The Juramentados - Forerunners of the Suicide bombers
`Like a mad tiger': fighting Islamic warriors in the Philippines 100 years
ago: exactly a century ago, America began a war against one of its fiercest
foes—the Moros of the southern Philippines - United States troops battle
against Islamic Moros from 1902 to 1913
Veterans of Foreign Wars VFW Magazine, May, 2002 by Richard K. Kolb
`Like a mad tiger': fighting Islamic warriors in the Philippines 100 years
ago: exactly a century ago, America began a war against one of its fiercest
foes--the Moros of the southern Philippines. Bearing an uncanny historical
resemblance to the war there now, the fight against these fanatic followers
of Islam lasted from 1902 to 1913. In the end, some semblance of peace
prevailed, but the Moros were never permanently subdued. (War On Terrorism)
When President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Philippines War officially
over on July 4, 1902, the proclamation's second preamble contained a caveat.
The war was done, it stated, "except in the country inhabited by the Moro
Despite the fact that more than one-fifth of the entire U.S. Army was bogged
down in the Philippines for a decade, the Moro War is the least-known
conflict in American military history. With the advent of WWI, it vanished
from the national collective memory.
Few traces of it can be found in popular culture. Only one war film has been
made about it. The Real Glory (1939) depicted the siege of a remote outpost
on Mindanao. An idealistic surgeon (Gary Cooper) rallies natives to defend
themselves against Moros. The movie also starred David Niven and Broderick
Even more telling, though, was the Army's reluctance to tout its role.
Sixteen Medals of Honor were awarded during the Moro War, and hundreds of
Americans died serving. Still, some in the military establishment felt they
should "remain forgotten."
Yet "the Moros were a truly romantic opponent, America's equivalent of the
fierce Pathans of British India's Northwest Frontier," wrote Brian Linn in
Guardians of Empire. "Indeed, to the Progressive Era Americans still coming
to terms with the end of their own Wild West, Moroland resonated with the
richness, mystery, and danger both of the lost continental frontier and the
yet-unexplained Pacific `New West.'"
A jihad, or holy war, was waged against the U.S. Army by 34,000 warriors
bent on slaving all babui (eaters of pig)--in other words, Christian
Americans--in the southern Philippines in the early 20th century.
These warriors were members of a fanatic Islamic society, called Moros by
the Spanish, that practiced slavery, polygamy, piracy and violent crime as a
way of life. Capt. John Pershing wrote of the Moros: "The only principle for
which they fought was the right to pillage and murder without molestation
from the government."
This remote corner of Asia was aptly described as "a merry carnival of human
sacrifice." But to the Moros, their land was the domain of Islam and it was
their duty to sabil--"fight in the way of Allah"--against the American kapil
Under the U.S. military administration, the home islands--Mindanao, Basilan
Island and the Sulu Archipelago--of the Moros were consolidated into the
Moro Province. The province encompassed 40,000 square miles of inhospitable
Ten Army posts were maintained on Mindanao and three in the Sulu
Archipelago. Elements of more than a dozen infantry and six cavalry
regiments saw field service in "Moroland" during the conflict. Troop
strength in the region averaged just under 5,000 men.
Assuming an average two-year tour of duty, and allowing for extensions, some
20,000 U.S. troops served in Moro country during the 12 years of sporadic
hostilities. (Troops were rotated then by unit and not as individuals.)
Supplementing the regulars were native auxiliaries of the Philippine Scouts
and Philippine Constabulary (known as the "Bamboo Brigade") officered by
Americans. Many U.S. officers considered the Scouts "the finest body of
native troops in existence" who "as an auxiliary force to our regulars ...
The U.S. Navy operated periodically in conjunction with the Army. In 1910,
the Southern Philippines Patrol regularly sailed the Sulu Sea. The patrol
consisted of four gunboats armed with two 3-pound guns and two Colt 1-inch
automatics. Each craft had a crew of 35 U.S. sailors. Piracy diminished
appreciably after the appearance of the "Mosquito Fleet."
Warfare in Moroland entailed bush-wacking, "bullet-eating" charges over
fortified walls and sudden, suicidal attacks. Booby traps such as belatics
(spears lashed to yielding saplings, tripped by vine triggers) and punji
pits lined jungle trails.
MANHUNTING ON MINDANAO
The first open attack on U.S. forces occurred in the spring of 1902. While
on patrol on the south side of Lake Lanao, which is 16 miles from the north
coast of Mindanao, 18 men of the 15th Cavalry were ambushed by 200 Moros. A
soldier was killed and the troop's horses stolen.
Seeking retribution for the Lake Lanao ambush, Col. Frank D. Baldwin (holder
of two Medals of Honor) led 1,200 U.S. troops against the forts of the
sultan of Bayan and the datu (chief) of Binadayan in early May 1902.
