Published: Wed, December 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

US returns war trophy bells to the Philippines

US returns war trophy bells to the Philippines

Those interested to see the Balangiga Bells will now have the opportunity to do so starting Wednesday, free of charge. "The bells are now back where they belong".

Philippine Air Force personnel unload three church bells seized by American troops as war trophies more than a century ago, as they arrive Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018 in suburban Pasay city、 southeast of Manila, Philippines.

"To the American, the bells are war relics and symbols of honoring their dead heroes and patriots".

Local Filipinos from Balangiga, a seaside town in Eastern Samar province in the central Philippines, used the Church bells to signal an attack against American soldiers at the dawn of September 28, 1901. Two of the bells had been displayed for decades at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the third was with the U.S. Army in South Korea.

"The return of the bells would be "the right thing to do", said a resolution the group approved in July calling on the United States government to return them.

"The Bells of Balangiga are home now, in the Philippines, where they belong.

That painful conflict soon ended, and our countries became partners and friends", said US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.

The Philippine government will now take the three bells to their original parish in the village of Balangiga, in the center of the Phillippine archipelago, for a ceremony on Saturday.

U.S Air Force personnel remove the cover of crates containing the bells of Balangiga after their arrival at Villamor Air Base in Pasay Metro Manila Philippines
Return of Balangiga Bells: ‘It’s time for healing and closure’

"It's time for healing".

"It is a most memorable day of our nation's history and we celebrate it with deep gratitude and respect for all those who helped to make this day happen", Mr Lorenzana said during the handover ceremony.

The Philippines and the USA had since fought together during World War II, aided each other in the Korean War and Vietnam War, and helped each other during the Gulf War. The Americans retaliated by burning the town and killing all male Filipinos aged at least 10 years old.

American soldiers as war booty during the Philippine-American war in 1901.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has had an antagonistic attitude toward the USA and has revitalized ties with China and Russian Federation, asked Washington in his state of the nation address past year to "return them to us, this is painful for us".

Kim, at the same time, said the return of the Bells of Balangiga lets us reflect on the US-Philippine relationship - where we have been, where we are, where we are going.

He explained that the veterans in Wyoming did not want to give up the bells.

The bells came to represent the sacrifice American troops had made, even if the war was messy and in some parts dishonorable, said Eric Burke, a historian who had served as the 9th Infantry Regiment's guidon-bearer, shortly after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had called for their return. "The bells, therefore, represented the Filipinos struggle against the Americans and the suffering that they endured, signifying their bravery, courage and heroism".

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