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I had never met, well, it's not true. I had met Mr. Marcos before I became... Let's start again, because you backed up there and said the fact. I had met Mr. Marcos twice before I became SYNC-PAC, but as SYNC-PAC, I visited the Philippines quite often. And normally I don't guess without exception, but normally I called on the President when I was in the country. And as their troubles began to intensify, and in particular, as I watched the Philippine military go downhill, and it looked like they might be losing the battle with the MPA, I began to try and determine for my own benefit as to what role President Marcos was playing in this, and whether he could really turn around developments and he could really change his mode of operations. He had for so many years dominated the Philippine military, but it looked like the situation then required decentralization of a high order if the military was going to be successful.
So I was really interested whether Marcos was amenable to changing his pattern of dealing with his own armed forces if it was necessary to save the country. And in my view, it was becoming that serious, that if they were going to defeat the communist insurgency, they were going to have to do their business differently. What did you, could you go into a little more, do you know what, what do you think Marcos was doing wrong? Well in the first place there weren't any important decisions being made at any level that he didn't make, and there weren't any promotions made in the Philippine Army that Mr. Marcos didn't personally decide on and implement. And he was dealing with field commanders around the people who were in command in Manila. He would pick up the phone and start an operation without informing anyone else.
It was a great deal of that, or he would sit on a decision and not make it for a long time, and yet they were facing an urgent military situation. But the more I got into it, I made suggestions to my counterparts in the Philippines, and they would ultimately say, well, you better talk to the president about it. So through my ambassador, I would talk to the president that I think he needed this and this and this, in the Philippine military, and he'd say, fine, we'll do something about that, and I never hear another word from it. And I sort of quickly came to the conclusion that the kinds of changes that were necessary for the military to make would never be made. And then I extended that to broader chemists, and the kind of fundamental changes that he was going to have to make to save his country, he was not prepared to make. Did this take you to the conclusion that somewhere earlier he had to go?
Absolutely. Could you stay there? Well, I drew the conclusion that if we were to preserve our relationship, my very profitable mutual relationship with the Philippines, the things were going to have to change, he was not going to make those changes, and then as long as he was there, I was going to go downhill and eventually destroy it, so that he had to go. Now, you put this in writing, could you describe that, A, when did you write your report, and who did you send it to, and B, what kind of reaction, see what's going on? You asked me about some report I put in writing, and it is true that I sent a long message back to the Pentagon, and also information of the State Department, after I'd returned from one of my trips to the Philippines, where I'd- Sorry, and can we start that again and just give us a date to situate this? Well, I'm trying desperately to think of the date. 1984.
1984. It was about a little over a year before I left the Pacific, and that was 1984, okay. Okay, let's start again, I'm sorry, sir. In 1984, about a year before I left the Pacific, on returning from a trip from the Philippines, I put my views in writing, and as I recall it, and I am having a little difficulty with my memory, I put them in writing in great detail, as to how I viewed the national situation in the Philippines, and especially the military situation in the Philippines, and Marcos his role, and that he, in my view, was not capable, primarily because of reasons of personal vanity of making the kinds of decisions that were going to have to be made. And also his health was a serious problem. But I felt that he was very, very concerned about his survival, his affluence, and his personal well-being, and he was subjugating the country to that, and was not willing
to change his command style. Did you have any real information about his health, or... No, it was very circumstantial. We knew, of course, that he was not working full days. And so his health was a very definite factor in what he had achieved in his command style, and we all knew as a younger person, of course, he worked terribly long days, he achieved a great deal, he was a man of tremendous accomplishment, and he had built his entire system around his ability to work, and when he didn't work, the country came to a standstill, and along with it the Philippine military. Did you have any, in that report, did you make any recommendations beyond describing the situation? You think, what should we have done? It was very difficult, of course, to make really detailed recommendations in the first place when you start pondering the situation.
