The movements of the seven companies of attackers began as sun set on the 27th. The sixth attack company under Custodio Salazar and Paul Gacho quietly occupied a house north east of the Salazar house, which served as the barracks for Frank Betron and his men. There the 34 men from Lawaan changed into women’s clothing. They then mounted a procession which included the interred Christ, and made their way into the church.
As the evening wore on, many of the women, children and the elderly were quietly evacuated to nearby barrios. Some women — those who were responsible for providing food and water to the men still in the Sibley tents — remained behind. Among them was Cassiana Nacionales.
In the church, the doors were closed and a sentry placed in position to note any approach by an American. There were a total of five Americans in the vicinity of the church and convento — two guards, and the three officers, plus Franciso, the house servant for the officers.
Inside the church, the men from Lawaan alternately prayed fervently and established a vanguard group in the priest’s room. From the priest’s quarters they had only to throw open the large folding doors and they would be in the rooms that housed Connell, Bumpus, and Griswold.
On the walls of the church and the doors to the convent, some of the men drew images us angels and the words “Salvami, Christo” and “Salvami, Jesus.” The same words were written on small triangular pieces of paper that were then tied around the necks of each man — anting anting for spiritual protection.
During the night, with lookouts posted in case an American should approach, men dug shallow trenches on the beach and sandy riverbank to the south and east of the plaza. North of the town, another company of men quietly dug pit traps while lookouts guarded against a surprise approach by any of the Americans.
As dawn approached, those who had bolos tied them to their wrists with leather thongs to ensure that they would not be easily disarmed in combat.
Outside and behind the church, more men quietly crossed the river in silent boats and slipped into position in the cemetery and on the west side of the plaza.
Others slipped down from the jungles to the north and took up positions on the north side of the plaza behind the first row of houses, where uncleared undergrowth in the second line of houses protected them.
In the Nacionales home, Cassiana and the other women who had been bringing food and water to the prisoners each morning were gathered, preparing their delivery. However this time the bamboo water tubes carried knives and bolos. Cassiana Nacionales concealed a small knife, a punyal, inside a tuba of suman, sweetened steamed rice.
By a few minutes before 6 AM, every attacker was in place.
They waited for the Americans to begin their routine.
A 6 AM on the morning of September 28, 1901, Musician George Meyers sounded reveille and the 71 men of Company C. assembled in the Town Plaza, their backs to the municipal hall, facing west, their Krag rifles in hand. The weather was cloudy and the dawn had not fully arrived, so in order to read the roll call, Sergeant James Randles had to use a lantern. To the soldier’s right, at the northwest corner of the municipal hall, were the two conical Sibley tents containing sixty eight prisoners. Behind the municipal hall was the mess tent and kitchen. In front of them at the opposite end of the plaza, was the church and convento, where a guard was posted and the officers were sleeping.
One by one Randles called out the names of each of the men of Company C. Each responded in the affirmative. Sleepy as they were, there was an air of anticipation because with the rising sun would come the opportunity to immerse themselves in the bundles of mail that most of the men had received the night before — four months worth of letters that had chased them from China, where they had concluded their Boxer Rebellion duty in April, to Manila where they had served from May to the beginning of August, and finally to Balangiga, where they had been since August 11th, six weeks earlier.
At the conclusion of roll call Randles called out: “Dismissed!” and the men went back to their barracks. Over forty went to the municipal hall. Some went to the Betron Barracks at the Salazar home, on the northeast corner of the plaza. Others went to the Markley Barracks at the Belaez home a block west along the plaza’s perimeter road. In all three locations the men stacked their guns and began to go about their business, the most pressing matter being breakfast and mail.
Behind and across the street from the municipal hall, Cook Melvin Walls opened cans of corned beef hash for breakfast. Outside and to the rear, two of the prisoners from Sibley tents chopped firewood. One of the two was Graciano Baleos.
Over the next fifteen minutes, virtually all the men made their way to the mess tent for breakfast. One of the first in line for breakfast as Private Adolf Gamlin. He had to finish his breakfast and relieve George on on Guard Duty at post five near the Sibley tents at 6:30 AM. By the time Gamlin was finished it was almost time for his duty to start, and he approached Allen, relieved him, and began marching Post 2, an L shaped route that took him from the mess tent north on the perimeter to the Betron Barracks, then a left turn and an equal distance west along the perimeter road to the Markley Barracks — then back.
Relieved from guard duty, Allen left his rifle in the guardhouse in the municipal hall, picked up his messkit and headed around the north end of the municipal hall, past the Sibley tents, to the mess tent behind the tribunal.
