The 1st Battle of Bud Dajo - March 5-8, 1906

Note: The above image is reproduced from Google EarthTM.

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    Bud Dajo (today it is spelled "Dahu") is an inactive, but not extinct, volcano on the island of Jolo in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines. Unfortunately, it is blood-soaked ground. Battles in 1906, and 1911 pitted the United States against the Moro peoples known as the Tausugs. In 1945, Tausug guerrillas and the US Army's 163rd Combat Regiment (41st Infantry Division Division) combined against 400 well-dug in Japanese Marines. But while 1911 and 1945 were clear-cut and honorable victories, the 1st Battle of Bud Dajo, in 1906, began as true fight but ended badly in the controversial massacre of hundreds of innocent women and children. Known also as The Battle of the Clouds, its notoriety in American military history ranks it beside that of Sand Creek (1864), Wounded Knee (1890), and My Lai (1968). Unlike the other three incidents, the match up at Bud Dajo was not as overwhelmingly lopsided at its inception, nor did lax discipline and control unleash an orgy of sadistic violence, as marked the other three.  The resultant massacre at Bud Dajo was a as much as anything the product of moral indifference at the top command level and in part the indiscriminate employment of newer technology, specifically the machinegun. But the result was still the same.

    The word Bud means mountain in the Tausug language and Dajo refers to a species of local tree. Bud Dajo last erupted in 1897. A little over six miles southeast from the town of Jolo, it is 2,175 feet (663 meters)  above sea level and rises steeply to 1,443 feet (440 meters) at the highest of its three summits from above its surrounding high plain. The three summits are to the west, south, and east, running along the outer rim of a large, crater that is approximately 1,500 yards (1,370 meters) at its widest point and with a floor 300 feet deep in the center. The sides of the mountain are steepest on the south and east sides, approaching 60 degrees inclination as it nears the top of the crater rim. In 1906, its base was accessed by a single, narrow six-mile trail from the port of Jolo. A series of confusing, interconnected trails circled the base of the mountain, with three exceptionally steep trails leading to each of the three summits, along precipitous and exposed "hogback" ridges on the west and south trails.  A century ago, as it is today, the mountain was covered with dense jungle foliage and frequently shrouded in mists.

    The most reliable estimate is that between 700 to 850 Tausugs were killed in the 1st Battle of Bud Dajo. Approximately two-thirds were women and children, family members of the Moro fighters. Only seven were captured, three women and four children. Eighteen men escaped from the mountain, and it is possible this number could have been double. The number present on the American side totaled a little less than 800 officers and men of  the US Army, Moro Constabulary, and a shore party from the US Navy gunboat USS Pampanga, of which 350-400 participated in the actual combat. Their casualties totaled 21 killed and 73 wounded.