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Group pushes for return of Balangiga bell to Sackets Harbor site

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SACKETS HARBOR — A representative of a national military history group said he has received what he described as favorable news as the group hopes to move one of three historical bells to its pedestal on Officers Row of Madison Barracks.

Larry J. Ritter, secretary and treasurer of the 4/9 Infantry Manchu Association, said he hopes the village can get one of three church bells originally taken from Balangiga, Philippines, in a day of deadly combat.

Mr. Ritter said he had been told by an aide to Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, that they were waiting for a proposal to move one of the bells to the village to be reviewed and potentially signed by the secretary of the Air Force.

The Balangiga bells were first taken on Sept. 28, 1901, by members of the 9th Infantry Regiment’s C Company, which was responding to a deadly surprise attack that killed 54 of its 74 men.

The company’s counteroffensive led to the destruction of the town.

The village held one of the three bells taken from the town from 1901 until 1947, when Madison Barracks was abandoned by the Army.

The village’s bell was moved to an Army museum at Camp Casey, South Korea, under the control of the 2nd Infantry Division. Two other bells found that day are held at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, Wyo.

Though Mr. Ritter downplayed the village’s odds of obtaining its original bell, he said he was hopeful the village could get one of the two bells from Wyoming.

A spokesman for Mr. Owens said Monday morning that the congressman’s office had been in touch with Air Force officials, who were helping determine who would be the appropriate party to file an official letter.

Mr. Owens, who was in the village Friday, reportedly stopped at the site of the original pedestal, which has been maintained through the years.

Michael W. Campbell, a representative for Lawler Realty, which owns Madison Barracks, said the placement of the bell was a way to honor veterans and those who died in the battle.

“It’s a part of our Army heritage,” Mr. Campbell said. “We have half the story sitting here.”

Mr. Campbell said he hoped that money could be raised so a glass cover could be purchased to help protect the bell from the elements. He said he would work to make the bell a permanent monument in the village.

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