Littleton Waller Tazewell Waller
Major General, United States Marine Corps
Waller Tazewell Waller -- born in York County, Virginia, on 26 September
1856--was appointed a Second Lieutenant of Marines on 24 June 1880 and
served initial tours of successive shore duty at the Marine Barracks, in
Norfolk, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Going to sea in Lancaster, the flagship of the European Squadron, in 1881, Waller participated in the landing of a mixed bluejacket and marine landing force at Alexandria, Egypt, during a serious local uprising in the summer of 1882. The timely arrival of the ships of the European Squadron and the landing forces gave protection to the American consulate and to American citizens and interests and also afforded a refuge for the citizens of other nations who had been displaced from their homes or businesses.
Later - after tours of shore duty at Norfolk and Washington; and at sea in Iroguois, Tallapossa, and Lancaster--he served in Indiana (Battleship No. 1) during the Spanish-American War and was in that vessel during the Battle of Santiago on 3 July 1898. During this naval engagement, Spanish Admiral Cercera's fleet was totally destroyed by the American fleet waiting just outside the harbor.
The Spanish-American War left the United States with a new colonial empire and increased the nation's responsibilities in world affairs. Waller played a part in America's colonial expansion in to the second decade of the 20th century.
While stationed at the naval station at Cavite early in 1900, Waller was ordered to command a detachment of marines assigned to take part in the expedition mounted to relieve the siege of Tientsin. This city, with its enclave of foreign nationals, was besieged by a mixed force of "Boxers" and Chinese Imperial troops supporting them. Accordingly, Waller and his men arrived at Taku, China, on 190 June 1900, soon moved inland, and linked up with a Russian column of 400 men.
At 0200 on the 21st, this small combined force set out for Tientsin, arrayed against a Chinese contingent of some 1,500 to 2,000 men. Outnumbered from the start, the column came under heavy enemy fire and was forced to retreat, with the Russians in the lead. In a desperate rear-guard action, Waller and his marines--leaving their dead behind and dragging their wounded with them--fought off the numerically superior (but less aggressive) Chinese forces and reached safety.
Waller's detachment immediately returned to duty, attached to a British column led by Comdr. Christopher Craddock. At 0400 on the 24th, an international Army - consisting of Italian, German, Japanese, Russian, British, and American forces - set out again for Tientsin. Finding the enemy at 0700, a bitter fight ensued until 1230, when the Allied force reached the city and broke the siege.
After participating in the final fighting for the city of Tientsin from 13 to 14 July, Waller and his men took possession of the American sector and brought order out of the havoc caused by the Chinese retreat. Promoted by brevet to lieutenant colonel and advanced two numbers in grade for his performance of duty at Tientsin, Littleton Waller was commended in 1903 by Brigadier General A.S. Daggett, U.S. Army, Ret., in his book, America in the China Relief Expedition. He recalled that the marine had "... participated willingly and energetically ..." with the Allies "... in all movements against the enemy ..." and that "... he and his officers and men ... reflected credit upon American valor...."
Remaining in the Far East for a short time more, Waller led a detachment of marines which defeated Philippine insurgents in a battle at Sohoton on 5 November 1901. Later, he led an expedition across the island of Samar, from 28 December 1901 to 6 January 1902 - subduing Moro insurgents under great climatic hardships--his battalion returning to Cavite on 2 March.
Returning to the United States soon thereafter, Waller served in charge of recruiting in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and western New Jersey into 1903 and commanded, in succession, the Provisional Regiment of Marines on the Isthmus of Panama in 1904; the expeditionary forces on the island of Cuba from 1906 and rose to command the Provisional Brigade in Cuba by 1911. He later commanded the Marine Barracks at the Mare Island Navy Yard from 1911 to 1914 and the First Brigade of marines during service at Vera Cruz in Mexico in 1914 before being appointed to command Marines in Haiti in 1915.
Waller's troops crushed all armed resistance to the American occupation of the country and restored some semblance of peace and order to Haiti. Promoted to brigadier general on 29 August 1916 and to major general on 29 August 1918, Waller closed out his active duty in the Marine Corps as Commander of the Advanced Base Force at Philadelphia from 8 January 1917 until his retirement in June 1920.
