In Response to: The Medal of Honor

Thanks are due to Michael Goldstein for his article about Princetonians who have received the Medal of Honor. I am sorry that the terms “Spanish-American War” and “Philippine Insurrection” were used, however. To be sure, there is some debate about their use. Nevertheless, they frequently are viewed as offensive, especially in Cuba and the Philippines. “War of 1898” or “The Spanish-Cuban/American War” for events in 1898 and “Philippine-American War” for events in the Philippines c. 1899–1902 would be more appropriate, in my view.

The issue with the phrase “Spanish-American War” is that it ignores the facts that the Cubans had been fighting Spain since 1895 and that they held much of the island before U.S. troops arrived. Cuban concern about “the Spanish-American War” predates the advent of the Castro government by decades, by the way.

The problem with the “Philippine Insurrection” is that it seems to imply that the U.S. authorities in the Philippines were the legitimate government. That is something that many Filipinos would deny. Philippine nationalists established a provisional government well before the outbreak of general fighting in early 1899.  

I should add in respect to Charles Bickham 1890’s and Gordon Johnston 1896’s Medals of Honor that their service had nothing whatever to do with the so-called Philippine Insurrection. The fighting in the Moro Province of the Philippines was entirely separate from the conflict between the United States and Philippine nationalists in the Philippines outside the areas inhabited by Muslims.

Editor’s note: All of the Medal of Honor recipients noted in the article were identified by the terms used in military records.
Benjamin R. Beede *62