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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: Spanish-American War was short in duration, long on history

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  • Important events happened in military history on today’s and Thursday’s dates.
    Last week’s column about the dropping of the first atomic bomb in history Aug. 6, 1945, followed by a second one Aug. 9,  led the Japanese to agree to surrender terms Aug. 14, according to all sources but the National Museum of the U.S. Army Calendar, which says it was Aug. 15.
    I think I’ll go with the Army Almanac and the other calendars that say Aug. 14 was the day the Japanese accepted the Allied unconditional surrender that ended World War II.
    But, today was a big one also, according to the Army Almanac, as it was the day, 116 years ago, that American troops ended the Manila Campaign by entering the capital of the Philippines during America’s shortest war, the Spanish-American War.
    The brief campaign had occurred both in the Philippine Islands and in Cuba, and was primarily a naval war. The Manila Campaign lasted from July 31 until U.S. troops entered the capital city Aug. 13.
    Spain, which had held and ruled the Philippines for many years, surrendered that day, ending the four-month war.
    Interestingly, Spain ceded all claims to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam, but although we won the two-front war, we agreed to pay $20 million for the Philippines. Guess I’m going to have to delve into that a bit more deeply to see why we won the war but paid for territory.
    The war has been referred to as “the war the press caused to happen” due to the American press taking up the Cuban cause against Spanish oppression of the Cuban people. It also gave us the stirring phrase, “Remember the Maine”; Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charging up San Juan Hill, which actually was Kettle Hill; Admiral Dewey’s actions decimating the Spanish fleet in the Philippines; and several other colorful happenings.
    The war caused negligible casualties to U.S. forces, including 385 battle deaths and 1,662 battle wounds. Army troops must have operated in a careless manner or disease was rampant as non-battle deaths numbered 2,061.
    Some things at Fort Leavenworth are still with us from the Spanish-American War.
    Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt was a senior U.S. commander, and the larger lake on the fort is named for him. Pvt. Fitz Lee was a black trooper in the 10th U.S. Cavalry and recipient of the Medal of Honor, and he’s buried in Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.
    The third international student to graduate from today’s Command and General Staff College was from Puerto Rico, and two other early graduates were from Cuba.
    CGSC has long had students from Spain and a Spanish liaison officer, and students from the Philippines and Cuba, although none from Cuba in many years.
    Page 2 of 2 - And back to Japan’s surrender in August 1945, there have long been students from Japan and a Japanese liaison officer.
    I suppose the above facts are proof that as Father Time marches inexorably on, the world situation changes and former enemies become fast friends.
    One final note on happenings in August is that the Panama Canal was built 100 years ago this month. That made Army doctor Maj. Walter Reed famous for his work with malaria, and had strategic military implications by shortening ship routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
    There were other August happenings, but space is gone so they’ll have to wait until a future column.

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