A medieval type of defense, these forts had walls 10 feet high and several
feet thick, covered by dense, thorny growth and surrounded by trenches.
Brass swivel cannons were mounted in openings in the walls. Pitched battles
were required to capture the stockades, and resulted in 10 Americans killed
and 40 wounded at the Battle of Bayan (see story on p. 24).
Several punitive expeditions followed. From the fall of 1902 to the spring
of 1903, Capt. John J. Pershing, destined to become a famous World War I
general, led campaigns against the Lanao Moros. Six major actions and many
minor skirmishes were fought.
A three-day siege at Bacalod in April killed 120 Moros. At the decisive
Battle of Taraca on May 4, 1903, 250 Moros were eliminated as opposed to two
Americans killed and five wounded. All told, U.S. casualties in the "march
around Lake Lanao" were two KIA, 16 WIA and 18 dead from cholera and
poisoned water. Approximately 468 Moros died.
Fighting also spread farther south into the Sulu Archipelago. After the
Hassan uprising (in which hundreds of Moro fighters perished) in
October-November 1903, the Moros of Sulu sang: "The bravery of the Americans
is very good: like a mad tiger."
In the spring of 1904, Gen. Leonard Wood sent an expedition of 1,000 U.S.
troops against Datu Ali and the Sultan of Taraca. Some 130 forts were
destroyed or captured along the Taraca River on Mindanao. At Siranaya,
Cotabato Valley, 100 followers of Datu Ali were slain by the 22nd Infantry
in fierce fighting.
Wood later described the marshland of the Cotabato Valley: "I don't think
anywhere in the world have I ever seen mosquitoes as thick as they were at
this place. The men were almost crazy."
A reconnaissance patrol in that same valley went out after Datu Ali in the
Lake Litguasan District. Thirty-six men of F Co., 17th Inf., fell into an
ambush on May 8 set by 160 Moros at Simpetan and lost 15 KIA, six WIA and
two captured (they were released four days later).
For special duty, infantry regiments formed provisional companies of about
135 members each. Originally created to track down Datu Ali, "provo" units
were later kept in ready for particularly dangerous missions. These were
essentially the special operations units of their day.
Ali had pledged: "I will try to kill all the people who are friends of the
Americans." Wood put a $500 reward on his head--dead or alive. That was a
tidy sum for the time and place, and helped in the manhunt.
In October 1905, Capt. Frank McCoy, commanding a "provo" company of the 22nd
Infantry, eliminated several hundred of Ali's men in the blood-stained
Cotabato Valley at the Battle of the Malalag River. (Ali and his three sons
were killed later.) McCoy once reflected on his situation, writing, "Over
here we are living in the midst of feudalism and slavery, with pirates and
Meanwhile, hostilities flared anew in the Sulu Archipelago.
On Jolo, from May 1-24, 1905, the 14th Cavalry and companies from the 17th
and 22nd Infantry backed by support troops, Scouts and constables, fought a
series of three engagements. A particularly fierce fight occurred at Utig's
fort on May 4. All told, the regulars lost 9 KIA and 21 WIA. Among the
wounded was a nephew of the late President William McKinley.
BATTLE OF BUD DAJO
Wood's relentless pursuit of hostiles climaxed in the largest battle of the
Moro War in March 1906. Bud Dajo, an extinct volcano on Jolo, harbored an
estimated 1,000 Moros. Nearly 800 U.S. troops (only half of whom actually
fought)and 50 constables tackled this natural fortification. Armed women and
men, using their children as shields, launched counterattacks.
Wood recalled of Bud Dajo: Women "are garbed like the men and, in the melee,
indistinguishable from them. They advance with their husbands in intrepid
rushes, leaping down from the parapets into the midst of the attacking
force, clutching a soldier in a death grapple and rolling with him down the
McCoy wrote in awe: "It was most remarkable the fierce dying of the Moros.
At every cotta [fort] efforts were made to get them to surrender or to send
out their women but for an answer a rush of shrieking men and women would
come cutting the air and dash amongst the soldiers like mad dogs."
When the fighting was over, between 600 and 1,000 Moros had perished.
American casualties were relatively high: 15 killed and 52 wounded. The
Constabulary contingent lost six dead and 21 wounded. Three Medals of Honor
were earned at Bud Dajo.
At home, soldiers were attacked by the Anti-Imperialist League because of
the lop-sided casualties. But as veteran Rowland Thomas wrote in "Not a
Wanton Massacre" in the Boston Transcript. "To say that these men should
have been captured instead of killed is easy; to capture a man who prefers
death is almost an impossible feat."
JURAMENTADOS: `A JITTERY BUSINESS'
A form of warfare unique to Moroland was the rite of running juramentado.