You immediately came to the conclusion that, for all concerns, it was best that Mr. Marcos left. That leads you into... If you extend that reasoning too far, that leads you into areas you don't want to be in. And what all is acceptable to the United States and what's palatable in our form of government and so forth. But I suggested that we immediately adopt a policy of trying to encourage President Marcos to step down. That's not easy to flesh out in a practical way. But I strongly suggested that we start, right now, thinking about it and trying to develop a policy that would either persuade him or encourage him to lay down his office. Now we know that you were one of a few people, and certainly at your level, it was proposing something as drastic or as it turned out to be realistic, but put yourself in back
and that's exactly... Incidentally, when I was recommending all these things, I was very uneasy. It's not an easy, comfortable thing to recommend to your own government that a head of state should be deposed or encouraged to step down. That's a momentous step. Did it ever occur to you that we might want to engage in some sort of covert operation? No. Did it occur to me? Of course it occurred to me. Did a covert operation to achieve this occur to me? Of course it occurred to me, but I never considered it in a serious fashion. I've had quite a bit of experience in this government, and I know that we're not inclined that way, and we're not going to do that. What kind of... Since you were ahead of you time, so to speak, something wrong about being prematurely right.
I'm well aware of that. What kind of reaction were you getting back here, back in Washington? Of course there was opposition in Washington to any suggestion that we change or encourage a change of government in the Philippines, and the primary reason for opposing it, and the question that always arose, was what will take its place? It's a very fine question. I didn't have a good answer to that question. My response was that, however, events play out, if Mr. Marco steps down, there's going to be trauma in the Philippines. But to wait, and to prolong the agony, and have it happen later, maybe in a different way, there will be more trauma. So the quicker it happens, the more perspective the better. I didn't say it would be easy, or problem-free, because I didn't believe it would. And as a matter of fact, the way the transition ultimately took place was much more smooth and less traumatic than I had ever predicted.
Did you ever discuss this directly with the president? Not while I was in the Pacific. I attended some meetings, of course, after I was chairman, when the situation was deteriorating very rapidly and very badly in the Philippines, where these matters were discussed, yes, and I expressed my views. Could you describe a reaction? Well, I just want to advise you that this will be on after the end of this administration. On those views, there were in meetings where this subject was discussed, many views were expressed, and on all spectrums and shades of opinion. But it was interesting that I came to this post right at the time that things were reaching ahead in the Philippines, and you could see in each success a meeting that the opinion was shifting more and more toward, yes, it was a very serious problem, and something had
to be done, and we must persuade Mr. Marcos that he must step down. And the opposition receded. Well, if I can ask you this question, I mean, policies are made by people, by institutions. If you sort of looked at, again, the way things drifted along or changed, who were your allies and who were your adversaries? I mean, back here in Washington, as I say prematurely, began to perceive the situation. Did you immediately feel that you had some allies immediately and some strong opponents? When I was resident in Hawaii, it wasn't clear to me who my friends and opponents were. It was obvious that when I first sent those messages, that at least I had enough support that the messages were aired, and it was discussed, but that there was enough opposition that
I wasn't about to carry the day. It was my instincts, and that's all, that the strongest believers were people that had served in the Philippines, and that the ones that opposed any kind of change were those who had been involved in the government and in foreign policy perhaps for some years, but not directly connected with the Philippines. And they wanted some kind of continuity in our policy, and were wedded to our policy, and were not thoroughly familiar with the actual circumstances in Manila, and that this policy couldn't be saved just by temporizing or by doing business the way we had in the past. Well, I'd like to try to identify some people, I mean, Secretary- Well, I realize that's what you're trying to do. That Secretary Schultz, for example, really was carrying the ball at the very end.
Yes, and I think- And I just want to get your sense of when you think he kind of got converted if you want. It was my memory that Secretary Schultz came across pretty early in the debate, and of course the meeting at his home, which you referred to- Well, that's later, but let's go back, let's say, you came back, take over this job in 85, I can't remember what- Yeah, October. At that stage, the fact's really in the fire out there, and how did you- How did you- what's situated at that particular time, how did you feel during Schultz's reaction? I thought he was on the fence, and was- Okay, for the good things. Well, at the time I came back from the Pacific, I had the feeling that Secretary Schultz had immersed himself enough in the problem that he had serious concerns about the Philippines, but he had not made up his mind as to exactly which way the U.S. government should go, at least that was my impression.