Major General Waller lived in retirement in
Philadelphia until his death on 13 July 1926.
Waller participated in the Naval battle, Santiago, Cuba, July 3, 1898 in the Spanish-American War; in charge of recruiting, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Western New Jersey, 1902-03; commander, Provisional Regiment of Marines, Isthmus of Panama, 1904; commander, Expeditionary Force for service in Cuba, 1906; commander, Provisional Brigade of Marines in Cuba, 1911; duty at Marine Barracks, Mare Island, California, 1911-14; and at Philadelphia, 1914; commander, 1st Brigade of Marines for service in Mexico, 1914; commander, Marine Expeditionary Forces in Haiti, 1915-16; appointed commander, Advanced Base Force, Philadelphia, January 8, 1917.
He was breveted Lieutenant Colonel, March 28, 1901 for "distingished conduct and public service" in the presence of the enemy near Tientsin, China, and advanced two numbers in grade for "emminent and conspicious conduct" in the Battle of Tientsin.
He retired from the Marine Corps in June 1920
and made his home in Phildelphia. He died on July 13, 1926 and was buried
in Section 4 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Clara Wynn Waller
(December 20, 1862-October 15, 1958), is buried with him.
Was Littleton Waller Tazewell Waller the Hero of Samar or the Butcher of Samar? "I wish you to kill and burn," the hot-eyed Army Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith told Marine Major L. W. T. Waller when Waller arrived on Samar. "The more you kill the better it will please me." But Smith had misjudged his man. Tony Waller was a firebrand, not a firebug -- a marine, not a martinet -- who let his own high character and conscience guide him as he led a 60-man expedition across Samar and onto the pages of Marine Corps history.
During the early afternoon of 20 January 1902, First Lieutenant John H. A. Day, U.S. Marine Corps, marched nine Filipinos, natives of the island of Samar, under guard of a detachment of U. S. Marines down the main street of Basey, Samar. Upon reaching the town plaza, Day ordered his detachment of marines to execute the Filipinos by firing squad. The execution of one Filipino had already been carried out earlier that day, and one more was yet to follow. Day had been following orders of his immediate senior, Major and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Littleton Waller Tazewell Waller.
On 17 March 1902, Major Waller was arraigned in Manila and tried on a charge of murder by a U.S. Army court-martial. Waller's court-martial was to become an ambiguous segment of Marine Corps history.
Marine Corps ground involvement in the Philippines began on 3 May 1898, two days after Commodore George Dewey's victory over the Spanish at Manila Bay, when First Lieutenant Dion Williams and a detachment of Marines from the USS Baltimore planted an American flag at the Spanish naval station in Cavite. The Treaty of Paris, signed on 10 December 1898, ended America's war with Spain, but not its military involvement in thePhilippines. For the next six years, U. S. armed forces fought against Filipino insurrectionists.
From 1898 until the fall of 1901, Marines took part in a number of operations against the insurrectionists, primarily on the island of Luzon, making several amphibious landings.
By the fall of 1901, U. S. military actions against insurrectionists on Luzon had come to an end. General Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of that island's insurrectionists, had surrendered to the American forces on 1 April 1901 and swore allegiance to the United States. Later that same month, he issued a manifesto to his Filipino followers to "lay down their arms for `the complete termination of hostilities.'" The government of Luzon was now in the hands of American civilian authorities. In two provinces, Batangas and the island of Samar, there were still hostilities.
On Samar the insurrectionists were led by Filipino General Vincente Lucban. American supervision of these provinces was under the direction of Army General Adna Chaffee, who had taken over command from General Arthur MacArthur in July 1901.
Located in the equatorial tropics, Samar was completely engulfed with dense jungles. Not only did American forces have to endure heat, humidity, incessant rain, and dense vegetation, but in addition, they had to contend with snakes, leeches, and malaria-infested mosquitoes. Smallpox was also running rampant on the island. The hellish conditions on Samar in some instances drove men insane. Lucban used the climate and the terrain of Samar to his advantage in his guerilla was against the Americans. He had been on Samar for more than a year before the first American troops arrived. This had allowed him to recruit among the natives intensively, and by the time the American troops did arrive, most of the natives were either in Lucban's command or in sympathy with the insurrectionists. Lucban's control over the natives was pure tyranny. He would shoot anyone who failed to support him, including Spanish priests. He once wrapped the head of a pro-American Filipino in a kerosene-drenched American flag and set a torch to it while the man was still alive.