Derived from the Spanish word juramentar, the term described "one who had
sworn an oath" to kill infidels. With hair cropped, eyebrows shaved and
arteries and genitals bound (to slow the flow of blood), the juramentado
waged a personal jihad. Killing Christians assured one's place in paradise.
Juramentado invincibility was legendary. Stories of suicidal attacks were
told around U.S. campfires for years. In one instance, a juramentado
received 14 wounds in five minutes, three of which penetrated his brain, and
yet he fought on.
As a seasoned Army officer put it, "Even the veteran Indian fighters among
them [Army regulars] had to learn that a Moro juramentado was more dangerous
than a renegade Apache and twice as hard to kill." (The Colt .45-caliber
automatic pistol, issued in 1911, was developed to stop ferocious Moro
After his first encounter with juramentados, one lieutenant wrote: "As I
reflected that there might be months and months of this--with every night a
possibility of night attacks from juramentados, it cracked my nerves more
than I cared to admit. It was a jittery business, fighting Moros."
In one instance on Jolo in April 1907, juramentados killed three men of the
4th Cavalry. In May 1909, two soldiers of H Co., 18th Inf., suffered a
similar fate at Camp Ramain on Mindanao.
One particularly notorious Moro leader, Jikiri, met his end on July 4,1909,
at the entrance of a cave inside a volcanic crater on Patian Island in the
Sulu Archipelago. Three troops of the 6th Cavalry, supported by mountain
artillery and naval heavy-weapons, surrounded Jikiri and his last seven
irreconcilables near Maybun.
Forty soldiers advanced on the cave; without warning the band charged. In a
matter of seconds, one soldier was dead and 15 servicemen wounded. Jikiri
and all his band were wiped out. Four 6th Cavalry troopers received the
Medal of Honor for bravery in this action. Altogether, Jikiri's band had
killed nine Americans, including several civilians, and injured 26.
More than two years later, on Sept. 24, 1911, a 21-man shore party from the
USS Pampanga was ambushed by 20 Moros near Mundang on Basilan Island. In
routing the warriors, the party lost one man. Another suffered seven wounds.
Five sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor.
In late December 1911, 1,000 U.S. troops surrounded 800 Moros holed up again
in Bud Dajo crater. Timely maneuvering prevented excessive bloodshed; the
crater was cleared at the cost of only three soldiers wounded and 12 Moros
BROKEN AT BUD BAGSAK
The following year passed peacefully. But then in 1913 came "the bloodiest
year in the history of the Moro wars." The backbone of organized Moro
resistance was broken at Bud Bagsak crater on Jolo in June of that year.
About 1,200 troops, mostly Philippine Scouts, led by Brig. Gen. Pershing,
marched against Datu Amil's followers. U.S. units included M Co., 8th
Infantry; H Troop, 8th Cavalry; and the 40th Mountain Artillery Battery.
It took four days of bloody combat to overrun all the crater's five forts.
To the cry of mak sabil ("to the sword") those "dressed up to die"
repeatedly charged American lines; not one made it past the U.S. perimeter.
More than 500 Moros died defending the volcanic fortress.
Fighting lasted nine hours on the last day. Almost half of government
casualties occurred on June 15. These totaled 15 dead (6 Scouts) and 25 WIA
In a private letter, Pershing confessed, "The fighting was the fiercest I
have ever seen." He added, "They [Moros] are absolutely fearless, and once
committed to combat they count death as mere incident." He also admired
their "unswerving courage and superb gallantry."
Pershing was awarded a retroactive Distinguished Service Cross in 1940 by
President Franklin Roosevelt "for extraordinary heroism in action against
hostile, fanatical Moros ..."
2nd Lt. Louis C. Mosher of the Philippine Scouts was rewarded with the Medal
of Honor for carrying a wounded soldier from the battlefield to safety.
On Oct. 24, at Bud Talipao, the Philippine Scouts lost six men killed and 40
wounded in the last and decisive battle of the Moro War. By the close of
1913, American combat units had been withdrawn from the field. For the U.S.
Army, the Moro conflict was finally at an end.
It was a conflict with clear-cut costs. From 1902 through 1913,
approximately 130 American soldiers were KIA and 323 WIA in the
Philippines--the vast majority in Moroland. At least another 500 perished
from non-hostile causes such as disease and accidents. The Philippine Scouts
sustained 116 KIA and 189 WIA.
Nevertheless, their sacrifices remain unheralded. In Swish of the Kris,
written way back in 1936, Vic Hurley wrote, "The men who haunted that bush
... are forgotten by a nation that forgets too easily in the press of other,
`Dark and bloody' Samar: the Pulajan Campaign.