As he crossed from the back of the hall to the mess tent, he could see fifty yards away about a dozen soldiers seated at the mess table and on boxes at the Betron Barracks Among those seated at the mess table were Betron, Meyers, Burke, Armani, Driscoll, and ten others. Their guns were a few steps away, inside the house and up the stairs in their quarters on the second floor.
Sitting with his men, Betron scanned the plaza and saw that dozens of natives who were not imprisoned in the Sibley tents had begun gathering. They were lounging about the plaza, work bolos in hand. Some, he noticed, were gathered near the guard posts and in front of the municipal hall. Others were grouped near the Sibley tents, where there was a pile of picks, bolos, and shovels against the north wall of the municipal hall.
To Betron’s right, on the north perimeter of the plaza a hundred fifty yards away,at the Markley Barracks — there were just a handful of soldiers in evidence. Most were either in the mess tent behind the municipal hall, or were inside the house on the second floor, sitting on their cots, reading their mail.
One who was at the Markley Barracks was Sergeant Markley had been on guard duty there since the previous night, and was nearing the end of his duty, waiting for Private James Cain to return from the mess tent to relieve him. Another was Private Frank Voybada, who had been on guard the previous night and was now rolling a cigarette on his cot upstairs. Markley finally saw Cain heading back toward him from the Municipal Hall, and in his impatience left his loaded rifle on his cot by the door and set off across the Plaza toward the mess tent.
Meanwhile Sergeant Betron finished his breakfast by the Salazar house, and then he too set off toward the municipal hall.
At the Betron Barracks, behind Betron, police chief Abanador appeared with three of his men and spoke with casually with Corporal Burke, who was seated at the mess table beside the house. In front of them, Adolf Gamlin was walking his rounds on guard duty., his route taking him periodically directly in front of the house where he would make a 90 degree turn and proceed toward the Markley Barracks on his outbound trip, or toward the mess tent on his inbound trip.
Aside from Gamlin, Dent and Armani were also on guard duty at Post 6 in the plaza.
There was one guard in the Markley Barracks, and one guard in the Municipal Hall.
One more guard crouched on the ground beside the Sibley tents.
Thus as the moment that would end some lives and change others ripened, a dozen men were at the Betron Barracks mess tent; a half dozen inside the Markley Barracks; thirty were in the main mess behind the municipal hall; the officers were in their quarters at the convento; and Sergeants Markley and Randles were en route from their respective barracks to the Municipal Hall; and seven were on guard duty.
Entering the mess tent, Markley held out his plate to Walls for breakfast.
For the Samarenos hidden throughout the outskirts of the town and in the church, the moment of truth was at hand. Each man knew without question that they faced likely death if the Americans got to their weapons.
Some prayed to the God of the Christians.
Others touched the anting anting necklace and summoned other, more ancient forces to protect them.
Cassiana Nacionales knelt before the crucifix in her house, repeating Christian prayers quietly and without hesitation and without much hope. She asked the Christian God to spare the lives of her brother, her cousins, and the good American, Betron.
Although Valeriano Abanador had shared leadership responsibilities with Eugenio Daza during the planning phase, it was Abanador and no one else who was in tactical command of the Samareno forces on the plaza that would this day become a field of battle that would be remembered forever in the Philippines.
Among his responsibilities was the initiation of hostilities. He would disarm Gamlin, marching his guard duty at Post Two near the Salazar house as the signal for the attack to commence. He would be visible to the men in the church’s bell tower, who would begin ringing the bell.
Prior to this moment, Abanador had rated the chances of even getting to this point without the Americans becoming aware of the impending attack as no better than two in five. But now, surprisingly, the moment had arrived and there was no indication whatsoever that the Americans were aware.
From his position near the northeast corner of the square, Abanador checked off where the Americans were at this, the final moment.
Across the Plaza to his right, on the west end of the plaza in the convento attached to the Church, the three officers either slept or were going about their early morning routines. There was little chance that these officers would be able to escape and take over command of the Americans — but if they were to get wind of the attack they could self their lives dearly from a position barricaded in the convento. The Lawaan-anons were among the best and most reliable of the men under his command, and Abanador felt confident that they would not break and run even if the Americans were firing in an organized fashion from the convento.
