Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Three church bells that were taken by U.S. troops during the Philippine-American War more than a century ago will be returned to the Philippines.
The Bells of Balangiga were taken from the town of Balabiga, Philippines, in 1901. Defense Secretary James Mattis presided over a ceremony Wednesday at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, where two of the bells have been kept. The third bell is at a U.S. Army museum in South Korea and will also be returned.
"To those who fear we lose something by returning the bells, please hear me when I say this: bells mark time, but courage is timeless. It does not fade in history's dimly lit corridors," Mattis said.
The bells were taken in memory of 48 U.S. soldiers killed in the assault on Balangiga Sept. 28, 1901.
Mattis also praised the Filipino people for fighting alongside U.S. troops in World War II, the Korean War and the war on terror.
"We return these bells with consideration of our present, but also with the utmost respect for our past, one of shared sacrifice as co-equal brothers in arms," Mattis said. "In this world that is awash in change, ladies and gentlemen, we recognize the 117 years of enduring friendship between our people and comradeship in some of the toughest fighting in our nations' history."
"That one was the beginning of the real strong process into getting things done and Secretary Mattis did promise he will do everything he can to get those bells back," Romualdez said.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also played a role in getting the bells back.