

Sergeant Major John Quick sailed to France as part of the 6th Marine Regiment in 1917.  During the Battle for Belleau Wood, Quick was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross for delivery of much needed supplies over a fire-swept field.  Quick continued to distinguish himself through every battle fought by the Marines in France, including Verdun, Aisne-Marne (Soissons), the Marbache Sector near Pont-a-Mousoon, the St. Mihiel Offensive, the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  Sergeant Major Quick was additionally awarded the 2nd Division Citation and the French fourragere of the Croix de Guerre.

Sergeant Major Quick retired from active serve in November 1918, but was briefly recalled to active duty from July to September 1920.  He passed away in St. Louis, Missouri on 9 September 1922.

He was 52 years old.


[1] The stock, usually black, was a stiff leather collar measuring from 3 to 3 ½ inches in width and containing two metal clasps, worn around the neck.  The device was designed with a two-fold purpose: its construction restricted movement and therefore improved the military bearing of Marines, and it protected the area of the neck and throat from blows of sword or thrust of dirk.

[2] Commandant of the Marine Corps, 1903-1910

Major Waller’s Court

OLD EGA 001Last week, I wrote about Major Littleton W. T. Waller’s march across Samar.  It was an event encompassing great courage, substantial challenges, and much suffering.  I suspect many lessons were learned from this tragedy—including the effect on morale when casualties are abandoned along the trail.  I also hope there were lessons learned about the importance of logistics, but I think history will show that this lesson was one of the more difficult over all.  It appears we are learning it still.

But Waller’s trials on the march across Samar were only the beginning of his unhappy experience in the Philippines.

After the Balangiga Massacre, Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith, U. S. Army requested assistance from the Navy-Marine Corps in the Philippines to subdue insurrectionists on the island of Samar.  As part of his order to Waller, Smith said, “I want no prisoners.  I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me.  I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.”

Waller requested clarification about the age limit to General Smith’s order, and Smith replied “Ten years.”

Waller persisted, “Persons of ten years and older are those designated as being capable of bearing arms?”

“Yes,” said Smith.

Major Waller largely ignored these illegal orders, but it did become necessary for Major Waller to order the summary execution of eleven native carriers when they mutinied against the Marines in the field, stole their rations, and attacked them at their weakest moments.  After the execution, Major Waller duly reported the incident to his superior, Brigadier General Smith.

General Smith passed Waller’s report of the executions to his superior, General Adna R. Chaffee, U. S. Army.  Chaffee decided to investigate these executions, despite General J. Franklin Bell, U. S. Army having purportedly carried out similar executions on a much larger scale only a few months before —albeit with no subsequent investigations.  As a result, Major Waller was brought up on charges of murder in ordering the execution of the Filipino porters.

A court-martial was convened on 17 March 1902, consisting of 7 Army officers, 6 Marine Corps officers, and the presiding officer in the person of General William H. Bisbee, USA.  The prosecutor assigned to the case was Major Henry P. Kingsbury, U. S. Army, who read the formal charges:

CHARGE: murder, in violation of the 58th Article of War.

Specification: In that Major Littleton W. T. Waller, United States Marine Corps, being then and there detached for service with the United States Army, by authority of the President of the United States, did, in time of war, willfully and feloniously and with malice aforethought, murder and kill eleven men, names unknown, natives of the Philippine Islands, by ordering and causing his subordinate officer under his command, John Horace Arthur Day, First Lieutenant, U. S. Marine Corps, and a firing detail of enlisted men under his said command, to take out said eleven men and shoot them to death, which said order was then and there carried into execution and said eleven natives, and each of them, were shot with rifles from the effects of which they then and there died.  This at Basey, Island of Samar, Philippine Islands, on or about the 20th of January 1902.

Major Waller’s attorney was Commander Adolf Marix, U. S. Navy.  He first argued unsuccessfully that the Army had no jurisdiction over Waller, as he was again under Marine Corps command, no longer attached to an Army command.  Marix argued that since the Army did not charge Waller while he was still attached to the army for service, their authority over him had expired.

Colonel Bisbee noted the plea as follows: “The plea is that the defendant is not subject to the jurisdiction of this court.  Therefore, we want to know whether there is any possible written, or other evidence from the President of the United States, placing him on detached duty with the Army, and thereby placing him within the province of this court.”

The next morning, Major Kingsbury provided a series of telegrams between Admiral Rogers and General Chafee in which the offer of 300 Marines was made, and accepted.  “The Marines were serving in Samar by order of the President, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of the Navy—and they were there,” he said.

