America returns treasured church bells it stole during the Philippine-American war

A Balangiga church bell after it arrived from the US at a military airbase in Manila.
(Image credit: TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

A set of treasured Philippine church bells will soon ring where they belong once again.

On Tuesday, the U.S. returned a set of three bells it stole during the Philippine War back in 1901. Filipinos have long called for the bells' return, and America's ambassador to the country says this signals a solidification of the two countries' friendship, The New York Times reports.

The Bells of Balangiga first hung in a Catholic church in the Spanish-colonized Philippines. But the island nation came under U.S. control in 1898, quickly sparking the Philippine-American war. Balangiga was the site of a particularly harsh killing of U.S. troops, and after winning the war, Americans returned to the town to steal the bells and kill thousands of villagers. One bell has since stood at a U.S. Army base in South Korea, and the other two were at a Wyoming Air Force base, per The Associated Press.

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Since then, ambassadors and president from both countries worked to get the bells sent back, America's ambassador to the Philippines tells Fox News. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte demanded the bells be returned last year, calling them a "symbol of our national heritage." He'll be at a ceremony later this week when the bells are officially reinstalled.

Some American veterans and officials wanted to hold onto the bells as "memorials to American war dead," AP writes. But President Trump's administration, namely Defense Secretary James Mattis, said the move would benefit America's national security and strengthen its relationship with the island country.

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