But he was amenable to all kinds of views, and very receptive to listening to my side of the case. And very shortly thereafter after I fell, he came aboard very strongly. Yeah, you had a lot of people at a lower level on the state of Portland, like Mordor Brawitz, and Micarma Constellin. They were both, I felt, the strongest supporters. I wondered if you could state that. Well, I felt that- I used to work with Mordor Brawmalitz, I'm a friend of his, and it seemed obvious to me after I came back and renewed our association that he- he agreed and was very strongly at the same view as I was. Ambassador Armkost, likewise, who had come back in the relatively recent time from the Philippines, and who had strong- was developing strong views about matters there. And they carried the brunt of the argument, in my view, at least it seemed to me in the State Department.
Okay, right here you have Mr. Weinberger. How would you characterize his- How Mr. Weinberger, of course, was my boss in the Pentagon and he had a deep interest in the Philippines because of our strategic vested interest there. He is a conservative man and he is very reluctant to make the kind of changes we were talking about without considerable thought being persuaded. I think it was a tough man to persuade, to convince. However, he did ultimately decide that was what was best and strongly supported the policy once he had changed his mind. Now, I don't know whether he hadn't ever done the deal he was- was Don Regan, but I gather he was a very strong man. I did not, not on those subjects. I was at several meetings where he attended, but my memory is that he didn't express himself very much on the subject. He just more or less
observed and listened. I don't think he considered himself real knowledgeable on the Philippines. Mr. Casey, did you deal with him? He was at several of the NSPG meetings that I attended. Frankly, I don't recall his expressing a strong view on him. Okay, well then of course there's a president who had very strong views I gather from all the evidence that he felt quite attached to Marko's memories of Marko's and so on and so forth. And he said a long friendship with Marko's family. Did you ever have any direct thing where he would say to you that I mean express any disagreement on your recommendations? No, I always had a feeling that the president was very open to uninhibited discussion of the subject. He of course was becoming very more and more familiar with the grave problems that Philippine was confronting.
And he told a number of stories about his long association with Marko's. But the president's a pragmatist, he's a realist and he has to be convinced that certain moves are good but he doesn't choke down the bat or our frank expression. And I never felt uncomfortable on this subject in front of the president. Okay, let's take it Stanley. Okay, let me just... Did you know that? We had a succession of reports that there was discontent in the army and that groups were forming any Marko's groups. We didn't know a great deal about it and we had our ways of gauging or judging their strength were very poor. And we heard so many reports where nothing came of it that we were very cynical about. Well, let me just go back to something personal. When you go leading up to another question,
when you talk with Marko said you suggested to him, I don't want to make it a word or just too strong, the chance to reform and whatnot, how did you feel he reacted? I mean, here you are in America and you're coming, given the colonial experience and so forth. Did he take this with great grace or did he recoil from it or how did you feel? Of course, he was a very cosmopolitan man and when you would make proposals or suggestions or begin to tell Mr. Marko's what you thought should be done, he had a number of devices for dealing with it. First, he would say I agree with that and then tell you I was going to do it which told you he didn't agree with it at all and we'll take care of that in this way and that and that'll sure satisfy you at all and so you don't need to worry about that anymore. But of course after you got through describing what he was going to do, you knew that nothing was going to change. Another way was to completely talk about another subject and ignore what had
been proposed or talked about and a favorite theme was to get right back to American Philippine Cooperation in World War II and tell sea stories and what a grand relationship we've had and this partnership has been profitable to everybody, blah blah blah and G my time's up and I'll look forward to your next visit. But there's always been a thread that Randall Marko's which is that he was really very concerned about what the United States thought about what he did. I mean you know from the very beginning his business with the metals, President Marko's has always been very good at manipulating Americans. You just need to have a little pause after you're just just to pull it in. Let's say I've always had the impression that President Marko's was a master of manipulating Americans. He knows a great deal about us more than we know about Philippine's and he's a master politician,
at least he wasn't his prime. He knew what was important politically and how to talk about it and deal with it and what were important to American politicians and diplomats. Did you ever feel that he was trying to manipulate Americans? Oh yes many times. Well you really put me on the spot. The last time I saw President Mrs. Marko's before he came to the United States I was leaving Sinkpack and it made a farewell call on the President and he called and said instead of making a farewell call with my wife and I come to breakfast with he and Mrs. Marko's and I had a very important subject I wanted to go with him. I had a elaborate talking paper
