Jungle Patrol - Chapter 2

"The object of patrols is to capture or destroy ladrones,
to guard and police the country and the
routes of travel ..."
--Constabulary Manual

IT is the afternoon of February 24, 1902. Inspector Henry Knauber of the Philippine Constabulary is en route with two enlisted men from the town of Indan to the city of Magallanes, which is in the Province of Cavite, Philippine Islands. The Inspector is a youngster of twenty-six, a German, born in Berlin but now a citizen of the United States. With the outbreak of the Spanish American War he had enlisted as a private in the 2nd Artillery, and at the suspension of those casual hostilities he had taken a discharge in Manila, as a Sergeant of the old 32nd Infantry, United States Volunteers.

During his period of civil residence in Manila a new quasi-military organization has come into being, and Knauber has been one of the first to accept the rank of Second-Class Inspector of the newborn Philippine Constabulary.

He is riding along, this afternoon in 1902, with two soldiers at his back, en route to a new station. The Philippine jungle of this day is alive with malcontent insurrectos, religious fanatics, and unadulterated bandits. The traveler, in passing from village to village, keeps his weapons at the ready. It is a land where men live or die according to the proficiency of their arms. The way of Knauber leads along a twisting trail that is bounded by tall cogon grass and shaded by the lofty tops of the buttressed forest trees.

Knauber is thinking, possibly, that the place is admirably suited for ambush. He rides cautiously, his outmoded Remington shotgun at the alert.

A keen-eyed little brown private spurs his small native pony forward to speak to his officer. "Senor, there is a glitter in the grass."

"Ach," said Knauber, "ve haf trouble, maybe?"

The hoofs of the ponies skid in the dusty trail as the detail reins to a halt. The jungle is very silent. Too silent. For a moment they peer away across the billowing grass and into the folds of shadow that creep along the jungle edge. Then they ride on again--more slowly.

The whine of a Mauser bullet salutes them at a bend of the trail. Smoke drifts across the tasseled tops of the cogon as the shotgun in Knauber's hands blasts at a whirling shadow that rises from the grass. A wild shriek, bloodcurdling and shrill, sounds in the depths of the grass as eight insurgent soldiers of the disorganized Filipino army rush the Constabulary detail.

The horse Knauber is riding collapses with a scream. The Inspector disengages his feet from the stirrups as he falls, and dives for the safety of the bush. His two men abandon their horses and take cover with him.

The rush ends as suddenly as it began. Men again dissolve into bush. Knauber and his soldiers crouch there in the grass in a silence that presses against their imaginations. The cogon is shoulder-high about them, and they experience an elemental moment as they visualize grim little brown stalkers squirming in their direction. They wait. There is nothing else to do.

Then the Mauser rifles begin to speak again, the smokeless powder shielding the position of the unseen riflemen. Bullets begin to clip the tufts as the insurgents seek their quarry. The police detail takes the rifle fire in silence, scan ning the green aisles with pounding hearts as they prepare for the inevitable rush that will bring men hand to hand.

It comes. With a screech, the attackers hurl themselves through the matted grass roots; keen blades are swishing as they chant the dreadful, monotonous cry of the Filipino fighting man. The three Constabulary soldiers rise to meet the rush of eight bolomen who are commanded by one "Capitan" Julian Ramos. There is a blur of sound and movement as men face the greatest adventure of all.

Teeth and shotgun butt and bolo edge and bare hands come into play that day, and when fifteen frenzied minutes have passed the jungle becomes silent again but for the clatter of the indignant monkeys and the protests of the noisy parrots.

For thirty-five years they have remembered what Knauber said that day as he mopped his brow and surveyed the job with a pardonable pride. "Gott!" said Knauber, beaming at a private. "It was most uncomfortable, yes?" And then he rode on again to Magallanes with his two men!

Incredibly, he had emerged from that jungle dogfight alive--his two men at his back. At Magallanes, he made a modest report:

"Near the barrio of Caititinga my detachment was rushed by eight men under the leadership of Captain Julian Ramos. We killed eight, captured two Mauser rifles, one Remington rifle, one revolver, bolos and one trumpet. Constabulary casualties, one horse killed."

This engagement was representative of the thousands of hand-to-hand combats that resulted in the pacification of the Philippines. It was unusual only in that it resulted in the first awards of the Constabulary Medal of Valor. For this action, Second-Class Inspector Henry Knauber and Privates Manuel Gonzales and Luis Perez were given the highest award the Philippine Insular government could offer. They thus became the first wearers of that ribbon whose color is crimson, with thirteen white stars woven into the field. By General Order number 8, dated February 27, 1902, they were so honored.

