SecDef James Mattis

Ceremonial Address Marking the Return of the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines

delivered 14 November 2018, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen. And thank you Colonel Hoosier -- very, very nice introduction. Short. I love that.

And -- And let's just show some appreciation for those two lads who sang the National Anthem. You know what I mean? Wasn't that great the way they did it?

You know, General, I couldn't sing or dance. They put me in the infantry. You know? One of those things. But the chaplain spoke about peace and unity, and that's really what we're here about today: A peace carved out of war.

I would just say Ambassador [Jose Manuel G.] Ramualdez -- Ramualdez -- "Babe," thanks for being here from Washington D.C., a place both of us are quite happy to be out of, I think, today.

Governor Mead, thank you for taking the time to be here, sir. We're honored by your presence. It sends quite a message to everyone in the room, and certainly one that I will carry with me when I go back to Washington; and to the senators who are here, the generals, the men and women of the "Mighty Nighty" -- I think I see you guys back there in the rear; the "Manchu" command representatives from the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment; and all the veterans, the veteran service organizations; and of course, all the people of Wyoming in this great state.

Thanks for joining us here on the outskirts of the Magic City of the Plains, Cheyenne, a city reminiscent, I think, of America's rambunctious, pioneering spirit, where ranchers and rail workers built up our young nation, and in a state where Native Americans are honored as citizens, and many as veterans. Building up our nation [has] continued. It's hard work and it's noble work, and it's never finished. We all need to do it. It needs all of us, and today we come together.

Ambassador Sung Y. Kim's Speech on the Bells' Return

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's Speech on the Bells' Return

History teaches us that nations with allies thrive, with allies thrive. And it reminds us too -- history reminds us -- that all wars end. In returning the Bells of Balangiga to our ally and our friend, the Philippines, we pick up our generation's responsibility to deepen the respect between our peoples, linking the Western people of the great state of Wyoming, with people in Eastern Philippines. And by the way, Balangiga is only about 40 kilometers as the crow flies from a town named for General MacArthur,1 right across the hills there -- a reminder, too, it doesn't start with us here in order to end with us here in terms of our friendship and respect.

We return these Bells with consideration of our present, but also with the utmost respect of our past -- one of shared sacrifice as co-equal brothers in arms. For we in the U.S. military do not forget those who stood by our side when the chips were down.

We do not forget the Filipino soldiers and people, the Philippine Scouts who fought with us, bled with us, and died with us in the dark days of World War II and the Green Hell of Bataan on the Rock we call Corregidor, on islands and in landings from Leyte to Lužan.

We do not forget our shared sacrifice in Korea where, in 1951 at Yultong, the Philippines' 10th battalion combat team, those surrounded held their petition against the communist Chinese onslaught, allowing the U.S. Third Infantry to escape the trap.

We do not forget how the Filipino people organized doctors and nurses in operation Brotherhood in Vietnam to support us.

We recognize how the Philippines stand with us, and stand with us today in the fight against ISIS, against terrorism, a scourge that has struck them as well as our own country. In this world that is awash in change, ladies and gentlemen, we recognize 117 years of enduring friendship between our people, and comradeship in some of the toughest fighting in our nation's histories.

Last Monday, we observed Veteran's Day. We honored those who defended our experiment in democracy, what we call America, the ones who restored our freedom and that of the free world in World War II, including the Filipinos who paid dearly at our side.

Today, we aid the future generations by ensuring allies stand together in a future that is ours to shape, and so persuade potential adversaries that it simply isn't worth it to gamble against Wyoming warriors who live by the cowboy code,2 or their comrades in arms from the Philippines.

Our proud veterans, dedicated members of the U.S.-Philippine Society, and all those of goodwill, in both the Philippines and the United States, who labored so many years for this moment: Thank you.

To those who fear that we lose something by returning the bells, please hear me when I say that: Bells mark time, but courage is timeless. It does not fade in history's dimly lit corridors, nor is it forgotten in history's compost.

Let me also speak briefly of a different set of bells -- those that toll over Manila American Cemetery, our largest overseas military cemetery of World War II dead. Inscribed there on its walls are the names of thousands missing in action -- American, Filipino, and even other nationalities.

Among the buried, native Filipino and U.S. Army Sergeant, Juan Solomon [ph], rests alongside Medal of Honor recipient, Second Lieutenant Dale Christensen of California. Thousands more of our two nations rest with them. All are brothers in arms, reminding us today of the better angels of our nature. By returning the Bells of Balangiga, we listen to those angels and salute the bonds that were tested, but never broken, by war.

Church of San Lorenzo de Martir in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, Philippines. Photo credit: Rabosajr

Ambassador, bear these bells home back to their Catholic church,3 confident that America's iron clad alliance with the Philippines is stronger than ever.

And all of us here can depart today certain in our knowledge of President Truman's words spoken at the dedication of Arlington National Cemetery in 1949. And we believe those words still hold true today. For the bells of Arlington, but also for the bells of the Manila American Cemetery, and for the Bells of Balangiga, he said, "As [these] bells ring"..."[these] honored dead [may] rest"...and "freedom lives."4

So, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. It's an honor to be here with you today.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 The Municipality of General MacArthur in Eastern Samar, Philippines. A second town named after General MacArthur is located Leyte, Phillipines.

2 Wyoming State Code of Ethics: 1. Live each day with courage 2. Take pride in your work 3. Always finish what you start 4. Do what has to be done 5. Be tough, but fair 6. When you make a promise, keep it 7. Ride for the brand 8. Talk less and say more 9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale 10. Know where to draw the line. [Source:]

3 Church of San Lorenzo de Martir in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, Philippines

4 Full Quotation: "As these bells ring out their hymns, they will proclaim that message of faith. As long as they ring, these honored dead may rest. While faith lives, so does freedom. While freedom lives, so does hope of a just and lasting peace." [Source: Public Papers of the Presidents, via Google Books here]

Original Text and Audio Source:

Images of Bells of Balangiga and Ambassador Ramualdez Source:

Image of Balangiga Church: Downsized and digitally enhanced

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

Video Note: The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Page Updated: 10/12/20

U.S. Copyright Status: This text and audio = Property of Video and Images 1 and 2 = Public domain with terms of use here. Image of Balangiga Church = CC BY-SA 3.0
































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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.