There have been many responses to President Trump’s recent tweet and previous comments regarding John J. Pershing’s supposed treatment of Muslim terrorists in the Philippines during the early part of the twentieth century:
Several fact-checking sites have weighed in on the truthfulness of the tweet. Politifact gave his Tweet the lowest Truth-O-Meter™ rating of “Pants on Fire!”
While, Snopes rated it as “False.” http://www.snopes.com/rumors/pershing.asp
On the other hand, Daniel Greenfield, at Frontpage Mag, has written a number of articles castigating the press over sloppy and lazy reporting in ignoring the evidence of pig burials.
Then, there is also President Trump’s rally speech in South Carolina in 2016 where he mentions an incident in which Pershing dips 50 bullets in pig’s blood, has his men shoot 49 terrorists, and lets the 50th man go to tell the rest.
While there is no proof that Pershing executed Muslim terrorists with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, there is little doubt, as described below in contemporary newspaper accounts, that the practice of burying dead Muslim terrorists with a pig was carried out by the U.S. military in Philippines early last century. The most recent fact-checking on Pershing in the Philippines focuses on the period when Gen. Pershing was Governor of Moro Province after 1909. Pershing had also served in the Philippines from 1899 to 1903, and there was an episode in March 1902 where Pershing, a captain in the 15th Cavalry, may have been present when a body was buried with a pig.
A photo of Capt. Pershing from this period:
Pershing photograph, link, https://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/search?searchCode=LCCN&searchArg=2002716885&searchType=1&permalink=y
In December 1903 American newspapers began to quote an article from the Manila Cable News of disturbances beginning in October on the island of Jolo due to the unorthodox burial methods of Lt. Col. Alexander Rodgers of the 15th Cavalry. [Jolo is southwest of Mindanao.]
The 15th Cavalry, a new regiment, was raised and organized at the Presidio of San Francisco in February 1901. It was then immediately sent to the Philippines where it was stationed mostly in the south, on Mindanao and nearby islands until 1903.
American Cavalry in the Philippines, 1901
This article is from the New York World:
The World (NY), “Wood’s Latest Laurels Due to Pig,” December 8, 1903, pp. 1, 2. “…The Manila Cable News, of Oct. 30, a copy of which was received at the War Department to-day, is authority for the statement that the recent outbreak on the hitherto peaceful island of Jolo was due to the fact that a Mahometan Moro was buried with a pig by order of Lt. Col. Rodgers, of the Fifteenth Cavalry which has just been relieved from garrison duty at the city of Jolo.”
“It charges that the facts were suppressed by the press censor established at Zamboanga by Gen. Wood, and that while Gen. Wood was kept fully informed his reports to Washington were withheld through fear that they would influence the elections.” (Bold in the original.)
“The story as published in the Cable News is that a Juramentado (a man who has taken an oath to kill a Christian) was shot to death on the streets of Jolo after partly disemboweling a member of B Troop, Fifteenth Cavalry. One of the bullets went through the fanatic’s body and killed the chief bugler of the squadron.”
“Col. Rodgers, with a desire to teach the natives a lesson, ordered the body of the fanatic buried with a pig, which is the greatest insult that can be offered to the pork-hating Mahometans. They believe that to be defiled in any way by the touch of pork bars them from heaven.”
“The event was widely advertised, and 2,000 Moros, all armed and ugly but quiet, assembled on the plain outside of Jolo. In the morning the bugler was buried with full military honors.”
“At noon the body of the Juramentado was thrown into a trench over which stood a derrick.”
“A hog was hauled up on the derrick and its throat cut, the blood running down over the body of the fanatic. The hog was left hanging above the grave all the afternoon. At sunset its carcass was lowered into the trench, placed alongside the body of the fanatic and both were covered over.”
“During the proceedings a dismounted squadron of cavalry and a battalion of the Seventeenth Infantry guarded the grave. Each soldier carried 200 rounds of ammunition and a conflict with the sullen Moros, who swarmed over the plain, was momentarily expected.”
“No detail, however, barbaric which it was though would impress their savage minds was omitted from the ceremony.” (Bold in the original.)