The Philippine Constabulary, at the time, was six months old. A great part of this half-year of its existence had been taken up with organization details and with recruiting and examinations; but in that short interval, six men of the new Insular Police force had found opportunity to die for the peace of the Philippine Islands.

The history of the American occupation and conquest of the Philippines is, in large measure, the history of the Philippine Constabulary; for it was this force of native infantry that applied the finishing touches of civilization to a jungle land that had known no law. No word picture could approximate the chill drama that was the daily portion of these jungle police of Uncle Sam as they went about the business of applying that civilization.

The Constabulary fought sometimes in collaboration with the troops of the United States Army; again, it fought as isolated patrols in the bush, cut off from all human contact and from all source of supply. And sometimes, it is sorrowful to relate, it fought with neither the support nor the cooperation of the armed force of the United States regular army.

At organization, the Constabulary was an unwanted, orphan child. Its birth was a military necessity, and its actual formation was undertaken only after prolonged and acrimonious debate. In the early days of its existence the loyalty of the Constabulary was questioned, and there was great protest in American military circles against this arming of natives.

It was argued, and rightly, that there were already too many rifles in the jungle!

It was said that the Constabulary would be a focal point for organized resistance against the Government; it was said that it would be impossible to discipline natives into a smooth, efficient corps; and it was said that the Filipinos would desert with their rifles at the first opportunity. It was believed, too, that the force could never be more than an ineffectual policing aid to the regulars. Regardless of these uneasy protests, the Constabulary was a political necessity and it was organized and carried through to existence in the face of all dissension.

It was intended, from the first, that the Constabulary should inherit the dirty work.

There was a very valid reason for the opposition of the regular army to the creation of this force of native infantry. The experiences of the army with Filipinos had not been pleasant ones in 1901. Conversation in the army messes was centered upon men who had been buried to the necks in ant hills. The army did not agree with the perspiring and benevolent Mr. Taft, who spoke so fondly, if vaguely, of the "little brown brothers." The army had a song to disclaim all relationship with the Filipinos:

"I'm only a common soldier man in the blasted Philippines,
They say I've got brown brothers here but I don't know what
     it means,
I like the word fraternity, but still I draw the line--
He may be a brother to William Howard Taft, but he ain't
     no brother of mine."

The military objection to the arming of native police was well supported by the War Department reports that contained chill tales of ambush and treachery and jungle intrigue.

The army forecasts of disaster were not realized. Not only did the Constabulary prove loyal to the government, but its record of lost arms, desertions, and renegades was to compare favorably with the record of the army. There were Constabulary renegades, but many of the prime trouble-makers came, not from the files of the Constabulary, but from the ranks of Scouts, Volunteers, and regular army.

In the field, the Insular Police demonstrated a principle that was old and well understood by the British administrators of Colonial India--that native troops, thoroughly understanding the terrain and the psychology of the population, were more effective than white soldiers in the conduct of jungle warfare. It is a common-sense principle.

It is a matter of record that the morale of the Army of the United States in the Philippines had reached a low ebb in the year 1901. In massed movements against the organized Filipino army it had been most effective. As jungle patrolmen, the effectiveness of the army was not so apparent. In 1901, the official insurrection was finished, but there remained the onerous duty of hunting out phantom bands of armed irreconcilables who had refused to accept American authority. Nor was this a period of brigandage or banditry. It was an era of unofficial, insurgent warfare, with uniformed detachments of Filipino troops engaged in guerrilla operations.

These ghost detachments vanished too easily into the screening bush when the regulars took the field.

The ponderous troop movements of the army resulted in severe setbacks in 1901. The regulars were unable to adapt themselves to service in small detachments and to the carrying of their homes on their backs on extended jungle patrol. They were not too successful in their efforts to live on the bounty of the bush. The army needs commissaries and ammunition trains and hospital corps; things that were lacking in the Philippine bush.

The operations had been disastrous, not only in cost of lives but in damage to military prestige. The massacre of an army patrol would encourage to life a dozen new revolutionary movements. Even in those early days, the Filipinos were formulating their policy of "Better Hell under native rule than Heaven under the Americanos." The hatred for America was expressed then with bolo blades rather than with independence missions. That was the difference.

The army had incidents of jungle warfare to remember. . . .