Most American commanders, Waller included, based their operations on the fact that the majority of the natives were hostile to U. S. actions and could not be trusted, despite pretenses by the villagers to be pro-American, and that many of these supposedly pro-American villagers were, in fact, members of Lucban's command. Because of this support by the populace for the insurrectionists, along with the hellish conditions of the natural environment, the U. S. Army was able to secure only a few coastal towns on Samar, enabling Lucban to control the hinterland.
Company C, 9th Infantry, arrived at Balangiga, Samar, on 11 August 1901, commanded by Captain Thomas W. Connell, U. S. Army. Connell, a strong advocate of President William McKinley's "benevolent assimilation," attempted to establish this policy at Balangiga. Connell's naive assumption that since "benevolent assimilation" seemed to be working on Luzon, it could also work on Samar, proved catastrophic. Samar was populated by an extremely violent, primitive society. Because of cultural differences and the inhabitants' hostility toward the American presence on the island, assimilation was impossible. One officer of the 9th Infantry testified later that he considered the natives ". . . savages; they were low in intelligence, treacherous, cruel; seemed to have no feeling for their families or anyone else."
On 28 September. led by town officials and members of the population of Balangiga, Lucban's forces plotted a surprise attack on Company C. Only 26 of the 74 American soldiers survived the massacre. Most were tortured to death and their bodies mutilated . . . Connell's assessment of the situation on Samar had proved fatal.
The insurrectionists on Samar habitually committed atrocities, such as body mutilation of dead soldiers, during their guerilla warfare against the Americans. Lucban refused to honor any rules of warfare: "The dead were mutilated . . . No prisoners were taken, Noncombatants were put to death. Poison was used. Flags of truce were not respected. The personnel of the insurrectionary forces were composed, in numerous instances of males under military age, who were old enough to assist in military operations, but not sufficiently mature from the point of intelligence and experience to correctly apply or even to understand the rules of civilized warfare."
Under these circumstances, General Chaffee ordered Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith, U. S. Army, to command the 6th Separate Brigade and handle the situation on Samar. Lacking enough soldiers to form a full brigade, General Chaffee requested that Admiral Frederick Rodgers, Commander-in-Chief Asiatic Squadron, lend him some Marines. Rodgers complied by sending Waller, with orders that read, "By direction of the senior squadron commander [Rodgers], you will assume command of a battalion of United States Marines for duty on the island of Samar." The Navy left the conduct of operations to Waller's estimation of the situation. The battalion of 315 marines embarked aboard the USS New York at Cavite on 22 October and landed at Carbalogen, Samar, on 24 October.
Waller, unlike Connell, took a more realistic view of the situation on Samar. The day before debarkation, Waller issued explicit orders to his officers concerning relations with the natives and rules of engagement: "Place no confidence in the natives, and punish treachery immediately with death. . . . Allow no man [marine] to go . . . anywhere without his arms or ammunition. . . . All males who have not come in and presented themselves by October 25th will be regarded and treated as enemies. It must be impressed on the men that the natives are treacherous, brave and savage. No trust, no confidence, can be placed in them. . . . The men must be informed of the courage, skill, size and strength of the enemy. WE MUST DO OUR PART OF THE WORK, AND WITH THE SURE KNOWLEDGE THAT WE ARE NOT TO EXPECT QUARTER. . . ." Waller viewed the situation as open combat governed by the rules of war. The populace would have to register with the Marines or be considered combatants. Waller's orders to his officers were posted and the Naval high command took no exception to them, nor did General Smith, Waller's immediate senior. Waller's orders were within the limitations of General Order No.100 of 1863 dealing with irregular warfare, which stated that if enemy units gave no quarter and became treacherous upon capture, it was lawful to shoot anyone belonging to that captured unit.
General Smith's orders to Major Waller upon arrival at Samar have allowed some historians to give Waller an out. These orders, stated orally and in an unsigned note, were subsequently proven at Smith's own court-martial: "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the better it will please me. . . The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness. . . ."