Opposite the church on the East end, closer to where Abanador stood, was the two story municipal hall. Forty-two Americans had bunks there, but most were in the mess area now. There was a guard inside, and a few soldiers. The largest force under Abanador’s command was assigned this building because inside it were the stored Krag Jorgensens, more than fifty of them based on reports, that the attack should shake free from American possession and even the odds once in Samareno hands. As with the convento, Abanador was confident that the assigned group responsible for the municipal hall was sufficient for the task. His confidence was increased by the fact that at the north end of the hall, two conical Sibley tents contained sixty-eight prisoners who were now armed with knives brought by the women of the town hidden in their rice tubes who would all be attacking the municipal building along with others now in hiding.
Fifty yards to his right, along the north perimeter of the plaza, was the Belaez house, known to the Americans as the Markley Barracks. He could only see two men outside the house, and could not judge how many were inside. Few, hopefully, since most were at mess, and because the number of native fighters assigned to this target was far fewer.
On the corner where he stood, he counted thirteen Americans eating breakfast at the Salazar House, known to the Americans as the Betron Barracks. A half dozen of these were at a bench table and five or six more who were in the shelter of the shaded area under the raised house, which was situated off the ground on poles. This was troubling. There were more Americans here than anticipated, and their guns were very close.
Looking south, fifty yards away, was the main mess tent where at least thirty Americans were eating and reading mail. Guns were scattered here and there, some closer at hand than others, but no one that he could see had their gun actually at the ready. Almost forty percent of the attacking force was assigned this target.
His attention came back to the Betron Barracks where he was standing.
There were too many men here.
Would the forces designated for this auxiliary barracks be sufficient?
The plan left no margin for error. All five of the key locations must be neutralized before the Americans had time to get to their weapons or all could be lost.
For a long minute he hesitated, covering his indecision by leaning casually against a post and chatting with Corporal Burke.
Time was running out.
Sergeant Sharer, who was Sergeant of the guard, had finished his breakfast and had just returned to the guard room. Others were nearing the end of their meal break.
It was, he realized, now or never.
Any further delay would only make the conditions worse as more men finished their breakfast and went back to their barracks, where their guns would be within immediate reach.
He began walking casually toward the guard, Adolf Gamlin, who was walking post two near the conical tents.
In the aftermath of the attack, survivors would give testimony first to the leadership of the ninth Infantry, then to higher authorities, including the U.S. Congress who held hearings, and as a result the precise details of what the men were doing as the attack was launches has been preserved — a snapshot of a moment that changed some lives, and ended others.
George Allen in a letter years later to Adolf Gamlin, who was on guard duty at post two: “I can see the chief of police now as he made the attack upon you and grabbed your gun from your shoulder. Things happened so quickly after, that it is surprising to me that any of us were ever left to tell the tale”.
Company Musician Meyers was eating at the table in front of the Betron Barracks watched Abanador: “As the sentinel passed him, the Chief of Police suddenly snatched the rifle out of his hands, knocked him senseless with the butt and yelled, firing at the same time into our group and wounding one of the men ”.
William Gibbs: “No more than that yell. Some say that the bells were tolled, but I did not hear them; I did not hear anything but that yell.”
John D. Closson: “I was seated at the south end of the mess table. . .I looked out and saw the natives coming towards us, and I jumped and ran to back stairs to barracks, reaching them at the same time with the natives. I ran upstairs and into the annex, pushing my way through natives who did not attempt to bolo me. They were crowding in to get the guns. I got in and seized a gun, but somebody grabbed me from behind and then were crowding so that I couldn’t do anything, and they pulled me down onto the floor…”
Adolf Gamlin, walking post two, had been on guard duty all night in the two hours on, two hours off cycle that characterized the system employed by the Americans. He was refreshed and alert at this moment, having just finished breakfast and begin a two hour shift a few minutes earlier. Gamlin was physically strong, well-muscled, and battle hardened after two years with Company C in the Philippines and China.
Gamlin’s first awareness of the attack was when he saw Samarenos running towards him, yelling. He heard an American voice shout “Fire!” but before he could react, the police Chief Abanador was on him and snatched his Krag from him, smashing the gun butt down on his head, wounding and momentarily stunning him.
As Abanador attacked Gamlin, the plaza erupted into action.
Inside the church, the bell tolled as the men of Lawaan rushed the convento.
The backsides of both the Belaez and Salazar barracks had ladders attached, which workers had been using to access the roof for thatch repair. Attackers swarmed up these ladders to gain access to the interior of both barracks.
Elsewhere, attackers swarmed the plaza.
In addition to the bell tolling, the sound of budjong, conch shells, erupted on all sides.