There was the story of an American patrol party in the bush of Luzon. They had been somewhat inexperienced in the not gentle art of bosque warfare, and had speedily lost all sense of direction in the clinging bush.

A scouting party of three men was detached and sent ahead to find the trails, if any. They did not return, and the rest of the force straggled on to emerge, after a severe interval, to safety. But they did not forget those three scouts, and patrols went out again to search that tangled bush that had engulfed them.

Days later, they came to an abandoned campfire that had been an outpost of the Filipinos. There they found their lost men. The terrified old woman they rounded up said that the Filipino officers had sat on the porch to laugh at the frenzied antics of three men, buried to the waist, who had sought to fight off the millions of swarming ants.

It was a bad story; it left a taste in the mouths of volunteer and regular alike. And it broke the rules.

Another tale concerned an early army experience in the Mohammedan country to the south. There the army had been building a road through the jungle, and a young Sergeant had taken his duties too seriously as a foreman of the road gang. One day he indicated a shovel to a proud Datu of the Mohammedans who was standing there, erect and aloof. The Mohammedan chief ignored the suggestion that he soil his hands with manual labor. The Sergeant lashed out with his boot.

A flicker appeared in that impassive Mohammedan's face. His hand tightened on his kris, and for an instant fire lighted the fierce eyes. An ancient American packer, junglewise and illiterate sauntered by to witness the scene. His great beard was stained with ill-directed tobacco juice and he was an object for laughter to the spick-and-span regulars. But he offered a note of excellent advice to the too earnest Sergeant. "Kill 'em after you kick 'em," he advised casually, "or they'll git you, Son, sure as Ol' Billy Hell."

The Sergeant grinned as the old-timer spat against the wind and sauntered on. The next morning, the Sergeant was still grinning as he lay beside the road. His head had been carelessly kicked away from his torso.

Sometimes it seemed that even the jungle itself conspired against these raw young troopers of the regular army who knew so little of the bush land. The messes had a story of a recruit. . . .

The boy had been nineteen. Life had been an adventure, to be lived every day, while one was yet nineteen. His father's grocery store in Tennessee had been a stodgy place; pudgy drummers leaning over a cigar counter to tell risque stories about farmer's daughters.

So the boy had gotten away from it all; had come to the Philippines . . . army man now, at nineteen.

They put him on sentry post in the graveyard watch--four o'clock until dawn. He must have felt the romance of his job as he gripped his Krag and stepped out along the shadow-darkened path beneath the curling tree-limbs.

They came for the boy at dawn--the guard relief--and he was gone. His hat and rifle were there on the ground near his deserted post, and the soldiers walked along that line that separated them from jungle until they found the sentryman who had been nineteen.

Python. . . .

Turn back, if you will, to the morning of September 28, 1901. Company C of the 9th Regular Infantry is on station at Balangiga on the south coast of Samar Island. Their barracks are fringed with a wall of frowning jungle, and that jungle is alight with the silent flames of rebellion. These boys, from North Carolina or Montana or Maine, know too little about that reaching bosque; and far too little about the strange, wild people who inhabit it.

Looking back to that station, from the advantageous hindsight of thirty-five years, we know, now, that they were careless. Company C of the 9th Infantry was newly arrived from China . . . and China is so different a country from the jungle of the Philippines. These cocky, confident regular troopers underestimated the resourceful, savage killers who frequented the bush of Samar Island.

In the barracks, a song is in process; one of the many songs that make up the undertones for all of the campaigns of America:

"Underneath the starry flag,
Civilize 'em with a Krag,
And return us to our own beloved homes."

Soon they are to die--because of these same Krag rifles.

In the supply room a Sergeant is making an early morning check of equipment. It is 6:45 the sun barely over the rim of the jungle. Mess call blows and the troopers pour into the company street. They are superbly confident in the possession of their repeating Krags--even in the face of that sunlit but somber jungle. They line up with their mess kits, buoyed by the safety of numbers.

There comes a wild clamor of the church bells in the little town; an unwarranted and unauthorized clamor and it causes the troopers to spring for their arms. A bugle blares --shrill against the clamor of the bells. The soldiers mill about in the company street, the voices of the officers hoarse above the din. Balangiga has changed suddenly from a peaceful little tropic barrio to a place of grim and chill menace. But even then the milling troopers feel that there is a mistake--the "niggers" would never rush a whole company of regular infantry in barracks!

Then comes the thud of steel blade on living flesh as the sentries gurgle their lives away. The Krags have no time to rattle before Company C is rushed, front and rear, by 450 natives who burst from the deadly concealing bush.

