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Mountain West "War Trophy" May Head Back To Philippines

U.S. Air Force

Historic church bells seized in the Philippine-American War and brought back to the Mountain West may soon head back home. But Wyoming's delegation is not happy with the possible move across the ocean.

During a State of the Nation Address last year, President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte called on the U.S.

"Give us back those Balangiga bells," he said.

The bells were seized in 1901 during the Philippine-U.S. conflict. American troops brought the bells back with them to their new post in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The bells have been there ever since.

Now, Secretary James Mattis has notified Congress the Defense Department intends to return the bells. University of Wyoming History Professor Emeritus Phil Roberts said it’s overdue.  

"As a war trophy without any more significance, I don’t think it's at all becoming for us to display them in the way that they're being displayed," he said.

But Wyoming's delegation is adamantly opposed to the move. In a joint statement from Wyoming's U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, said it, "sets a dangerous precedent for future veterans' memorials."

The American Legion and Wyoming Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars are also against the move.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.

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