Not even the Indian campaigns of the old West ... could compare with the
rushing, jungle-shielded tactics of the pulajans," wrote Vic Hurley in
Jungle Patrol. "For ferocity in battle, possibly only the Moros were their
In the aftermath of the Philippines War, on Samar and Leyte, arose a bizarre
movement cloaked in a quasi-spiritual cover. It pitted hill people against
coastal inhabitants who they regarded as their economic exploiters.
"Wearing nondescript red uniforms emblazoned with white crosses and fighting
with a ferocity of men convinced of their own invulnerability," wrote David
R. Sturtevant in Popular Uprisings in the Philippines, "the marauders
dismayed the constables and townspeople, who tagged the gaudy terrorists
Pula means red in Tagalog. Cult members also were nicknamed "red breeches."
They brandished talibongs--2-foot-long, razor-sharp bolos (a type of
machete). To the war cry of tad-tad, tad-tad, or "chop, chop to pieces,"
they struck terror into their opponents, who were often noncombatant
Led by priest-warlords, they were adept at irregular warfare. Moreover,
pulajans believed those who died in battle would be reincarnated.
Apparently, U.S. authority was not their specific target; they simply
resisted any and alt control.
At their peak in 1904, the pulajans numbered 7,000 armed warriors on Samar
and perhaps 3,500 on Leyte. Far too numerous for the Phiilippine
Constabulary (national police force) to handle, the regular U.S. Army was
called in later that year to put down their reign of terror.
Officially, the Pulajan Campaign lasted from Aug. 2, 1904, to June 30, t907.
(The last six months were devoted mainly to pursuing Chief Otoy, who
actually survived until 1911.) It required the service of the 1st, 14th and
21st Infantry regiments, as well as detached companies from the 6th, 12th
and 24th Infantry plus up to 18 Scout companies. Another four regular Army
companies of the 8th Infantry covered Leyte. Among the young officers who
earned his bars then was Lt. Joe Stilwell ("Vinegar Joe" in another war) of
D Co., 1st Bn., 12th Inf.
A Navy flotilla of five gunboats and two steam launches moved the soldiers
along the coasts. Although this mode of transport proved efficient, the
pulajans were an elusive foe. Days in the field were frustrating and most
often fruitless in terms of pulajans bagged.
Indigenous colonial forces, however, took a beating on several occasions.
The 38th Scout Company is a case in point. On Nov. 11, 1904, at Oras, it
lost 11 men KIA. Just a month later, Dec. 12, Lt. Stephen Hayt and his
entire garrison of 37 men were wiped out at Dolores, Samar. Then 14 days
later, again at Oras, Lt. Avery and eight constables were KIA.
But on June 4, 1905, government troops achieved victory near Catubig, Samar.
E Co. (35 men), 21st Inf. Regt., and the 44th Scout Co. (44 men) killed
nearly 100 pulajans and their notorious chief, Dagojob.
Meanwhile, Constabulary casualties were soaring. March 26, 1906, saw the
most severe toss in its history. The "Magtaon Massacre" claimed 23
constables' lives in a treacherous pulajan attack. By then. U.S. life
insurance companies refused to sell policies to junior officers destined for
A Manila-based newspaper correspondent wrote: "There is no law in Samar
today--beyond the will of the pulajans. The American authority extends as
far as the sentinels around the few military posts and no further. Outside,
all is anarchy and bloodshed."
The score was evened a bit on Leyte, though In a pitched fight at Tabontabon
on July 25, 1906, E Co. (26 men), 24th Inf. Regt., and a Constabulary
detachment took out 50 pulajans versus three constables KIA.
About two weeks later on that island, however, a 10-man patrol of the 8th
Infantry was ambushed near Julita, losing eight men. After being attacked,
the squad had run out of ammo. Their bodies were found mutilated. This was
the greatest single loss for the U.S. Army in the pulajan campaign.
Fortunes were finally reversed in a climactic battle at La Paz, Leyte, on
Dec. 5, 1906. L Co., 8th Inf., and 25 constables struck a punishing blow
against the pulajans, killing 4t. Five constables were KIA and many wounded.
For his "superb gallantry" in saving the life of a fellow soldier and a
Constabulary officer at La Paz, Cpl. Seth L. Weld earned the Medal of Honor.
Suffering from a severe bolo wound to his right arm, he nonetheless beat off
numerous assailants with a rifle butt.
For American regulars, the war was essentially over. Constabulary units
could now mop up fanatical remnants of pulajan bands still roaming what was
for several years "dark and bloody" Samar.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group
February 19, 2006
Asymmetrical warfare, 1906
They had never been Filipinos: their identity pre-existed King Philip of Spain; their national consciousness had always been as Muslims. After the first Mohammedan missionary arrived in Sulu in 1380 parts of the island of Mindanao had constituted themselves into the Sultanate of Sulu. A succession of Europeans: the Portuguese, French, British, and Spaniards had attempted to incorporate it into their respective colonial schemes but the Muslim Malays, led by Imams who controlled ruthless kris killers, resisted implacably. When beaten on the battlefield they simply surrendered out of convenience, signed a peace treaty and disregarded it once the enemy force had left.
