The "Twin Crowns" and the Moro Campaigns

    Major General Leonard Wood           Brig. General Tasker Bliss         Brig. General John J. Pershing

         Aug. 1903 to April 1906                      April 1906 to April 1909                   Nov. 1909 to Dec. 1913

    Following the official end of the Philippine-American War on July 4, 1902 (the official date of the end of the "Philippine Insurrection" declared by President Theodore Roosevelt), the question of what to do about the Moros, moved back to the foreground. Governor-General Taft asked for an analysis and recommendation from General George W. Davis and was taken aback at what he received. Essentially Davis argued that it had been a mistake to incorporate Moroland into the American territorial possession in the first place, and that to attempt to integrate the Moros into the greater scheme of a future republic based on American values and concepts of government would be destined to fail and likely end in tragedy for the Moros. But since it was too late now to turn back the clock, Davis recommended separating Moroland entirely from the rest of the Philippines and renegotiating the Bates Agreement to change the relationship with the Moros from one of American sovereignty to that of a temporary "protectorate", with the U.S. retaining military bases but eventually withdrawing altogether.

    Although not inconsistent with his views, Taft tabled the recommendation although sending a copy of the report to Washington. As fate would have it the position of the Moros would dramatically change, but rather than as the result of a conscious long-term strategy backed up by sound plan based on national interests, it would be turned by a combination of politics, cronyism, and personal opportunism; all revolving around a close personal friend and associate of President Theodore Roosevelt, General Leonard Wood.

    Wood, who was and would remain a highly controversial public figure his entire life, had become a political liability for the President, and in order to both reduce his exposure and save his friend's career Roosevelt desperately needed to find him an important job, but one as far away from Washington and the public limelight as possible. Selectively drawing from Davis' report but pointedly ignoring its conclusions, Roosevelt steamrollered Taft into creating a powerful new position tailored specifically to benefit Wood. Moroland was designated as a new civil entity, Moro Province, in which he would hold two separate positions: Provincial Governor as the head of its civil government and Military Department Commander for Mindanao and Sulu. Taft abnegated his own responsibilities by allowing Wood a blank check to write his own job description. The resulting structure was nothing less than an absolute, one-man military dictatorship, which became known within Army circles as the "Twin Crowns", a combined authority equal to that of Rome's all-powerful "consul-generals" and not duplicated  until 1945 when General Douglas McArthur became the ruler of post-war Japan. Wood's three year tenure was followed by two other Generals who would gain prominence in the First World War, Tasker Bliss and especially John J. Pershing (he was not known as "Black Jack" until WWI). However, while continuing to exercise the same extraordinary powers, they did so in a far more tempered, reasonable, and less arbitrary manner.

    A cornerstone of Wood's implementation of Moro Province was to bring on what he described privately to Theodore Roosevelt as "one clean-cut lesson", a single major battle in which he would ruthlessly destroy and extinguish the Moro will to resist his imposition of absolute control over their lives. But what Wood greatly underestimated was the unbending obstinacy and tenacity of the Moros. Given their warrior culture and mentality, reinforced by a perception that Wood's unspoken objective was to "take away" their religion, it was not at all difficult to manipulate the Moros into a fight; about as easy as stirring up a hornet's nest. Nor given the overwhelming firepower advantage, superior communications and logistics--in today's parlance it would be described as "Asymetrix Warfare" to an extreme--it was almost a foregone conclusion that in the vast majority of contests the Americans would prevail. But in defeat after defeat the Moros stubbornly refused to give up, either in battle or in complying with American rule.

    Most of what is described in the history of the US Army as the hundreds of battles and skirmishes that comprised The Moro Campaigns occurred on Wood's watch during five major campaigns, largely obscured from public view. Wood may have been directly responsible for the deaths of as many as 5,000 or more Moros, the majority of whom were non-combatants, mostly women and children, and the near destruction of their economies in a scorched earth policy. The culmination of his frustrated attempt to impose the "one clean-cut lesson" shortly before his tour of duty ended was the infamous Battle of Bud Dajo in March of 1906, which terminated in one of the worst massacres in U.S. military history. A majority of the American public were horrified, but Wood escaped accountability due to an effective government cover-up and when the following month the Great San Francisco Earthquake redirected the public's attention to another tragedy much closer to home.

    Bliss and Pershing, it could be justifiably said, spent the next seven and one-half years trying to clean up and undo the damage done by Wood. Bliss, who witnessed the carnage at Bud Dajo, was appalled by Wood's callousness and concluded that the Army, by its very nature, was "too blunt an instrument" for what we call today "counterinsurgency." Wood, as Commanding General for all the Philippines, was Bliss's boss on the military side. So Bliss relied on his separate authority as Provincial Governor to plot an independent course from Wood, ordering the Army into the barracks and replacing them in the field with the much smaller but far more nimble Moro Constabulary. Led by American and European officers with native soldiers, the Constabulary compiled a record that justified that decision.

    Pershing proved to be the most able of the "pro-consuls", both governmentally and militarily, but his performance was uneven and the position's substantial authority was eroded by the new and headstrong Governor-General, William Cameron Forbes. However, Pershing had allies in his two military superiors in the Philippines, Major Generals William Duvall and J. Franklin Bell, who helped guard his flanks from the politically well-connected Forbes and General Wood, who had become Army Chief of Staff and viewed Pershing as a major rival. Unlike either Wood or Bliss, Pershing spoke Maranao, had many friends among the Moros, and won their respect. But he inadvertently brought on renewed resistance and violence through an unwise and impulsive attempt to completely disarm the Moros. Conversely, he proved brilliant in his two major battles, the 2nd Battle of Bud Dajo of Christmas Week 1911, and the Battle of Bud Bagsak in June of 1913.

 William Cameron Forbes             Henry Corbin                William Duvall                  J. Franklin Bell