and it was hard-nosed and it was very frank and I think he knew that I was coming to talk about that. But he invited my wife and I to breakfast instead of meeting in the office and really showed up at the breakfast and it was a most pleasant breakfast and the Marcos has talked about their history and my wife and I were fascinated. We never got to my talking paper and the only way I could figure out to handle it as I left I said that I had some serious things I wanted to mention to him and it not had the time would he be offended if I wrote him a letter and he said of course not please do and I immediately went back and transformed my talking paper into a letter to the President of the Philippines
and the theme of the letter was if you're going to save your military from total ineffectiveness this is what you've got to do and it was a long letter and it was coordinated in my government. Tell us I mean I don't know that I can't tell you that but that letter essentially said that is the retiring synch packs for you that if you don't do something shortly of a very dramatic nature you're going to end up with a military that is totally ineffective and going to be very little help to you and the hard days that are ahead if the communist insurgency continues to grow. To begin with you must give your commanders some independent
authority and not keep the reins of military power and your palace. If you do you will not be able to meet this insurgency and then I went on with some more detailed suggestions about equipment and some commanders and I had to root out political influence in the army and then he better start worrying about competence in the field instead of on the dance floor in Manila and I never heard a thing from that letter. Let me ask you one thing it's a sort of philosophical question about this. I was apprehensive about sending that letter. I think I do. I never wrote a head of state of letter like that. That's exactly gets to my point. Which leads to this
here is a foreign country. We all do this in the Philippines for some centuries and I've had a lot meetings with Marcos for some centuries as Americans. We go around telling them what they want to be doing. In fact sometimes they ask you what they do. Oh, constantly. Now General Vare used to ask me all the time what he should be doing. This very peculiar relationship we have with this country. It's their country. If they wanted to go down the drain, why should we care? Why should we interfere or intervene? I mean I'm not necessarily criticizing. I'm just trying to understand why we have this feeling that that 40 or 50 years or 40 years after our colonial rule. It is still a country that we feel we have a kind of special right. I think there's several reasons that we think we have special rights and privileges
or something in the Philippines. First of all you can't be familiar with the Philippines without liking them and you develop a real genuine affection for the Philippine people and for the country. The more you're associated with it I think and it's sort of painful once you've done that to watch things not develop the way to see them hurt and so I believe the Americans in that part of the world genuinely feel that way. They have a deep-seated love for the Philippines. We also have a long traditional tie and Philippine failure reflects on the United States. Philippine success reflects on the United States. So we like to see it work and then you can go on about strategic interests and the importance of that part of the world etc but I think those two things. Number one our affection for the Philippines and number two our traditional tie that is bound us up together and look at World War Two. Older people in the Philippines
served in the guerrilla movement served in the American army. You know the U.S. Navy has a tremendous retired population in the Philippines and those people talk with great nostalgia about serving in the U.S. Navy and their love of America and of course the Philippine families in my home are two Philippine enlisted people in the U.S. Navy whose families live in the Philippines and those men will live the rest of their lives in America but they have they go home to the Philippines all the time and they sort of are a representative of our relationship with the Philippines. But it is an extraordinary thing. First on the issue of the basis I mean we have basis in Spain, the basis in Greece, the basis in Japan. We would never think of taking liberties but we didn't live in rule in those countries as we did in the Philippines and the Philippines
themselves have a ambivalent relationship with Americans. I've had in my talks with Philippine senior officers. I've had them get quite irritated or agitated when I would appear to be giving them advice and within five minutes I've had them turn right around and say now you've got to tell me what to do about this problem. It's almost a sort I don't want to put the wording back but there's almost a sort of neo-colonial. I mean we're still there more than but if you look at the British and the Indians or the Dutch and the Indian's or the French and the Vietnamese or whatever ex-colonial. There's so seems to be a much closer postcolonial relationship with the Philippines than any other form of colony in the world. That may be true. I don't know that I could make a statement whether we're that closely related or that we are more
touched than other formal colonial powers but Americans have a way of just doing that. I mean we just get attached and there are no more fervent advocates for the Philippines than old hand Americans who've lived in the Philippines. Let me go back jump ahead now. I don't want to take too much of your time. Could you describe that scene on that Sunday morning at George Schultz's House and the Feds? I mean if you could start it, Phil had me come back. You remember the mutiny had taken place the day before in fact Phil heard about it when he was in the airplane. That's right he was on his way back. And so you gathered and you were there and Schultz was there and Weinberg was there. Secretary Weinberg didn't come. Now let me be careful here. There were two meetings at Schultz's House. One of which I didn't go to. Now you were there because then Weinberg was not there.