Not all of the attackers kept their nerve. A few, facing the thought of withering Krag fire that was likely to erupt any second, broke ranks and ran into the forest. These were for the most part not trained soldiers — they were farmers and fishermen. But there were no mass defection as has been the case in Quiabong. The overwhelming majority of the men of Balangiga stayed with the attack and ran forward into the face of what they knew could quickly become a wave of withering fire from the magazines of the Krags that were just out of reach of the Americans.
Abanador reversed Gamlin’s Krag after hitting the American with the butt, and pointed it at Gamlin as the latter shook his bleeding head and attempted to gather his wits. He pulled the trigger but nothing happened — the magazine was cut off, and Abanador did not know how to hit the release that would allow the weapon to fire.
He lunged at Gamlin with the eleven inch bayonet, intent on killing him that way.
But a massive jolt of adrenaline and the precious seconds lost by Abanador as he sought to fire the weapon were enough for Gamlin to see the bayonet thrust coming, and role out of the way.
Realizing the moment of easy victory of Gamlin had been lost, Abanador raised his garotte and shouted at the top of his lungs: ‘Attacke!’
From that moment, the battle was on — a battle that would be fought on five fronts: the convent, the mess tent, the municipal hall, the Salazar house, and the Belaez house.
In the convento, the men of Lawaan under Paul Gacho had two objectives. First, to cut of the head of the American force, they must kill the three American officers. The two guards were not a target, but would be killed if necessary. Secondly, they must gain control over arms stores that were housed in the convento. Outnumbering the Americans as many as sixty to five and having the element of surprise on their hands, the odds for the attackers were good, and the attack played out favorably for the Lawaananons.
The ancient stone church shook as the Samarenos ran from the church, through the covered passageway that connected it to the convento, and then burst through the folding doors on the second floor. In a moment they were in the quarters of the American officers. One of the guards, Hickman, had been reading a Puck magazine. He dropped it and emerged into the corridor just as the attackers arrived. The attackers ignored him and ran past him for the officers. Hickman jumped through a window to the ground below armed only with a bayonet. Elsewhere in the convento Bertholf, the officers’ cook, thought the rumbling of the building was an earthquake until Francisco the houseboy shouted “Run, cook, run!”.
Inside the officers quarters, Bumpus was reading his mail. He looked up but never saw the bolo that smashed down on him from the side, onto the bridge of his nose, severing the lower half of his face and continuing through, to his neck, a mortal blow that ended his life within seconds.
Surgeon Griswold was lying in bed, reading mail. He lept to his feet, reaching for his sidearm, but to know avail as a swarm of determined Lawaanons enveloped him and killed him before he could get off a shot.
Still alive were Connell and Bertholf. The latter ran the length of the second floor without being attacked and managed to reach his Krag, which he brought into play and used to kill an attacker. As soon as the Krag roared, attackers who had previously ignored Bertholf turned on him and ran toward him. Realizing he would be overcome, even with the Krag, he turned and jumped through a window onto a shed attached to the convent, and from their leaped to the ground.
On the ground, four attackers came at him. Bertholf fired and hit one. He went down, screaming in agony. The other three paused. Bertholf brandished the weapon at the other three but did not fire. The three men were thirty feet from Bertholf and realized to rush him would be suicidal. They turned and ran back into the convento, leaving Bertholf safe on the ground for the moment.
Inside the convento, Captain Connell had armed himself before the attackers reached him, and in so doing had gained precious seconds as the attackers paused, held off by his Krag. Vastly outnumbered, Connell jumped from the second floor window to the ground as agile Samarenos jumped out of the window behind him in pursuit.
Connell got up and ran past the corner of the convent where Bertholf was standing with his Krag. Bertholf fired, killing one of Connell’s pursuers, but more than a dozen Samarenos quickly drove Connell to the ground under a rain of blows and the Captain died there, beside the Convento.
Bertholf heard a noise behind him and turned, bringing his Krag up into firing position, only to see that it was Francisco, with Bertholf’s belt of ammunition and bayonet. Bertholf immediately affixed the bayonet and reloaded. There were screams and the sound of clashes echoing throughout the town — and thus far, other than Bertholf’s own shots, he had heard no report of gunfire, which he correctly understood to be a dire omen for the Americans as to how effectively the attack was playing out.
As soon as he had reloaded he turned and faced the Plaza, where he saw Private Joseph Kleinhample running. Kleinhample was bleeding heavily, and his run was becoming a stagger as his pursuers gained on him. Bertholf got off a clean shot and brought down more than one pursuer, but it was too little.
