Water Torture Of Filipinos By Americans

That cruelties have been inflicted; that people have been shot when they ought not to have been; that there have been in individual instances of water cure, that torture which I believe involves pouring water down the throat so that the man swells and gets the impression that he is going to be suffocated and then tells what he knows, which was a frequent treatment under the Spaniards, I am told—all these things are true.

— William Howard Taft

Filipino Undergoing Water Torture

May 1902: “Water Cure” During the Philippine-American War

“A man is thrown down on his back and three or four men sit or stand on his arms and legs and hold him down; and either a gun barrel or a rifle barrel or a carbine barrel or a stick as big as a belaying pin — that is, with an inch circumference, — is simply thrust into his jaws and his jaws are thrust back, and, if possible, a wooden log or stone is put under his head or neck, so he can be held more firmly. In the case of very old men I have seen their teeth fall out, — I mean when it was done a little roughly. He is simply held down and then water is poured onto his face down his throat and nose from a jar; and that is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious. And, when he becomes unconscious, he is simply rolled aside and he is allowed to come to. In almost every case the men have been a little roughly handled. They were rolled aside rudely, so that water was expelled. A man suffers tremendously, there is no doubt about it. His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown. …”

— Lieutenant Grover Flint during the Philippine-American War, quoted in Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, Stuart Creighton Miller (1982)

“Many Americans were puzzled by the news, in 1902, that United States soldiers were torturing Filipinos with water.”

 The Water Cure

A picture of a “water detail,” reportedly taken in May, 1901, in Sual, the Philippines. “It is a terrible torture,” one soldier wrote.

Photo used in “The Water Cure,” a piece by Paul Kramer in The New Yorker, February 25, 2008.

Original photograph attributed to Corporal George J. Vennage c/o Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.

Soldiers of the 35th U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiment either demonstrating or administering the “water cure” during the Fil-American War (Philippine Insurrection) of 1899-1902. Photo found among the U.S. Army Signal Corps photographs at the National Archives by Gregory J Urwin while researching The United States Infantry: An Illustrated History

Water Torture

A common ‘enhanced interrogation’ technique employed during the war to pacify the Philippines between 1899 and 1902.  A soldier would shove a funnel into the victim’s mouth and then fill him with water until his stomach distended. Then another soldier would jump on the victim’s stomach until he vomited.


Filipino Being Water-Tortured by Americans

 Cover of Life magazine, Vol. 39, #1021 first published on May 22, 1902

Cartoon depicting the application of the “water cure” by United States Army soldiers on a Filipino. In the background soldiers representing various European nations look on smiling. The Europeans say, “Those pious Yankees can’t throw stones at us any more,” meaning that the USA no longer has the moral standing to criticize European colonial practices.