Commander Marix argued further, “Legal proceedings are defined clearly … the accused has a right to be present, the witnesses sworn, and be represented by counsel.  Nothing of the kind happened in this case.  An inspector of allegations is not a judicial officer.”

General Bisbee ruled that the court was without jurisdiction in the case, but he left open the possibility of reversing himself if instructions were received from the office of the Adjutant General of the Army.

On 21 March, the instructions arrived.  The Assistant Adjutant General noted that the Commanding General of the Philippine Department (General Arthur MacArthur, Jr.[1]) had ordered a preliminary examination of the case, with a view to legal action, before Waller was relieved of duty with the Army.  Waller assisted in Major Getty’s investigation, and was questioned by him, so he had to know that he was a party to the proceedings.  Besides, a “brief lapse of jurisdiction” cannot mitigate a murder charge.

General Bisbee was then obligated to decide that his court did have jurisdiction over Major Waller, and ordered the trial to proceed.

Waller 001Major Waller thereafter entered his plea: “To the specification, guilty —except to the words ‘willfully and feloniously and with malice aforethought, murder, and …’ to those words, not guilty.  To the charge, not guilty.  At no time did Major Waller use General Smith’s orders, “I want all persons killed” to justify the execution of the Filipinos.  He instead relied exclusively on the rules of war and provisions of a Civil War General Order Number 100 that authorized “exceeding force,” much as J. Franklin Bell had successfully done in the preceding months.  Waller’s defense thus rested.

The prosecution then called General Smith as a rebuttal witness.  On 7 April 1902, in sworn testimony, Smith denied that he had given any special verbal orders to Waller.  This testimony obliged Waller to produce three officers who corroborated Waller’s version of the Smith-Waller conversation, and he submitted copies of every written order he had received from Smith.  Waller informed the court that he had been directed to take no prisoners, and to kill every male Filipino over the age of ten.

The court martial board voted 11-2 for acquittal of Waller.  Later, the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General dismissed the entire case, agreeing that a Marine Corps officer was not subject to an Army court.  Back home, the press labeled Waller as “The Butcher of Samar,” and even though Waller was eventually promoted to Major General, the court martial kept him from an appointment as Commandant of the Marine Corps.

As the result of evidence introduced at the Waller trail, General Smith was himself court-martialed, convicted, admonished, and forced into retirement.

Post script: Many of us like to think that the military services rely heavily upon honor, personal and professional integrity, but the fact is that there are some who disgrace themselves and the uniforms they wear.  Smith was such a person, who lied in court about the orders he issued, but continued to benefit from his status as a former brigadier general in the United States Army.  We have situations even today where there is a question of the veracity of senior officers, from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to others who seem unable to control their libido.  Our troops deserve much better than this.

What should Waller have done?  He would have been prudent to make his report to the senior Army commander, and turned his prisoners over to that officer, for his adjudication.


[1] Father of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur

He Served on Samar

Samar Map 001For a period of about two years following the end of hostilities with Spain in the Philippines, various local groups numbering perhaps five percent of the total population of the Philippine Islands (7 million, approximately) challenged the occupying Army of the United States.

The island of Samar had become the centerpiece for resistance to American occupation following the Spanish-American War.  On 28 September 1901, 48 soldiers assigned to Company C, 9th US Infantry then stationed in Balangiga, were killed during a surprise attack by Filipino townspeople.  An additional eight soldiers died due to wounds received during the attack; 22 were wounded.  Of the total number of soldiers, only 4 escaped unharmed.

The day following the attack, Captain Edwin V. Bookmiller, the commander in Basey, sailed with Company G, 9th US Infantry for Balangiga aboard a commandeered coastal steamer, named Pittsburgh.  Upon arrival, Captain Brookmiller discovered the town abandoned.  The dead soldiers were buried and the wounded cared for as best as could be done.  This event became known as the Balangiga Massacre.

Back in the states, word of the massacre enraged the public, with US newspapers equating the massacre to that of George Armstrong Custer and the 7th US Cavalry in 1876.  Major General Adna R. Chaffee, military governor of the Philippines, received orders from President Theodore Roosevelt to pacify Samar.  To this end, he appointed Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith to Samar in order to accomplish this task.  General Smith requested reinforcements to complete his mission and it was this call for help that brought in the Marines.