His gunshots attracted attention to him and Bertholf found himself the object of an attack. In the confusion, Bertholf lost track of the fact that his Krag was on magazine feed and as the attackers approached him, he inserted a bullet form his ammo belt into the chamber — an action which caused the rifle to jam. He brandished the jammed gun and the attackers flinched, dodging behind a corner of the convento. But a moment later, realizing that Bertholf’s gun was not operational, they re-emerged and attacked as Bertolf and Francisco grabbed spades from a pile nearby and used them to fend off attackers just as Corporal Hickman emerged from the convent and came running with an ammunition belt and a bayonet. He joined Bertholf and Francisco. Grabbing Bertholf’s weapon, he unjammed it and began firing.
With the Krag now in play and the two Americans plus Francisco in an organized defensive posture, the Samarenos abandoned the attack and withdrew to the river behind the convent.
The final tally: All three officers killed, but the convent itself was retained and left int he hands of Bertholf, Hickman, and Francisco.
The mess tent had the highest concentration of Company C personnel, and was the single greatest focus of the attack. As with the convent, attackers focused on the leadership of the command, going after the senior non-commissioned officers first, and in some cases ignoring nearby unarmed common soldiers.
Some of the men were hit before they knew an attack was at hand.
Sergeant John Martin was preparing to eat a spoonful of eggs and spam when a bolo all but decapitated him, leaving his head lying on the table in front of him, attached to his body by only a thin piece of skin.
Manire, sitting next to him, did not yet realize what had happened: “I inquired of my comrade to my right, Sergeant Martin, if there were a fire, earthquake or something of that sort. But he could not answer, as he was split through the head obliquely towards the left shoulder”. Grabbing his knife and fork, Manire ran off in the direction of the back steps of the municipal hall, forty yards away.
Corporal Arnold Irish was at the southern end of the main mess tent. He heard yells, then the pealing of the bell, and looking out under the tent flaps he saw Samarenos attacking, then he heard someone shout: “They’re in on us, run for your lives!” Irish found a heavy mahogany stick and, holding it for defense, fled from the south end of the tent. Two Samarenos armed with bolos blocked his way; he swung the stick like a baseball bat, hit one, then ducked under the blow of the other one. Momentarily free, he ran into the plaza and around the south side of the municipal hall.
Other men around the mess table were not so fortunate. They were killed where they sat, their knees trapped in the narrow space between the bench and the table. “They made a dash upon the table, and they just threw bolos around and severed the heads of our men from their bodies, right at the table…” said Gibbs.
One of those who did not get trapped was Charles Marak. Quickly sizing up the situation, he dropped his mess kit, leaped over the table and ran to the back of the municipal hall where he grabbed an axe from the pile of work implements. He turned and raised it just as attackers reached him, and in the first moments he took a bolo slash to the arm which severed multiple arteries and sent blood spurting in a wild fountain. Still, he managed to hit his attacker with the axe. His attacker dropped to the ground with his bolo still lodged in Marak’s arm and attached to the Samareno by a thong. Marak was pulled to the ground where he struggled to free himself and stop the wild spray of blood from his severed arteries.
Others who got out of the mess tent included Private Henry Class, Private Dobbins, and Musician John Covington who successfully got out of the mess tent and fled across the plaza, making it to the river where they found themselves facing a reserve contingent of Samarenos who had been placed there for just such an eventuality.
Throughout the mess tent, it was much the same.
Many were killed without ever getting into action — but here and there, Americans were able to fend off the initial onslaught and escape either to the municipal building or to emerging rally points at the Markley and Betron barracks.
Clifford Mumby found a butcher’s knife and wielded it effectively enough to keep the attackers off of him and make his way back to the outdoor kitchen area, where he found Sergeant Randles fighting and joined him. The company dog was there too and was snarling and snapping at attackers. The two fought off attackers until one of the attackers, Graciano Baleos, got through to Randles and cleaved him in two from skull to shoulder. In that moment Mumby managed to stab one of the assailants with a butcher’s knife, then knocked the other off balance and escaped. Like others, Mumby owed his life to the company dog, which attacked the Samarenos and gave several soldiers time to grab a weapon.