Some historians feel that Waller was only following the direct orders of his immediate seniorofficer. But, as testimony in General Smith's court-martial pointed out, Waller did not execute Smith's orders. Instead, Waller applied the rules of civilized warfare and the rules provided under General Order No. 100.
Waller testified that he did not kill women or children and that he treated prisoners according to the rules of civilized warfare. "Always when prisoners came in and gave themselves up they were saved, they were not killed."
In essence, Waller disobeyed Smith's direct orders, which refutes any claim that Waller was "just following orders." Instead, Waller's interpretation of Smith's orders demonstrated Waller's high moral courage and his effort to apply the rules of civilized warfare.
The Marines' tactical area of responsibility was the southern half of Samar. Waller was relentless in his pursuit of the insurrectionists. He ran patrol after patrol, amphibious operations, a combined land and river attack on the insurrectionists' camp on the Sohoton Cliffs, and small raiding operations. The keys to Waller's successes were the flexibility of his tactics, his endurance, and the stamina of his men. Within a few months, the operations were beginning to take effect, but Marine casualties were also frequent. The insurrectionists, armed with the Krag-Jorgensen rifles taken from Company C, bamboo cannon, and bolo knives, were a formidable foe for his Marines. While running combat operations, Waller, always alert for any treachery, at the same time attempted to register the natives and pacify the towns.
Waller's successes on Samar were heralded through the military command in the Philippines.
General Smith, desiring to get better communications on Samar, ordered Waller to scout a telegraph route from Lanang on the east coast to Basey on the west coast. On 28 December 1901, Waller, with 60 Marines, two native scouts, and 33 native bearers, started from Lanang and headed into the interior of the Samar jungles, an area where few natives and no foreigners had ever gone. Within a few days, almost all the men were suffering from fever and other afflictions, as cited by Waller: "Water sores [which] began to form where the clothing bore on the skin were developing rapidly . . . we suffered from sores caused by being constantly wet; also from the cuts made by the thorns and from bites of leeches. All these places festered and made very uncomfortable sores. . . ." The terrain was exceedingly difficult. The Marines were running out of food and began to starve. By 3 January 1902, Waller decided to split his unit. Leaving behind with Captain David D. Porter, U. S. Marine Corps, the bulk of the unit who were unable to march any further, Waller set out for Basey with 14 marines and arrived there on 6 January 1902. With total disregard for his own health, Waller personally led a relief column the next day in an attempt to reach Porter. For nine days he searched for Porter without success. Porter, in the meantime, had three options: to attempt to follow Waller, whose trail was unsure; to stay where he was and perish; or to attempt to backtrack to Lanang. He chose to backtrack. Leaving the sick and dying Marines with First Lieutenant A. S. Williams, Porter headed for Lanang with seven Marines and six natives. Hampered by torrential rains, Porter arrived at Lanang on 11 January. He immediately sent out a relief column to pick up his own stragglers and to rescue Williams' command.
Williams's fate was disastrous. Realizing that if he stayed where he was, he and his command were sure to die, he decided to head back to Lanang. His men, "so nearly dead from starvation and exposure that they began to crawl,"slowly perished along the way." One Marine went insane. By 18 January, when the relief column reached Williams, ten Marines had died. In addition, the natives had mutinied.
Waller had used the natives as bearers of food and supplies on the march, but had no confidence in the allegiance of the natives to the Marines and kept ever mindful of an attempted attack, which he and his officers had taken precautions to prevent. Natives could use a bolo knife only to help the marines hack through the jungle; every evening the knives were collected and counted. The natives were kept spread along the column with the Marines and away from the rifles. At night and during rest periods, the natives were huddled in one area and watched over by Marines. The natives were apparently playing a waiting game; they would wait until the Marines were in a weakened state, steal their weapons or overpower them one at a time, and kill them. First a native called Victor stole Waller's bolo at night while Waller was asleep. Before the native could turn on him, Waller awoke, drew his pistol, and seized the bolo.