I think so. I wonder what this is the meeting and then they went to see the president that afternoon. The meeting I attended was on Sunday and I did not go to see the president that afternoon and Weinberg was at the presidential meeting that afternoon. Tell us what you remember that meeting. Maybe we can later dig up the date that the meeting is worth. My memories of the meeting at Schultz's House are not real detail. It was that we seem to be at a rather crucial point and Secretary Schultz just invited a number of people to come and discuss it. Well let me just try to. I don't need to guide you again but since I've read the transcript by you get the impression from reading the transcript of that meeting that incidentally I think the meeting you're talking about I didn't go to. That's the one of the 23rd
of what? February. It's just after the meeting you take them for. I think the meeting I went to was before that. Because they were to you right. It was a previous meeting, the previous Sunday. For some reason I didn't go to this meeting. The meeting I went to was earlier in the game and things had not degenerated to that point in the Philippine jet. Well can you remember where that meeting, what came out of that meeting? Well some very frank talk about what we should do and O'Brahman-Witz and I seem to be the two that wanted to move. What you don't remember the date of it? No I don't. I don't remember the meeting. That's in Schultz's House, huh? Yes. It's the only time we've ever been in Secretary Schultz's House. So I did have one memory of it. Let's just go on to the question of the bases now. I wonder if you could realistically give us some assessment of the importance of the bases.
I mean I know that they're important. I agree they're important. But so much of what one here is kind of oil plate. They're vital and we can't live it. I wonder if you can really put them in a practical sense or a political sense. Why do you think they're, if in fact you do think they're important? Why they are. I think the bases in the Philippines, both from a political and a strategic standpoint are extremely important. We could function without those bases in the four east. But we wouldn't do it as easily and we wouldn't do it as cheaply as we do now. And the cost of keeping a kind of commitment that we have today in the western Pacific without access to those bases would be considerably more than we currently spend, considerably more. You have two choices. Either cut down your commitment, the presence and fund it from bases further
back with the same amount of money or keep the commitment roughly at the same size but spend a lot more money to do it. We can replace in a fashion the bases in the Philippines. It would be more fractured. It would be very complicated. It would take some time and we would spend a lot of money. And it would force upon us a completely new operating pattern. Maybe that's what we ought to have. That's what the world's going to change here in the next few years. Perhaps we should not have a heavier commitment in the four east. I don't know. Those are the kinds of questions I feel the next presidency is going to have to confront. I wonder if you can elaborate a little bit. I mean, how do you see that? What are the evolutions you see taking place that might lead us to want to reduce our commitments? I didn't say want to reduce our commitments. Make it possible to produce. Of course, you always have the problem.
No matter how important the Philippine bases are for one reason or another, if we are not wanted in the Philippines, we're not going to stay there. That's built into our system of government. It's built into our society. And when people like the Foreign Minister of the Philippines say that the bases do not read down to their benefit, that's pretty strong talk. And if that feeling is shared widely in the Philippines and they really feel that they don't profit strategically or militarily or politically from an American presence, then we're going to have to consider leaving the Philippines. I don't think there's a question about that. How many terms of cost? So what I'm saying, it isn't all in under Washington's control. If you see what I mean. Of course. I mean, it takes two to time. Of course.
