Massacre in the Clouds

An American Atrocity and the Erasure of History

Regular Price $19.99

Regular Price $25.99 CAD

Regular Price $19.99

Regular Price $25.99 CAD

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On Sale

May 7, 2024

Page Count

400 Pages




In this “forensic, unflinching, devastating work of historical recovery” (Sathnam Sanghera), Bud Dajo—an American atrocity bigger than Wounded Knee or My Lai, yet today largely forgotten—is revealed, thanks to the rediscovery of a single photograph.
In March 1906, American soldiers on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines surrounded and killed 1000 local men, women, and children, known as Moros, on top of an extinct volcano. The so-called ‘Battle of Bud Dajo’ was hailed as a triumph over an implacable band of dangerous savages, a “brilliant feat of arms” according to President Theodore Roosevelt. Some contemporaries, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Mark Twain, saw the massacre for what it was, but they were the exception and the U.S. military authorities successfully managed to bury the story. Despite the fact that the slaughter of Moros had been captured on camera, the memory of the massacre soon disappeared from the historical record.
In Massacre in the Clouds, Kim A. Wagner meticulously recovers the history of a forgotten atrocity and the remarkable photograph that exposed its grim logic. His vivid, unsparing account of the massacre—which claimed hundreds more lives than Wounded Knee and My Lai combined—reveals the extent to which practices of colonial warfare and violence, derived from European imperialism, were fully embraced by Americans with catastrophic results. 


“In this searing and haunting work, Kim A. Wagner restores the massacre at Bud Dajo to its rightful place alongside such horrors as Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, or My Lai in the long, grim history of American empire.  Massacre in the Clouds is a necessary and important work that explains the past while illuminating the present.”  
  —Karl Jacoby, author of Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History.
“Massacre in the Clouds is a historical tour de force. Wagner literally picked up photographic fragments documenting one of the worst massacres in American military history and meticulously reconstructed them into a landmark work on colonial violence. This unsettling yet highly readable book illuminates a blind spot in US memory that still resonates to this very day. In a clear and insightful way, Wagner gives new meaning to reading a photograph and, in doing so, disperses the clouds of amnesia that have long enveloped what happened in Bud Dajo.”
  —Daniel Foliard, Professor of Modern History, Université Paris Cité
“Kim Wagner’s Massacre in the Clouds is a rare and admirable work. Few academic historians can write such engaging prose and craft such page turning books. Equally few popular writers can conduct such meticulous and detailed research. Wagner is particularly talented at combining these two skill sets. The result is nothing short of an intellectual punch to the stomach. This is visceral storytelling and thought-provoking analysis.”
  —Micheal G. Vann, Professor, University of California, Sacramento
“In this painful recollection of the massacre at Bud Dajo, Kim Wagner refuses to perpetuate this omission, this lie. And for this, those of us who grew up in Mindanao island, especially our Moro brothers and sisters, are grateful to have him on our side of the barricade.”
  —Patricio N. Abinales, University of Hawaii-Manoa
"Massacre in the Clouds is a forensic, unflinching, devastating work of historical recovery that leaves you in awe of Wagner's powers of investigation and storytelling. Nothing short of one of most important books you'll ever read on American history, from a historian at the height of his powers."
  —Sathnam Sanghera, author of Empireworld
"Massacre in the Clouds is a compelling historical examination of the US massacre of Muslim Moros at Bud Dajo, Jolo, in 1906. In this book, historian of imperialism and violence Kim Wagner painstakingly recreates a little-known military action in the Philippines wherein American soldiers killed more people than at Wounded Knee and My Lai combined. Indeed, the book reveals Bud Dajo as the missing link between American settler colonial violence against Indigenous people ‘at home’ and later atrocities committed abroad during the American War in Vietnam. Wagner deftly shows how an atrocity largely relegated to American historical and military amnesia lives vividly in other places: in archival sources and news media from 1906, in trophy photographs of the massacre at Bud Dajo, in local memory in Jolo, and in the rhetoric of contemporary American and Philippine politicians like Trump and Duterte. Massacre in the Clouds is thus a vital new history of American warfare, imperialism, and the historical amnesia resulting from the disavowal of racism and extreme violence in US foreign and domestic policy." —Susie Protschky, professor of global political history, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
"...[a] powerful narrative...A vital work of history that breaks a century-old silence." —Kirkus
""[an] impassioned new book...Wagner recreates the massacre and its aftermath in unsparing detail...This is a powerful book, a vivid account of an atrocity written with striking verve and backed up by a plethora of evidence...To read this book is to be moved." —New York Times
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