On 24 October 1901, Major Littleton W. T. Waller [1], commanding a battalion of approximately 300 Marines arrived in Samar at the direction of Rear Admiral Frederick Rodgers, who commanded the Asiatic Squadron.  Although the Marines were placed under the command of Brigadier General Smith to reinforce and cooperate with the U. S. Army on Samar, it was also contemplated that Major Waller’s movements should be supported, as far as possible, by a vessel of the U. S. fleet, to which he should make reports from time to time, and through which supplies for his battalion were to be furnished.

Waller 001Major Waller disembarked at Basey with his headquarters element and two companies of Marines and relieved some elements of the 9th Infantry.  The remainder of Waller’s battalion, consisting of approximately 159 men, proceeded to Balangiga (along the southern coast of Samar) under the command of Captain David D. Porter [2], who was ordered to begin operations immediately to pacify the rebels.  Porter’s company relieved elements of the 17th US Infantry.  At this time, Waller received orders from Brigadier General Smith, as follows:  “I want no prisoners.  I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me.  The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness.”

As a consequence of this order, Smith became known as “Howling Wilderness Smith.”  He further ordered Waller to have all persons killed who were capable of bearing arms, and in actual hostilities against the United States.  Waller queried Smith further regarding the age of those persons.  General Smith replied that the limit was ten years old.

The operating area assigned to the Marines included the entire southern part of Samar.  The Marines began patrolling immediately at Basey and Balangiga—small expeditions designed to clear the country of guerillas, which were operating under the command of General Vicente Lukban who refused to surrender to US authority.  The Marines learned that General Lukban and his insurgents occupied a fortified defense on the Sohoton Cliffs, near a river of the same name.  Three columns of Marines marched into the Sohoton region to attack this stronghold in mid-November.  Major Waller, Captain Porter, and Captain Hiram I. Bearss [3] each commanded one of these three columns.  Porter and Bearss marched on shore; Waller and his Marines went up the river in boats.  The initial plan called for a combined attack on Lukban on 16 November 1901.

Captain Porter and Captain Bearss struck the enemy’s trail and soon came upon a number of bamboo guns—one of these placed to command the trail and upon discovery, had a lighted fuse.  One Marine ran forward and pulled the fuse away from the gun, thereby disarming it.  The arrival of the Marines surprised the insurgents, and they were easily driven from their initial positions.  In the second phase of the attack, the Marines had to scale 200-foot cliffs; hovering above them were large nets filled with rocks that the insurgents intended to use against the Marines.  However, withering and accurate rifle fire directed upon them by Gunnery Sergeant John H. Quick [4], prevented them from doing so.  The Marines successfully scaled the cliffs and drove the insurgents out of their defenses.  Had Major Waller’s boats not been delayed, the results for his detachment might have been disastrous.

No Marines were killed or wounded during the attack, but 40 insurgents were killed and General Lukban and his lieutenants were captured and taken into custody. Major Waller’s decision not to immediately pursue the insurgents is a lesson in logistics.  The Marines were out of rations, the men were exhausted, and some of the Marines were ill.  The volcanic rocks had cut the Marine’s shoes to pieces, many were bare footed and their feet severely damaged.

On or about 5 December 1901, Brigadier General Smith directed Major Waller to march his Marines from Basey, across the island of Samar to Hernani, for the purpose of selecting a route for constructing a telegraph system connecting the east and west coast.  Three days later, two columns of Marines left Basey for Balangiga—one under the command of Major Waller, and the other under Captain Bearss.  Stores were sent ahead by naval vessel.  Although the Marines did not encounter armed resistance, the natural obstacles proved deadly.  The March across Samar had begun.

Waller decided to begin his march from Lanang, work his way up the Lanang River as far as possible, and then march to the vicinity of the Sohoton Cliffs.  Before beginning his trek, Waller was cautioned not to make the attempt, but he later recalled in his report, “Remembering General Smith’s several talks on the subject and his evident desire to know the terrain, and run wires across … I decided to make the trial with 50 men and necessary carriers.”

This journey began on 8 December 1901 and included Waller, Porter, Bearss, three lieutenants (including an Army aide to Smith), 50 Marines, and 33 native porters.  The boats were abandoned at Lagitao due to the fact that they could not penetrate the rapids, so the remainder of the trip was made on foot.  The Marines soon found it necessary to cross, and re-cross swollen rivers and dangerous rapids.  Within a scant few days, it became necessary to reduce rations; Waller was not yet aware that the native carriers were stealing food rations.