Upon reaching Basey, Victor was imprisoned and became the first native to be shot by the firing squad on 20 January. Waller testified that Victor was revealed to be the "Captain Victor" that notorious and infamous captain of insurrectos, who was of the detail from Basey in the Balangiga massacre." Second, the natives with Lieutenant Williams' group became rebellious. Williams testified that "the mutinous demeanor of the natives caused me daily fear of massacre." Third, the natives were hiding food and supplies from the Marines while keeping themselves well nourished and securing food for themselves on the march.
Finally, there was open rebellion against Williams' party. Three of the natives, armed with a bolo knife, attacked and wounded Williams. The other natives watched while Williams managed to fight off the attack. These natives were put under arrest when the Marines reached Lanang. It was this group of natives that was shot by the firing squad on 20 January, charged in Day's words, with "treason in attempting to kill Lieutenant Williams, with treason in general, theft, disobedience and . . . general mutiny."
Waller erred at this point by not putting the charge in writing. Williams' men were in such a weakened condition that they could offer little assistance at the time of the incident. Soon after the incident, Williams formulated several plans to kill the natives, but doubted the strength of his weakened men. He also felt that it was better to refer the incident to his commanding officer, Major Waller.
On 20 January, the U. S. gunboat Arayat arrived at Basey from Lanangmand offloaded the native prisoners. After being briefed by his officers and non-commissioned officers, all of whom recommended execution, Waller ordered the natives to be shot. Waller stated: "The reports of the attempted murder of the men and other treachery by the natives, the whole plot being unmasked, caused me to hold an inquiry and consult with my officers. The population of the town was hostile at the time . . . Using my own judgement, and fortified by the opinion of the officers and men, I had the guilty men shot, releasing the innocent. The power exercised was mine by right as commanding the district. It seemed to the best of my judgement, the thing to do at the time. I have not had reason to change my mind." Thus the technical reason for Waller's court-martial was no so much that he shot the natives, but that the shootings were summary. This leads one to believe that Waller was charged with the wrong offense.
Waller felt that he had acted within the framework of General Order No. 100, which did not call for a trial of the accused, and within his authority as a district commander, although this was disputed by the Judge Advocate General. The real issue was that the responsibilities of a district commander in the Philippines were never clearly defined and that the tactical situation necessitated his actions. On 22 January, Waller, seeing no wrong in his actions, sent this message to General Smith: "It became necessary to expend eleven prisoners. Ten were implemented [sic] in the attack on Lieutenant Williams and one who plotted against me."
On 19 February the Marine battalion on Samar received orders to return to Cavite and arrived there on 29 February. The unit returned to a welcoming home salute and party, but there was something else in store for Major Waller -- a murder charge. Waller tended to place much of the blame for the court-martial on Lieutenant Day, although not during the trial or in public; during the trial he assumed full responsibility for his actions. Day, who was the battalion's adjutant and had not gone on the expedition, had boasted about his part in the execution. It was a bit of "action" for him. Waller stated after the trial in an after-action report ". . . The charge was largely instigated by the vail boastfulness of one of the officers of my battalion."
Waller's court-martial lasted from 17 March to 12 April 1902. The court consisted of seven Army officers and six Marine Corps officers and was headed by Army Brigadier General William H. Bisbee, "a stalwart old Indian fighter." Waller argued that, because he had never been detached from his Marine unit, an Army court had no jurisdiction over him. The court denied Waller's lack of jurisdiction claim, then proceeded to the specific number of natives executed and the issue of Waller's guilt or innocence. General Smith was called to testify concerning the orders he had issued to Waller prior to the Samar campaign. (His testimony later instigated his own court-martial.)
Waller could have made excuse for his actions by saying that he was injured and lying in a hospital when he issued his orders. But instead, he stood committed to his actions: "As the representative officer responsible for the safety and welfare of my men, after investigation and from the information I had, ., . . I ordered the eleven men shot. I thought I was right then, I believe now I was right. Whatever may happen to me I have the sure knowledge that my people know, and I believe the whole world knows, that I am not a murderer."
The court voted eleven to two for acquittal. Headed by an old troop leader and field officer, General Bisbee, it must have weighed the tactical situation and the mitigating factors involved in the case. Many of the court's officers had been through guerilla warfare in both the Philippines and the American West. It seems that they, as Waller's peers, realistically assessed the factors influencing Waller's decisions. Later, in the United States, the Army Judge Advocate General dismissed the entire case as illegal, agreeing that a Marine Corps officer was not subject to an Army court.