“After the troops withdrew the Moros closed in about the city and practically laid siege to it. They grew more and more aggressive and Gen. Wood finally sent an expedition against them. The bloody engagements between Nov. 12 and 16 resulted and the Moros were scattered, according to Gen. Wood’s report.”
“This version of the immediate cause of the trouble was subsequently denied and it was to get at the facts that Gen. Wade went to Jolo.”
This action by Lt. Col. Rodgers, later colonel of the 6th Cavalry, caused an uprising, and an article in the Scientific American from 1904 describes the aftermath:
[There is an error in the article where it mentions that the American soldiers wounded and killed in the city of Jolo were from the 17th Infantry. Rather, they were a trooper and bugler from the 15th Cavalry.]
An article in the New York Times later in December 1903 describes how Col. William M. Wallace, commander of the 15th Cavalry, rather than Rodgers was the officer who had ordered the burial of the body with a pig:
New York Times. “Buried Pig with Moros. / Col. Wallace, who Devised Punishment to Prevent Religious Murders, Is in Washington.” December 22, 1903, p. 5.
“Washington, D.C., Dec. 21. Col. Wallace, with headquarter and four troops of the Fifteenth Cavalry, arrived here yesterday and will constitute the garrison at Fort Myer. The regiment has been for two years in the Philippines, and has had hard service among the Moros.”
“Col. Wallace is in fact the author of a practice that for a time promised to bring a general war with the Moros. He instituted the plan of burying a pig in the grave with slain Moros as a punishment. The natives, who are Mohammedans, regard this as the worst form of insult, and when it is done to a Juramentado they were thrown into a rage that was uncontrollable. The Mohammedan believes that if his body comes into contact with sort after burial his soul is thereby contaminated and so tainted that he cannot enter seventh heaven. To the surviving relatives the thought was simply horrible. Col. Wallace, in the course of conversation, told how the pig-burial punishment of the Moros began.”
When this burial occurred, sometime in September or October 1903, Captain Pershing had already set sail to American in June and so was not present.
Col. Wallace then tells how this type of burial was first tried in March 1902, also in Jolo. At this time Col. Wallace was military governor of Jolo and Pershing, commander of the 1st Squadron of the 15th Cavalry, was also stationed on the island.
(See “Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy.”)
There seemed to be no overwhelming reaction among the populace to this type of burial until it was tried again by Col. Wallace a year and a half later.
The article continues.
“’It was in March a year ago,’ he said, ‘that we first had occasion to practice this form of punishment on the Moros to prevent the wild outbreaks of their Juramentados, who, protected by religious superstition, were allowed, when the spell of religious frenzy was on them, to run amuck in the streets and murder everybody in sight with their barongs.
“Convictions and punishment of these men seemed to have no effect. In March of last year there occurred a more than usually atrocious slaughter. Three of them, flourishing barongs and yelling like wild men, broke loose in the market place of Jolo and killed a man, woman, and a child. The population was panic stricken.”
“I at once sent a squad of cavalrymen to the market place to arrest the lawbreakers. Upon the approach of the soldiers the crazed fanatics came rushing at them and struck at them with their barongs. In the mêlée that followed the soldiers, to protect themselves, killed all three of the Juramentados. I had the bodies brought to the hospital and there placed them on display, calling on all Moros in the vicinity who cared to do so to come to see the bodies, my object being to identify them.”
“A great crowd gathered where the internment was to take place, and it was there that a dead hog, in plain view of the multitude, was lifted and placed in the grave in the midst of the three bodies, the Moro grave diggers themselves being required to do this, much to their horror. News of the form of punishment adopted soon spread. It passed from one tribe to another throughout the island, and was published in Chinese, Filipino, and Spanish in the newspapers. There is every indication that the method had a wholesome effect, as it has not been necessary to use it again until apparently the latest instance. I am informed that the same form of punishment was put into effect by the English at Singapore, and had equally effective results.”
With much circumstantial evidence, Pershing’s role in or the witnessing of a pig being buried with Juramentados in the Philippines certainly deserves more research for confirmation. President Trump may have been incorrect about how execution/burial was done, but it was done. There was an uprising related to it. And we know that two of his superior regimental officers were directly involved in this type of burial. Only its efficacy is still open for question.