Among those in the mess tent who managed to survive the initial attack was Sergeant Markley, who was just holding out his plate to get his breakfast from Cook Walls when he heard a yell and the church bells began to ring. He shouted “Get your rifles boys!” at the first moments of the attack, then extricated from his bench and ran off in the direction of the Belaez house, where his men were quartered. As he emerged from the mess tent “the whole place seemed to swarm with natives.” He was joined by Harry Wood, but Wood was cut down as they raced northwest across the plaza toward the Belaez house. As he neared the house he came across a native policeman with a club in his hand. The policeman started to him him with the club; Markley dodged it, threw his tin cup in the man’s face, and ran on. As he got to the steps he saw a Samareno with a bolo on the porch. Markley leaped and landed on the porch by him. The attacker swung the bolo at Markley, who caught it in his hand, sustaining cuts but stopping it. He then struck the attacker with his right fist, knocking him off the porch onto the road. Markley’s bunk was very near the door, so in the moment after ejecting the attacker from the porch he was able to grab his rifle, which was loaded and chambered.
Within a very few minutes, the mess tent fell silent. More than twenty Americans were dead, while the others had escaped the immediate area of the mess tent and were now engaged with the attackers elsewhere — some on the plaza, some in the tribunal, and some in the rear of the mess tent.
As the attack broke out, the seventy-eight prisoners in the conical Sibley tents at the northwest corner of the municipal hall burst out headed straight for the doors of the doors of the municipal hall, which they had been given as an objective. Their goal was to reach and gain control of the guns stored on the second floor on the south side of the building. They poured up the stairs and into the room, slamming the doors shut behind them and keeping them blocked from the inside. Some of them began grabbing the guns while others stationed themselves at the doors as the first line of defense to fight off the soldiers. Those grabbing the rifles tossed them out the window to waiting comrades below.
Americans too were racing up both the interior steps, and the steps on the back of the municipal hall annex, intent on the same objective — the guns on the second floor.
Closson reached the ladder at the back of the municipal hall about the same time as the attackers. He scrambled up the ladder without sustaining any injuries, then ran into the second floor annex in search of weapons. Others nearby were not so lucky. As many as a dozen succeeded in forcing their way up the broad ladder, but the ladder gave way when they were near the top and they tumbled to the ground where Samarenos dispatched them with bolos. Others at the top of the ladder were cut to pieces and their bodies thrown to the ground below.
As many as twenty to twenty-five men Americans died trying to get to their guns in the municipal hall.
Inside the municipal hall annex, the unarmed Closson forced his way through the Filipinos, who did not attack him. He eventually found a rifle and as he reached for it, he was seized from behind and pulled to the floor. Three or four Samarenos held him down without injuring him while the others went looking for rifles.
Closson struggled to get to his feet and began striking the Samarenos with his fists. He was a big man by American standards, and a giant among the Samarenos, who began striking him with bolos only after he attacked them, wounding him over the left temple.
A Samareno, Mariano Valdenor appeared, his knife bloody and bent out of shape. He launched himself on Closson, stabbing forcefully. His knife entered Closson’s head behind the left ear and came out through his throat, severing nerves and causing the left side of the American’s face to become uncontrollable. Valdenor continued to slash, wounding Closson on the top of his head, near his elbow, and on his left hand. Badly injured but grimly determined, Closson worked free of Valdenor and grabbed a stick, using it as a weapon until he saw a Filipino entered the annex holding a rifle and a full belt of ammunition. Closson knocked the man down, grabbed the rifle and belt and jumped through the window at the north end of the annex.
As he hit the ground, two more Filipinos attacked. He smashed one with the stock of his rifle so hard it broke. Then he noticed the rifle was cocked, so he pointed the weapon at the second attacker and pulled the trigger – it fired. As he reloaded the chamber he noticed that the magazine was full but cut-off. He headed for the corner of the barracks and the main door. As he came to the corner, several Filipinos ran around it. Closson fired and they fled.
One of those who escaped the mess tent and headed for the back steps to the municipal hall was Private Ralston who forced his way through the attackers climbing it, without injury. At the top of the stairs he eluded the attackers and forced his way inside the bunk room. There, Private John Buhrer was fighting off a Samareno with a bolo. Ralston wrested the bolo from the man’s hand, badly cutting his own thumb, but managed to kill the attacker with the bolo. Now armed, he struck out at the Filipinos milling around, then saw Buhrer seated on a cot, arms over his head as a second man attacked him, whom Ralston killed. Two more Filipinos with guns entered from the main room where the rifles were stored and one hit Ralston over the head, the other jabbed at him with a bayonet. Ralston didn’t give ground, but was in serious trouble.
Manire also managed to get up the ladder at the back of the municipal hall unharmed but was stabbed in the chest. At the top he found an attacker in possession of a Krag, struggling to get it to fire. Manire grabbed the rifle and used it as a club, fighting his way into the building. There he found Private Miller with a bolo fighting several Samarenos. “They have about finished me,” gasped Miller before he died. Manire continued on, then fought his way down the interior stairs to the main entrance where he found Byron Dent fighting fighting off three attackers: “Well, Manire, I have nearly got them,” he said, then was felled by three bolos. John Aydelotte also fell nearby.