When the US acquired Mindanao after the beating Spain in the Spanish-American war, Americans came face to face with what came to be known as asymmetrical warfare. Here were attacks on civilians, beheadings, raids on schools. All the stuff of modern headlines. And in the pre-explosive era the ultimate weapon of Imams was the suicide bomber of the day: the juramentado. The difficulty of the campaign against the Moros is suggested by number of Medals of Honor awarded to the regular US Army (not the Constabulary): five MOHs were awarded in 1911 alone for actions on or near the island of Basilan. But reading Victor Hurley's the Jungle Patrol is the best way to get a sense of that long-ago campaign. It largely describes the experience of the Philippine Constabulary, a unit of Filipino enlisted men with American embeds, a creature that would be instantly familiar to men in Iraq. Reading the Jungle Patrol is an exercise in deja vu. If you can imagine a Chinese trader on a boat in place of an expatriate Sri Lankan truck driver in Iraq this scene of murder will be instantly familiar.
The night of November 1, 1907, a Chinese trader named Tao Tila had the dubious distinction of being the first recorded victim of Jikiri. The Chinese was sailing a vinta along the coast of the island of Jolo, engaged in trade with the Moros. Off the coast of Lumapid, in the blackness of night, a swift sailing boat sped out of the dark, and a voice aboard the Malay privateer called in the Sulu tongue, "Kill them." A moment later the pirate ship was alongside, and the crew of the Chinese boat were stricken with krises before they could rise from their benches.
Or if you've been in an expatriate worker's compound relaxing after a hard week of work you can imagine the scene of what would today be called a terrorist attack.
They entered the camp and approached Case, offering to purchase a vinta (sailboat). Case replied that they had no boats to sell, and the Moros withdrew. At five o'clock the raid began. The seven Moros deployed about the camp. On signal, one of the bandits entered the store where Mrs. Case was arranging the stock and asked for cigarettes. As the woman turned to the shelves she heard Verment scream outside and, looking through the window, saw the logger go down before the blades of two Moros. ... As Verment lay dying outside the store, Case was set upon by two other Moros, who severed his head with a stroke. The wife of the dead Verment received a ghastly kris wound that laid open her back from shoulder to hip.
The suicide bomber had his direct precusor in the Juramentado. Here's a turn of the century convoy going down an apparently secure street.
Lieutenant Rodney, an officer of the 2nd Cavalry, had gone for a Sunday afternoon walk with his small daughter. Walking unarmed on the Jolo-Asturias road, Rodney had been preceding a seaman named Steel and two other sailors from the Quiros by a few steps. Before the sailors could draw their weapons, a Moro burst suddenly into view, hacking with a barong and killing Rodney instantly. A guard leaped from a sentry post as the sailors began to fire their revolvers, and blew the Moro's brains out with a shotgun.
The Mohammedans of the Philippines had originated a unique and deadly method of individual fighting that was a degenerate offshoot of the principle of the jihad, or Holy War, that is specified by the Koran ... According to the Moro belief, it was within the power of one man, and his kris, to break in a stride from the miserable nipa shacks of the Sulu shores to the scented gardens of Paradise where the houris waited. For the Koran offers great reward for the slain in battle.
One example of the tremendous power of fanatical motivation is provided by this account. It calls to mind the numerous descriptions of VBIEDs shrugging off bullets as it barrels towards its target.
Lieutenant Ellsey of the Constabulary was sent into the hills to serve warrant on a Moro named Usap for stealing carabao. He had anticipated no particular trouble, and carried with him a small patrol of six men. He found his man standing in the door of the usual Moro shack, with a ladder leading up to the door. The Moro glowered down at the small patrol as Ellsey served his warrant. His expression did not change as he turned to get his turban for the trip. But Ellsey felt that all was not well. He circled the shack and saw Usap reach under a mat and draw forth a barong. The Constabulary Lieutenant raised his rifle and drilled the Moro through his head. As Usap dropped, two other Moros leaped from the room. The waiting patrol dropped them in mid-air. They were dead when they hit the ground. The patrol then mounted the ladder and captured three additional Moros who had not yet worked themselves into the amuck stage.