The type of combat fought on Samar was some of the most brutal of the Fil-American War. When his native bearers turned on him and his officers, Waller guided his actions on doctrinal orders, the rules of civilized warfare, and an estimation of the tactical situation as he saw it. Upon consultation of his officers and non-commissioned officers, Waller had the natives executed.
The decisions and conduct of men during war or in trying environments may seem questionable to outside observers, but seldom questionable to the participants at the time. The purpose of court-martial is to obtain justice by one's military peers. The officers of the court were little affected by public opinion and high-level politics. The overwhelming majority of the court agreed with the opinions of Waller's officers and the accused, and acquitted Waller for his actions.
Waller's court-martial had effects on its participants and on the country as a whole. It informed the American public as to the type of warfare that was taking place in the Philippines. Even to its most ardent supporters, "benevolent assimilation" had its limits. The trial frustrated American civilian authorities and their attempts to implement their policies in the Philippines.
On 21 April 1902, General Smith was brought to trial on the charge of "conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline" for orders issued to Waller at Samar. He was found guilty and was eventually forced to leave the service. Lieutenant Day was also court-martialed but, like Waller, was acquitted.
Waller continued to serve in the Marine Corps
with distinction. In 1910, the "outstanding troop leader of the period"
was passed over for Commandant, probably because of his one blemish, the
court-martial. Another result was Marine respect. For many
years afterward, Marine messes would stand whenever a "Samar battalion"
officer was present and toast, "Stand, gentlemen, he served on Samar."
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey – July 13, 1926 – Major General Littleton T. Waller, United States Marine Corps, retired, veteran f many engagements, died at 2 A.M. today at the Creston Hotel here, in his seventieth year. He had been stricken with pneumonia ten days ago while visiting the shore with Mrs. Waller, and had been in a state of coma since Sunday noon.
Besides Mrs. Waller, two sons, Major L. T. Waller, Jr., and Lieutenant Henry T. Waller, were at his bedside when the end came. Another son, Lieutenant Commander John B. Waller, is in foreign waters.
General Waller had been failing since he suffered a stroke three years ago. For a while he got about on crutches but more recently in a wheel chair.
General Waller, who had served more than forty years in the Marine Corps, is said to have taken part in more engagements than any other officer.
He was born in Virginia in 1856 and was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Marines in 1880. Two years later, while with a detachment of Marines in Egypt at the bombardment of Alexandria, he fearlessly entered a burning warehouse and removed a large quantity of ammunition.
During the Spanish-American War General Waller, serving as a Captain, took part in fleet operations around Cuba. He had charge of the Second Battery on the battleship Indiana during the battle of Santiago and was also in the land engagement at San Juan Hill.
In 1899, as Major Waller, he was sent to Cavite, Philippine Islands, whence he was ordered to Tientsin, China in 1900. There he assisted in the capture of a fort from Boxer revolutionists.
After serving in the Philippines from 1901 to 1903, Waller, who had become a Lieutenant Colonel, landed in Panama with a party of Marines and quieted an uprising which attended the establishment of the Republic of Panama. In 1914 he commanded the force of Marines who landed at Vera Cruz, Mexico. A year later, in Haiti, he nipped a revolt. While in Haiti he performed constructive work as well as maintained order. When America entered the World War he was assigned to command the Marine Advance Base at League Island Navy Yard, Philadelphia.
During his four decades of service General Waller took part in almost every engagement in which the Marine Corps participated. He was very proud of the fact that he never had done desk duty until the World War.
He became a Captain in 1896, a Major in 1899 and a Lieutenant Colonel four years later. He was appointed Colonel in 1906 and Brigadier General in 1916. In the latter year he was also made Major General. In June 1920 he was retired for physical disability.
The General was a disciplinarian. In 1902, when he was a Major, he was ordered before a court-martial to defend himself against the charge of executing Filipinos without trial, but was exonerated.
Funeral service for General Waller will be held in Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
Michael Robert Patterson
WALLER, LITTLETON W T
Photo By: M. R. Patterson, October 2007
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 24 April 2004