But considering the costs of moving, I'm not asking you for a negotiating position, but considering the costs of moving, wouldn't it be cheaper just to pay them more money? Yes. Of course, it would be cheaper to, under certain circumstances, to pay more money if you can meet the threshold and so forth and stay. But you must meet the political requirement which I described, first of all, a moment ago. It has nothing to do with money. If the Philippine relationship of the United States is not close enough to, and strong enough to underwrite this kind of commitment, then it's going to fall. And if the leaders of the Philippines don't really genuinely believe that we have a regional role and that we help them as well as ourselves and that our presence there is for the benefit of the region, I don't know how we can sustain our presence,
even if we're willing to pay for. Of course, and reason is that if they, if they profit from it, why the hell should we pay for? But in countries like this, elites run the country. That's true. I just want you, if you sort of look at it historically, forget that you're wearing the uniform for a moment. Do you think that in a sense they have a point? I mean, that it's a natural kind of development of a country that was a colony that still feels in many ways that it's neocolonial, that wants to look for some way to break away. That pressure is there and it's always going to be there when we're going to get rid of it and it's going to grow. And we've had this in a smaller way all around the world. I've been in the
business for years of dealing with foreign militaries. We try and help foreign militaries and we try and send them school in the United States to develop their techniques and expertise. The next thing we do is we train teachers in the United States to go back and man the schools in those countries. And the next step is they have schools in those countries so they never send anybody more to the United States to school and the influence we got out of those students dispears. So our own process is self-disappearing, self-defeating. You want your friends to be mature and when they get mature they want to be separate and independent. And that's all right too. That's progress. You don't want your children to live at home? That's right, precisely. But that's hard sometimes. I mean you know I don't want my children to ask me for money and so forth but I want them to love me and take care of me. I got to be careful here. I saw a bumper sticker that said
vend yourself live long enough to be a problem to your children. Well I wonder to go back to relate this to these Filipino nationalists like Michael Oppas and others that you have to deal. How do you analyze that? Well I think it is natural. You're implying that that progression and that growth is natural and I think it is. But you're asking me how I deal with and you deal with it carefully and painfully and and you make accommodations. You compromise in order to satisfy their aspirations and still derive something out of it. The one last point again I mean you've made it quite clear that the situation in Philippines especially the communists in Surgeon C is want to break concern to us in our position there. How do you think it is? I mean not within, not this week or I mean
but when one looks at one has the impression that the conditions that exist in the Philippines are such given gaps between wealth and poverty and so forth that defeating the insurgency is a pretty tough job. I think defeating the insurgency would be a very long road to home. On the other hand I'm getting reports from our commander in a Pacific that he is encouraged that things are not dramatic improvement but the Philippine military's ability to deal with it is improving and I think this is the result of a number of developments. Not the least of which is Mrs. Aquino is much more acceptable to the Philippine people as a whole and she has a popularity and a resiliency that politically is helping and I think the communists in order to undermine her government and have a full-time job they're not going to be able to do it as easily as they would like.
I think that the transition from Marcos to Aquino hasn't completely solved the problems in the Philippine military but it's better than it was and I think there's a higher level of professionalism in the leadership of the Philippine military than there was under Marcos and they have allowed themselves to get rid of some of the older people and move in some of the younger. Now that's a long process I don't predict success or victory in the near term but I think they're in a better position to deal with it than they were. This is all predicated on Mrs. Aquino being able to solve the economic problems. She fails there the countries and although the country seems to have a resiliency of its own that's not connected with that but it's an amazing country.
In Our Image: The United States and the Philippines
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Interview with William Crowe
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Pearson-Glaser Productions
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US Admiral William Crowe discusses the problems he observed with the Philippine Armed Forces and how Marcos’ lack of leadership was effectively hindering the army from suppressing the communist insurgency in the Philippines in the 1980’s. He also discusses how he became one of the first people to suggest that Marcos should step down from the Presidency in 1984 and how he discussed this and Marcos’ declining health with US Secretary of State George Schultz and Schultz’s reaction. Crowe discusses the neo-colonial relationship the US has with the Philippines and his genuine fondness for the country and people as well as the traditional tie that binds the countries together. Finally, he discusses the importance of the US bases in the Philippines and how the the Philippine Armed Forces situation improved under Cory Aquino's presidency.
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New People's Army; Ferdinand Marcos
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Interviewee: Crowe, William
Interviewer: Karnow, Stanley
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