While they were tying these prisoners beneath the house, a Moro in a near-by field was plowing rice with a carabao. They heard him shout as he leaped to attack with a barong. "Timbuck aco," he was shouting; "shoot me." He came with long bounding strides, headed straight for the waiting patrol. Four of the soldiers opened fire on the advancing Moro in support of Lieutenant Ellsey. A stream of hot lead poured into his body, but the Moro never faltered. He came nearer, slower now, but still on his feet. The barong was upraised as he headed for Lieutenant Ellsey. Ellsey fired his last shot, and the Moro still came. Ten feet from the officer a Krag bullet thudded into the amuck's spine. His legs gave away. As he fell, he hurled his barong before he died. The patrol stripped the dead man and turned him over. Twelve bullet holes were in his body. Ellsey had escaped decapitation by only ten feet.
Juramentados could operate in tactical teams. This account of US Cavalry unit at Camp Severs in Jolo describes what it was like to be under a sustained juramentado attack.
The camp itself was a large rectangle, completely enclosed with wire. The line of company tents were about ten feet inside the wire on each side. Inside the line of tents were the saddle racks and the picket lines of horses. The fence was seven feet high, with ten wires, making the strands about eight inches apart. Every twenty feet along the top of the fence, was a Dietz lantern with reflector to light up the high grass outside for several yards. The firing trench just inside was. banked up and ready for business. In a few seconds after an alarm by the sentries, the men could be out of their tents and ready to meet an attack. We felt secure. ...
It was in the night that I came out of a deep sleep feeling that a shot had awakened me. Then there were two shots and a cry: 'MOROS . . . MOROS.' Then a whole barrage of shots. I reached for my riot gun. It was gone! So was Lieutenant Crites. Snatching my .45 from beneath my pillow, I tore aside the mosquito-net canopy and ran out of the tent. Dark figures were coming up to the fence on the run. The firing was general. ...
A big cavalryman charged out of a tent just ahead of me with a riot gun. He poked the gun within a foot of the running figure ahead of me and blasted. The man swerved and stumbled on. 'My God,' I wanted to shout, 'stop shooting at our own men.' Then I brought up suddenly. Powder smoke filled my nostrils and I was looking down the barrel of that same riot gun. The big soldier was about to let go again. Some kind of a squealing voice came out of me: 'Hey . . . it's me . . . it's me'... I would never have recognized it as my voice. ...Then all firing ceased as the men went at it in a furious bayonet to barong duel that was a fight to the finish. At the nearest cavalry tent a white soldier rolled out under the wall, rifle in hand. Before he could stand up a Moro was upon him. Another soldier crawled out and the Moro leaped to him. My Corporal Batiokan ran up to crush the Moro's skull with a rifle butt. Blood was squirting from two great gashes in the cavalrymen's back. Soldiers came running to carry away the wounded man. Their uniforms were red with blood. ... One of the men was past medical aid. He had been chopped to ribbons, with arms and legs severed and lying apart from his body. ...
Seven of the eight juramentados who had made the attack had succeeded in getting through the wire in the face of the fire. One lay dead outside the wire and seven were stretched out in the enclosure when morning came and we made inspection. The hospital was lined with terribly wounded men, slashed with barongs, and we were forced to kill many of the slashed horses who had been in the path of the charging Moros. The juramentados who had plunged through the wire in a desperate dive had left skin and clothes on the wire. They were horribly torn from head to foot by the long barbs. They were riddled with bullets, and many had heads bashed in and bayonet stabs. They lay there, with glittering eyeballs and bared black teeth. Their heads were shaven and their eyebrows were a thin line of hair.
Then the US Army did something the Spaniards had not been able to accomplish in three hundred years. It seized tactical control over the entire area of Mindanao, including the hinterlands, using combined American-Filipino teams whose exploits were almost unbelievable. Here's one example:
[Captain Elarth] was ... investigating a report of Moro organization, and he came into contact with a thousand tribesmen, armed and ready for action. ... He called for a parley with the headmen; and the Constabulary--ten men and the Captain--sat down on the summit of a hill, surrounded by the hillmen. Three Moros on the edge of the crowd began to mutter and the headmen rose from the ground and began to draw away. Then the trio of frenzied fanatics drew their weapons and rushed the Constabulary Captain. The Constabulary took refuge in a rally formation, with fixed bayonets. The leading Moro was almost upon them before Elarth could draw his pistol. "Pot-i-na" (Die now): the voice of the Moro was a scream as he hurled himself upon the Captain. At the same instant the hillmen released a shower of spears.
Elarth dropped the first two Moros with skull shots from his pistol, but there was no time to stop the third, who was armed with a spear. There was a movement behind the doomed Captain, and Sergeant Alvarez leaped forward to take the spear in his chest. Too late to save his Sergeant, Elarth blew the Moro's head away with a .45 calibre bullet. Had the long-haired hillmen supported the three Moro leaders as they charged, the entire detachment would have been wiped out with the loss of eleven rifles. But the hillmen contented themselves with showers of spears before they melted into the jungle. Left on the field were eight dead Constabulary bodies bristling with spears. Elarth, with his two surviving men, jerked the bolts from the dead men's rifles and plunged into the deep bush. All day and all night they marched, to return safely to the Constabulary post. Elarth had ably upheld that old fighting tradition of the Corps: "To be outnumbered always; to be outfought, never."