Also in the vicinity of the municipal building was Adolf Gamlin, the guard who had been attacked by Abanador to launch the attack. Staggering to his feet after eluding the bayonet thrusts from Abanador, he realized he was bleeding badly from the head, where Abanador had hammed him with his gun butt. The blood was blinding him, and to stem the flow he grabbed a Filipino straw hat and jammed it into his head, then got up and started running toward the municipal building, only to come under fire from Americans mistakenly thinking, because of the straw hat, that he was a Samareno..
He made it around the side of the municipal hall the and the friendly fire stopped — but he almost immediately ran into a Samareno armed with a bolo and a knife. Gamlin tackled him and they both went down in a heap. Gamlin tried to pin the Samareno, but the latter was too strong. He got one arm free, then slashed at Gamlin with his knife. The first thrust hit Gamlin’s rib and glanced off, tearing a superficial wound in the skin.. The man thrust again, and this time the knife buried in Gamlin’s abdomen. The American rolled and pulled himself free of his attacker, then bleeding heavily, ran a few more steps to an abandoned rifle which he grabbed, then turned and used it to fire on his attacker, killing him.
In the rear of the municipal building, Gamlin clambered up the ladder and into the room the main bunk room where Ralston was fighting off Samarenos. He made his way to the interior entrance to the room, hoping to work his way across the hall to the room opposite which housed weapons. An attacker with a Krag and bayonet blocked his way. Gamlin stepped aside and the thrust went towards Ralston, who was now on Gamlin’s shoulder. As Ralston stepped back, he fell over a cot. The attacker lost his balance too, and fell, in the process stabbing Ralston in the neck. Both men came to their feet almost immediately. The Samareno lunged with the bayonet a second time.
Ralston leapt out of the window and landed safely on the ground below.
In the room Ralston had just vacated, Gamlin realized he could not reach the guns, and so he retreated out the back.
When the attack started, some Americans were caught in the Plaza. One of these was De Graffenreid, who initially ran toward the municipal hall looking for a weapon. Before reached the building, an attacker hit him on the left side of the head and he went down. He got up and tackled the assailant, knocking hm down, but another struck him with a bolo. He warded off the bolo but paid for it with a deep gash that cut his right hand to the bone. Bleeding, he ran across the plaza toward the church, where he climbed on a pile of broken concrete across the street in front of the church. There he began hurling chunks of concrete at attackers in what he initially felt was likely to be a hopeless stand.
George Allen, also caught in the plaza, fought his way to the broken concrete pile and joined De Graffenreid. Soon a third soldier, Walls, joined them. the three of them keeping off up to ten attackers by hurling rocks at them. De Graffenreid later reported: “I really repulsed an attack headed by an old hombre and perhaps 10 others, and by throwing the pieces of concrete I was fortunate enough to hit this old savage squarely. It must have hurt very much for his followers picked him up and altogether disappeared into the church.”
But they were replaced by others, and the three continued firing rocks as fast and furiously as they could, all the while assuming they would eventually be overwhelmed.
Aside from the convent, mess tent, and municipal building, there had been desperate action from the outset of the attack in the two auxiliary barracks — the Markley Barracks at the Belaez house under Sergeant Markley, and the Betron Barracks at the Salazar House under Sergeant Betron.
At the Salazar house, which was just a few yards north of the main mess tent, William Gibbs was on guard duty but had casually left his post and his weapon and was eating breakfast anyway at the mess table at the entrance to the house.
As soon as the attack broke out, the men began scrambling up the steps into the Salazar House. Gibbs, who had been seated closest to the entrance, was in the lead followed by Clark, Betron, Meyers, and Burke — with a dozen bolo-wielding Samarenos in pursuit.
Inside, other Samarenos had crashed through from the rear via a ladder.
Betron secured a bolo and was swinging it at the attackers. According to Gibbs: “Blood was flowing in streams through the bamboo floor of the hut.” Meyers made it to his revolver and got his hand on it — then was hammered in the wrist by a club wielded by a “big native policeman” — a blow that caused the gun to drop from Meyers‘ hand. He raised his other arm, only to receive a stab wound in the hand. Disarmed, Meyers tackled the big Samareno and the two men fell to the floor, with Meyers clinging tightly while the Samareno tried to fight free.