The regulars had not a chance for life. Careless in their fancied security, many were unable to reach their rifles. The men fought almost barehanded; one of the soldiers killed several of the attackers with a baseball bat before he was overwhelmed. The cook falls across his fire--bleeding his life away over the popping coals.

It is all over too soon. Captain Thomas W. Connell goes down beneath the swishing blades, his officers about him. Sergeants take command, to fall in turn. . . .

The next day Captain Bookmiller enters the silent town. The hacked limbs and shattered torsos of men greet his horrified eyes. Grimacing heads stare from the corridors--:heads without bodies. The attacking force is gone--with them, 100 Krag rifles and 25,000 rounds of ammunition. Bookmiller buries the dead: forty-eight mutilated bodies. He burns the town and retires.

The next day there stagger into Basey twenty-four men, eleven of them wounded. They are all that remain of Company C of the 9th United States Infantry.

For many years, the army will "remember Balangiga."

Less than a month later, on October 16, Company E of the same regiment comes under attack on the Gandara River in Samar. Here, at Camp Denver, the troops are also aligned at breakfast when they are assaulted by 100 armed fanatics. With white baggy trousers blowing in the wind, and bolo blades glistening under applications of coconut oil, the attackers all but overwhelm the American infantrymen. Only the rapid magazine fire of the Krags saves the company from annihilation. Here the attacking force numbers but one hundred, to make the odds more nearly equal. Twelve minutes of battle and the natives withdraw, having accomplished the killing of eleven American troopers and the wounding of six.

We have an almost forgotten historical incident to remind us of the slaughter at Balangiga, an incident that has survived only in the memories of field officers of the early 1900s. It is to be found in no official order of the army of the United States but it concerns an official reply of Colonel Hughes of the 9th Infantry.

To this Colonel, General Adna Chaffee wrote, following the massacre at Balangiga. In substance he said, "It comes to my attention that Company C of the 9th Infantry was very poorly equipped in the soldierly essentials of discipline, training, organization, and morale. Your statement is awaited."

To which Colonel Hughes of the 9th Infantry replied, "It may be true, General Chaffee, that Company C of the 9th Infantry, was lax in discipline, training, and morale. I would not be qualified to comment upon the subject as the Company has been under my command for but two weeks. During its previous China service, it was under the direct command of General Adna R. Chaffee, Commanding the Philippine Division!''

To which, it was stated, General Chaffee had no ready reply.

In Manila this General Adna R. Chaffee, commanding the Philippine Division, prepares a reluctant report. Before him is the miserable news of the slaughter at Balangiga. His orders are conveyed to all commands:

"We have lost one hundred rifles and 25,000 rounds of ammunition at Balangiga, You must get them back. You can have $5,000 gold. Capture arms if you can, buy them if you must; whatever course you adopt, get them back."

And then the General turns to his annual report to Washington, D. C. Quite unsteadily he writes, "I fear that our soldiers, transplanted to a strange sphere of action, do not fully appreciate or realize the difference in their surroundings."

Colonel Charles R. Greenleaf, Assistant Surgeon-General of the Army, adds a line to the report that is for the perusal of the President of the United States. "The most energetic and stalwart American," he writes, "after a year of service here loses energy, strength, and ambition. He performs what duty his work demands more or less half-heartedly."

Even as these reports were being penned, the Constabulary was in organization to fill a pressing need; moving up, as it were, to take over the dirty work of the jungle patrols.

There is a permanence about the jungle. . . .

If it is to be conquered, it must be by men who know its recesses and all of its moods; by men who are as keen as Apaches in reading the position of a careless vine in the trail that marks a spear-trap; by soldiers who know its edible roots and which of its fruits are poisonous. To force the back country with any slight measure of safety requires a knowledge of the native languages and, most of all, the acquisition of the native psychology. To survive, one has to think in the manner of a hillman.

The army could not do these things. They relied upon man-power and superior armament to carry them through. Sometimes it did carry them through--too often it failed. Never could their arms or equipment compete with native jungle cunning in that tangled bosque. It was a job for men who specialized in jungle.

Then, too, the army comes and goes: a hitch, as they call it--two years, possibly three years; then they are gone, to be replaced by new troops to whom all is unfamiliar.

To the army soldier, the job is a hitch; the Constabulary patrolman measured his term of service in decades. He conquered the jungle as much by familiarity as by force of arms. Some of the best of the Insular Police grew old in the shadow of the equator.