The sort of men capable of defeating the Moros were pretty rough. Take Oscar Preuss.
At 4:30 in the afternoon he began on a quart of Gordon's Gin--at midnight it was finished and Preuss was deadly sober. He was ... almost too rough for Mindanao. His career had included a term as a Sergeant in the German Lancers during the Boxer Rebellion in China. He had then crossed to East Africa as a Lieutenant of Infantry. Various South and Central American revolutions saw him in action, and he had ridden for Uncle Sam as a cavalryman.
He made few military mistakes. One of them had been the time he disarmed a Moro and neglected to search the natives' hair for a dagger. He bashed out the Mohammedan's brains when the knife flashed into view, but not before the Moro had slashed the cheek of Preuss and pierced the roof of his mouth.
They say he was called to Manila to justify his ruthless slaughter in Mindanao. A Colonel of the Board of Inquiry questioned him, "Captain Preuss, it is said that you, personally, have killed 250 Moros. What is your statement, sir, to that report?" Preuss drew himself up, and officers say his tone was placid and yet discontented: "The report is in error, Colonel; my count places the total at 265." In 1911 Preuss won a Medal of Valor at Mailog Cotta in Lanao. He was then a First Lieutenant of Constabulary, with four years' service. It was his sixth or seventh war, though Preuss was then but thirty-three.
Another officer of almost demented courage was Leonard Furlong, who the Moros feared as an almost unearthly being. Furlong actually led a unit of Christian/Moro constabulary men that would go anywhere, any time to take on anybody. One example of his exploits is given below.
Furlong arrived at Bugasan at daylight on the morning of July 9. He had but six rifles in his party. He called to the inhabitants of the house to surrender, and found, not a few Moros, but a gang of 100 armed bandits who surrounded his small force. In one of the most dramatic hand-to-hand combats of the period, Furlong personally killed six of the Moros, and extricated his men without injury to his force. He personally broke a passage through a wall of krismen as point of that compact group of soldiers who battled hand to hand with the odds ten to one against them. ... One of the most striking examples of Furlong's policing activities was his extermination of Kali Pandopatan, the Sultan of Buldung. The Kali had been playing double with the American government, and Furlong, with a dozen Constabulary, had gone to the cotta of the Kali for a conference. Once inside the cotta, he was set upon by more than 400 Moros, armed with barongs. Furlong backed his party into an angle of the walls and was in possession of the field after a terrible hour of slaughter. ...
Perhaps one of Furlong's most characteristic gestures was throwing his hat into the Moro forts he was preparing to assault and wagering that he could get to it before any of his men. It is said Furlong never lost a single one of those bets. In 1911 he was sent to Manila because his superiors feared that he was losing his mind. Furlong shot himself in his quarters.
Twenty years after the campaigns Victor Hurley sat among a group of Moros while gathering material for his book and tells this anecdote.
Twenty years after Furlong had fired his last shot, this writer stood with wrinkled and ancient Moros on the sites of some of the Cotabato battles of this Captain of Constabulary. We talked, the Moros and I, of those old days of murder and piracy and ambush, when the kris had been the law and the measure of a man. The Moros are always ready to talk of battle.
These scarred old reprobates with blackened teeth and betel-stained lips, were no exception. Our conversation that day was filled with grand names: Allan Fletcher of the Scouts, called "Papa" by Moro and Filipino and American--a grand campaigner; Lieutenant Whitney of the prodigious strength gained a shuffle of bare feet and the twitch of a turban; then we talked of a Lieutenant named Cochrun--"a brave man, si," was his accolade; a youngster's name came into the conversation--Jesse Tiffany. The Moros fought him on their cotta walls. He, too, was valiant--a nod of the turbans confirmed him with the greatest praise a Moro can bestow on a man.
But when I mentioned Furlong, a glisten came into the eyes of ancient Moros who talk of redder and grander days. They sent up the most impressive salute to Valhalla that I can ever hope to witness. I see them now as I write--a circle of genial old ruffians, almost ready themselves to mount a white horse to Paradise. Their turbans are off now and their chins at rest on their scarred and brawny chests. After twenty years, they bend a neck to the memory of Leonard Furlong--"most desperate fighting man of all."