A few feet away Corporal Burke wrestled with another big Filipino policeman — “both giants in stature and strength and pretty evenly matched” according to Meyers. In their struggles, the cot of Hospital Corpsman Wright was turned over and a revolver fell close enough for Burke to grab it. He picked up the gun and used it to shoot his opponent. The first shot didn’t stop him; the second did, and he fell limp.
Other men were in the house now, and more were getting to their guns. According to Meyers: ‘Just a few more of our men succeeded in getting their rifles, and the natives ran out into the plaza. In a few minutes seven of us were firing at the enemy.”
With the Americans now armed, the fight in the Salazar house was over and the attackers were running into the Plaza. Meyers surveyed the damage – Private Litto Armani was slashed across the gut and was in intense agony. Private Jerry Driscoll was also badly injured, crawling on all fours ‘like a stabbed pig, his brains falling out through a head wound.”
On the steps, another soldier sat upright, dying from a hole in his forehead.
But the Salazar house was now under American control.
The men moved out towards the plaza, shooting as Samarenos scattered ahead of them. Some would fall, feigning to have been hit, only to jump up and run away moments later.
As they moved out into the Plaza, they heard firing ahead and to the right from the Markley group in the Belaez house.
Inside the Belaez house, Frank Voybada was sitting on his cot beside Private Cain and was about to lick and seal a cigarette when he heard sounds and knew an attack was under way. A second later the north wall crashed inwards. A bolo thrust killed Cain instantly, while four attackers hacked at Voybada with bolos.
Below, Markley had thrown an attacker off the porch and had managed to reach his gun, which was loaded and chambered. Jumping to his feet, Markley raced to the bunkroom. Cain’s body lay beside his cot, while Voybada was buried beneath four Samarenos who hacked and stabbed at him.
Grabbing the Krag, he fired, scattering the four attackers who escaped through a hole in the north wall, hitting one, who fell down on Swanson, who had gone around to the back because there were too many attackers at the front and was trying to enter the hut from that side. Swanson climbed into the house through the hole in the north wall and as he reached for a rifle, Markley turned and crossed to the south window which faced out onto the plaza. The native policeman whom he had thrown his tin cup at was still standing near the house, so Markley shot him.
Another soldier assigned to the Belaez house, Arnold Irish, arrived a few moments later after having escaped from the mess tent where he had been ignored, perhaps because he was unarmed and not a senior NCO. He was now intent on reaching the second floor where he had, inexplicably, left his loaded pistol. “Up to that time I had always carried my loaded pistol, but somehow or other that morning I left it up in my quarters. I think this was one of the things that saved my life.” As had been repeated at various junctures throughout the attack, the Samarenos were ignoring unarmed ordinary soldiers in favor of officers, senior non-coms, and armed soldiers.
Shortly after Markley picked up his Krag inside the house, Irish reached the corner of the house outside, yelling for help as he was being chased by two attackers armed with clubs. At the corner of the house a third attacker appeared, armed with a knife. Irish blocked the knife and hit him, knocking him to the ground, then leapt on the steps into to clamber into the house — but the steps broke, spilling him to the ground in front of the onrushing pursuers with clubs. They reached him and began to club him; Irish crawled up the broken steps, yelling for help. Markley appeared at the top of the stairs with his Krag and began firing at the attackers, who let go of Irish and ran off. Markley reached down and hauled Irish the rest of the way into the house and told him to get a rifle.
No one had yet had time to check Voybada, who was covered in blood after being swarmed by four attackers whom Markley had eventually driven off. Now, somehow, he managed to stagger to his feet, bleeding profusely from what seemed like every part of his body. He spotted Arnold Irish.
“Irish, I’m wounded. Can’t you do something for me?”
“I can’t now, Frank, we’re surrounded” said Irish.
Irish grabbed Voybada’s Krag and aimed it out the south window that looked out on the square, just as Voybada fell to the floor, dead.
Suddenly the elevated house began to shake.
Below, attackers were shaking the house poles.
From the window looking out onto the plaza, Markley fired. One shot killed a policemen. Another hit a Samareno near the flagpole in front of the municipal building. A third caught an attacker coming out of the municipal hall.
And so it was that three long minutes into the attack, more than forty were dead on each side.
The Samarenos had succeeded in killing all three American officers and in addition to the forty dead, most of the remaining thirty-four Americans were badly wounded.
But both the Salazar and Belaez houses were now under control of armed Americans, and with it, the Americans were now in firm control of the open spaces in the plaza, with Markley and others sharpshooting from the Belaez house, and Betron and others moving out into the plaza, firing their Krags as then went, from the Salazar house.