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Arts & Life

This week in SD history: The cost of war in the Philippines

Old South Dakota Map

This segment is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

On this day in 1899, reports were received that two members of the First South Dakota Volunteer Infantry Company B were "wounded in action" while serving in the Philippines. News a day later also reported that one soldier died from disease and another was "killed in action."

The 1st South Dakota Volunteer Infantry served in the Philippines during the Spanish American War and the Philippine American War. It was formed from members of the South Dakota National Guard. The unit was mobilized on April 30, 1898. The unit included 46 officers and 983 enlisted men.

Soldiers were issued the outdated 1873 Springfield "Trapdoor" rifle. After training, the 1st South Dakota departed for San Francisco. They left for the Philippines on July 23, 1898, along with troops from Colorado and Minnesota. After a brief stop-over in Hawaii, they arrived in Manila Bay on August 31.

On February 4, 1899, the Philippine American War broke out between the U.S. and its former defacto ally, the Filipino Insurgents. The First South Dakota saw action in the opening phases of the conflict and remained on active duty for six months. The First South Dakota Volunteer Infantry returned home, and the unit was mustered out on October 5, 1899 in San Francisco.

During its term of service, one officer drowned, 24 enlisted men were killed in action or later died from combat wounds, 35 were lost to disease, one died in an accident, and four men deserted.

But on this day in 1899, the first news of casualties reached loved ones back in South Dakota.

Production assistance for This Week in South Dakota History comes from Brad Tennant, Ph.D., professor of history at Presentation College.