Sixty years later, in the 1990s, an incident occurred which reminded me vividly of Hurley's story. I was sitting with a well known Muslim warlord on the island of Basilan whose improbable first name was "Pershing". I asked the warlord why his father should name him after General Blackjack Pershing, of all people, when Pershing was known to have crushed the Moros in the campaigns that Hurley described. The warlord turned to me and said, "my father wanted to name me after the greatest warrior he could think of. And that was Pershing." Some things will never change; and one of those is that even in the sight of Allah there is no respect for the craven.
From a purely historical point of view, I think some of Hurley's translations of native speech leave something to be desired. For example, I think 'Pot-I-Na' means rather something else than what he thinks, though doubtless equally pejorative. My guess is that it may be some form of "patyun" which in this context means "die". It also sounds like "you S.O.B.", in dialect, yelled from a distance. Maybe some scholar will clear it up.
How the U.S. Navy stopped the forerunners of the Islamic Suicide bombers and became American allies
Through the Isle of Jolo spread a familiar, deadly-chilling fear. On that speck in the Sulu Archipelago, southwesternmost part of the Philippines, the Moros were going juramentado again(suicide attack).
When a Moro goes juramentado, he takes a fanatic oath to kill as many Christians as he can before he is killed himself. He also frequently kills anyone else of his own faith (Mohammedan) who is handy.
Usually it is a lot of trouble to kill a juramentado. The Moros are fierce fellows whose teeth are stained black and their lips red from chewing betel nut. A juramentado has the strength of a man slashing his way, with a wicked, wavy-edged kris, to a Moro heaven filled with sloe-eyed houris. When the U.S. Army first occupied the Philippines, many a soldier was killed after emptying his .38 into a Moro who kept on coming. So the Army switched to .455, which nearly kick a man's arm off but are no respecters of frenzy.
For the past two months, juramentado murders in Sulu have averaged one every other day. In Jolo, the biggest city (pop. 6,000), Moro Aharaji went juramentado after being conscripted, chopped off the head of a Chinese baker, killed one Filipino soldier and slashed another before he was stopped by a policeman's shotgun blast. He fell dead on exactly the spot where the same policeman had killed another juramentado ten days earlier. Townspeople shivered, waited for the next attack.
The constabulary rounded up Moro outlaws who seized on the panic for raids on unprotected villages. But against the real juramentados there was nothing to do except keep trigger fingers limber. No one could say which Moro might suddenly run amuck, or where.
Nor could anyone explain the wave of fanaticism. Since going juramentado has lost some of its religious significance and is now sometimes sheer homicidal mania, it could have been just the excitement of the Moro harvest festivals. Or the out breaks might reflect Moro resentment against conscription or against the despised, diminutive, Christian Filipinos' (with whom the Moros have fought for centuries) settling and trying to govern in Moro territory.
The strange, superstition-ridden Moros are hard to control, harder to understand. The story goes that General John J. Pershing, when he commanded in Sulu, developed a workable formula. Once when the Moros went wild, Pershing asked their Sultan to stop them. The Sultan said it was impossible. Pershing had warships shell the coastal villages. When the Sultan demanded that the shelling be stopped, he was told that the Navy had gone juramentado too. After that, Pershing and the Moros got along much better.
Reference: Terror in Jolo. Time Magazine, December 1, 1941
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines, the Moros became loyal allies to the United States
In Lanao Province on the Philippine island of Mindanao this week, 10,000 fighting Moros sharpened kris, barong, campilan, tabas, spear , and other bladed weapons for a fight to the death and no mercy asked.
"We recognize that the present conflict is a great emergency where all men of character must stand together united," they informed General Douglas MacArthur. "We will disregard differences in religion between Christian, Filipino, Mohammedan or pagan. ... To all of this we have sworn on the Koran."
It was expected that many more Mohammedan Moros, each looking forward to dark-eyed harem beauties in heaven for every Christian Japanese they killed, would join as fast as they could be sworn in.
Army men recalled that it was the Moros who kept on coming when struck by .38-caliber bullets, and forced the U.S. Army to change to .45 automatics. When the time came, the Moros in Lanao Province would be of invaluable assistance.
To General MacArthur, transmitting their "message of superb fidelity to the President of the U.S.," the pledge of loyalty from onetime enemies of the U.S. was heartening news. So were two other developments:
On Bataan peninsula, rich young Andres Soriano, onetime unofficial pro-Fascist representative of General Francisco Franco in Manila, organized Filipino volunteers into a "Rizal Legion" (named for the national patriot, Jose Rizal) for jungle counter-sniping at the Japanese. "Increasingly effective" throughout other parts of the Philippines was the F.F.F. (Fight for Freedom), a secret band whose terrorizing of Japanese, as well as of native traitors and informers, recalled the dreaded KKK (Kataas-tassan Kaga-lang-galang Katipunan ng Bayan) which opposed Spanish rule.
Reference: Kris and Campilan , Time Magazine, March 9, 1942