Within a week, the Marines were becoming ill, food rations were critically short, their clothing in tatters, their feet were swollen and bleeding, and the trail was lost.  After some conference with his officers, Waller decided to take Lieutenant Halford and 13 Marines who were in the best condition, and push forward as rapidly as possible.  They would send back a relief party for the main column, which was placed under the command of Captain Porter.  Porter’s instructions were to follow in trace slowly.

On January 4, Major Waller’s party rushed a shack and captured five natives, including a man and a boy who stated that they knew the way to Basey.  After crossing the Sohoton River, the famous Spanish trail leading from the Sohoton caves to the Suribao River was discovered and followed.  The party crossed the Loog River and proceeded through the valley to Banglay, on the Cadacan River.  Near this point the party came upon the camp, which Captain Dunlap had established to await their arrival.  Major Waller’s party went aboard Captain Dunlap’s cutter and set off for Basey, where they arrived on January 6, 1902.  Concerning the condition of the men of his party, Major Waller wrote:

“The men, realizing that all was over and that they were safe and once more near home, gave up.  Some quietly wept; others laughed hysterically —most of them had no shoes.  Cut, torn, bruised and dilapidated, they had marched without murmur for twenty-nine days.”

Immediately after the arrival of the detachment at Basey, Major Waller led a relief party back to locate Captain Porter’s party.  After nine days of searching, there was no sign of Captain Porter.  The floods were terrific and Waller discovered that several of the former campsites several feet under water.  The members of the relief party began to break down, due to the many hardships and the lack of food, forcing the party to return to Basey.  Upon arrival, Major Waller was taken sick with fever.

Meanwhile Captain Porter had decided to retrace the trail to Lanang and ask for a relief party to be sent out for his men, most of who were unable to march.  He chose seven Marines who were in the best condition and with six natives, set out January 3 for Lanang.  He left behind Lieutenant Williams in charge of the remainder of the detachment with orders to follow, as the condition of the men would permit.  Captain Porter’s return to Lanang was made under difficulties many times greater than those encountered during the march to the interior.  Food was almost totally lacking, and heavy rains filled the streams making it almost impossible to follow down their banks or cross them as was so often necessary.

On January 11, Captain Porter reached Lanang and reported the situation to Captain Pickering, the Army Commander at that place.  A relief expedition was organized to go for the remainder of the Marines but it was unable to start for several days because of the swollen Lanang River.  Without food, yet realizing that starvation was certain if they remained in camp, Lieutenant Williams and his men slowly followed Captain Porter’s trail, leaving men behind one by one to die beside the trail when it was no longer possible for them to continue.  One man went insane; the native carriers became mutinous and some of them attacked and wounded Lieutenant Williams with bolos.  After having left ten marines to die along the trail, Lieutenant Williams was finally met by the relief party on the morning of January 18 and taken back to Lanang.

Williams later testified that the mutinous behavior of the natives left the Marines in daily fear of their lives; the porters were hiding food and supplies from the Marines and keeping themselves nourished from the jungle while the Marines starved.  As a result, 11 porters were placed under arrest following Williams’ testimony.

After an investigation of the facts and circumstances of these events, Waller ordered the summary execution of the eleven Filipino porters for treason, theft, disobedience, and general mutiny.  Ten were shot in groups of three (one had been gunned down in the water attempting to escape).  Waller later reported the executions to General Smith, as he had reported every other event.  “It became necessary to expend eleven prisoners; ten who were implicated in the attack on Lt. Williams and one who plotted against me.”

The full circumstances of Lieutenant Williams’ attempt to extricate his exhausted men from the midst of that wild tropical jungle is one of the most tragic, yet one of the most heroic episode in Marine Corps history.  The entire march across Samar was about 190 miles.  Major Waller’s march, including his return with the party searching for Captain Porter, totaled 250 miles.

For many years after, officers and men of the United States Marine Corps paid a traditional tribute to the indomitable courage of these Marines by rising in their presence with the following words of homage: “Stand, gentlemen: he served on Samar.”


[1] Brevet Medal; Retired in grade of Major General

[2] Brevet Medal; Medal of Honor; Retired in grade of Major General; son of LtCol Carlisle Porter, grandson of Admiral David D. Porter, great-grandson of Commodore David Porter

[3] Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Distinguished Service Cross, retired in grade of Colonel (1919), advanced to Brigadier General in retirement

[4] Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star; retired in grade of Sergeant Major