The Philippine Constabulary took from the army the tiresome and thankless detail of policing the Islands, and they pacified the jungle by armed infiltration. In so doing, they accomplished that desirable result for which the army was hopelessly unsuited and for which the Constabulary was born.

The Insular Police fought under conditions, and against odds, that make even the efforts of the Texas Rangers seem ordinary police work. Nor was the Constabulary, at any time in its existence, a strong force in numbers, equipment, or armament. Their opponents were for the most part armed fanatics who fought, not to preserve life or an ideal, but for the sheer love of dying. By no reach of the imagination could the casual road agents of the West or the Mexican cattle thieves of the border be compared to the fierce pulajans who screeched from the Samar jungle, on a mission of torture and raid. The outlaws of the West did not ambush; they fought with six-guns, in front of a saloon bar, and the best man won. And usually they fought an individual combat, one man against one man.

The pulajans will be discussed fully in a later chapter. They were hillmen of the Philippine inner country. They wore shirts of red, marked with white crosses, and they were religious maniacs with the ferocity of a panther and the cruel cunning of a wild boar. They retained a numerical superiority over the Constabulary patrols they engaged. They struck without warning, and they maintained strongholds deep in the jungled mountains. The trails to their citadels were trapped with poisoned spears, poised for release at the jungle edge. Every innocent vine across the path might be a trigger of death. Every carefully placed sliver of bamboo was a threat of septic poisoning.

Every refinement of ferocity was embodied in the tactics of the pulajans. One of their standard methods of attack was for single individuals to lie in wait in the long grass beside the jungle trails. As a patrol came, the pulajan would lie silently until the last man had passed. Then with the silent speed of a leopard, the pulajan would rise, a dagger in each hand, leap into the trail behind the soldier, and embrace him around the middle. Sinking the daggers into the victim's stomach, the pulajan would rip backward with each hand, disemboweling the soldier before the attack had registered in the minds of the patrol.

The subjugation of the pulajans is one of the most grim notes in the records of American colonial history. It is a record of cat-footed night attacks, with soldiers on terrible sentry duty, bleeding lives away through throats cut ear to ear. It is a story of waving fields of cogon grass, where death waited patiently for a patrol. It is an epic of guerrilla warfare with no quarter for the vanquished and small hope for the wounded who lay in that festering bush.

The little brown soldiers who made up the enlisted personnel of the Constabulary, took their oaths of allegiance to Uncle Sam with great seriousness. Private of Constabulary corps, or pulajan of the mountain tribes, there can be no question of the fitness of the Malay for martial work. In this breed is to be included the Moro, who is a Mohammedan of the southern islands. All of the tribes are practically immune to fear, and each is possessed with a resistance to disease, exposure, hardship, and exhaustion that can at times be a marvel to a white man. Under the direction of the capable white officers of the period of conquest, these natives were wildcats in khaki, and they pursued their erring country men with the zeal of a hunting cheetah.

When the jungle closed behind a Constabulary patrol, pushing a point deep into the country of pulajan or Moro, issues became strictly man-to-man. There was no supporting force in reserve, no commissary to feed starving soldiers, and no hospital train to gather up the wrecked from war.

When the Constabulary came to preserve the law of the white man in Mindanao and Sulu, it was in a region that had obeyed only the Koran and the whims of man. The record of the dark and ghastly years of the Mohammedan patrol duty was the epilogue the Constabulary wrote to the pulajan wars of Leyte and Samar.

And in the Moro campaigns too, the Constabulary came through with honor.

With reams of paper devoted to the activities of the French Foreign Legion, the Texas Rangers, the International Column of Spain, and the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, it is amazing that the jungle purge of the Philippine Constabulary has missed the attention of the writers of the battle memoirs of our nation. It was the Foreign Legion of America! Officered by Americans, Englishmen, Germans, Spaniards, and a few Filipinos, the red epaulets of the corps took on an international significance.

The Foreign Legion of America they truly were, and at the same time the agent of the American civil government in the Philippine Islands.

The Constabulary was the victim of a vicious political condition. It had been the policy of the American colonial administration of those days to minimize the disturbances in the Philippines and to withhold from circulation in the United States any knowledge of the considerable native rebellion against American authority.

Official communications to the American people were couched, in 1900, in terms of depreciation of the insurgent activity. "The Philippines are peaceful and American intervention is everywhere welcomed." That had been the tenor of the notes prepared for the people of the United States. With this background of political misinformation, it became impossible to order out the regular troops of the army to put down active insurrection and murder and arson. The very presence of the regulars in the field would have been tacit admission to the American public that all was not well in the Philippines. And so to bring a restless public into line, the army was ordered to barracks too soon. From those barracks, they watched the smoke of burned villages and saw the flight of a demoralized civil population before the raids of pulajans and Moros.

It was to fill this breach that the Insular Police came originally into being, the object being to preserve public order without the presence of official troops in the field. The Constabulary was intended to be, not a military body, but a policing unit: their duties--to put down armed disturbances that should have been put down by the army. The country was not pacified, and there was no valid justification for civil government in 1901; nor was there the slightest chance of this government succeeding except under the pressure of some armed force. The Constabulary was thus a sub rosa body of unofficial American soldiery, created to quell, with discretion and without publicity, a very serious public disorder. As the Filipino resistance was denied official confirmation by the Philippine civil government, the Constabulary, was undertaking a grim, unpublicized warfare.

This police force came into being under the name "Insular Constabulary," and the corps was greeted with amusement and a great disdain by the professional soldiers of the regular army. And possibly with reason, for they must have been a nondescript group in those days. Their uniforms were ragged, their training was nil, and their armament was obsolete. It was with exceedingly poor equipment and with small organization that the force was born to its work.

The Constabulary was handicapped, too, by its very corps name. The "I. C." of its collar ornaments was a source of great laughter; for the term "I.C.," in army parlance, means "Inspected and Condemned." So it was as the "condemned corps, without inspection" that the Constabulary took the field. The name remained until the administration mercifully changed their rating to Philippine Constabulary, and replaced the offending collar ornaments with the initials "P.C."

They were organized without regiments, it being the intention to use them exclusively in small units of companies, platoons, and squads. Such was the organization that they retained to the end. Always they were split into small, mobile detachments, capable of living off the country and able to persist on detached duty without benefit of supporting columns or ammunition trains.

The Constabulary soldier carried his home on his back. The scene of his warfare was a dripping bush,--a jungle that fed him, starved him, concealed him, ambushed him--and quite often buried him.

In its entire history, there is no record of mass movement of troops. Occasionally companies combined when the odds became too great, and sometimes there was collaboration in the mechanics of forming the great circular cordons. But mostly their work was company against Moro cotta; platoon against pulajan; squad against juramentado Moros.

The manner of their fighting has gone forever now, with the birth of the machine gun, the grenade, and the poison-gas shell. Fighting policemen they were, who developed into the most efficient of jungle warriors. Possibly there are few bodies of jungle soldiers who have attained their state of efficiency in the whole long history of colonial development.

The investigator who seeks their written reports reads them casually at first; then blinks his eyes to read again--carefully. Incredibles in print, might be his first verdict as he surveys their combat years. Their story is an almost unbelievable one of fortitude in the face of danger and warfare against terrific odds. Their battles were fought with every physical and topographical advantage favoring their enemy. Their patrols operated miles from any base, in the center of hostile country. In garrison, they were under constant attack and they suffered from a shortage of munitions and supplies. They were the police of the richest nation in the world, but they were woefully unequipped. The deaths of many gallant young Americans in the Philippine bush is an indictment of the laxity and inefficiency of an inexperienced colonial government.

The Constabulary was restrained in battle. For, in their capacity as a police unit, and not as a military organization, it became their duty to hold their fire and to maintain their position by diplomacy if possible. The first shot went to the adversary.

When one considers the terrain over which the Constabulary operated, the martial calibre of the men who opposed them, and the magnitude of their jungle beat, the disciplinary campaigns of the corps seems almost miraculous. With regularity, young Constabulary officers penetrated that wall of bush with a pitifully few riflemen at their backs, to reach deep into savage country and to engage vastly superior numbers. Sometimes they were cut to pieces; sometimes they came out again, with a double victory over mankind and the jungle. The marvel is that one of them lived to see the coast line again.

In reading of the campaigns of men like Crockett, Furlong, Tiffany, and others of the personnel who are told of in this volume, one is led to the belief that the Philippine jungle produced the last of the true fighting men who scorned all odds. Certain it is that these men were of a breed that we shall see no more. They belonged to the personal combat era.

Civilization and improved methods of slaughtering men have extinguished the swordsman and the lancer as effectively as it has removed the pikeman and the halberdier and the glittering cavalryman of the heroic days. Almost included in that category is the pistolman, who has been submerged in the long-range tactics of today. Only the rifleman remains to remind us of the time when a man fought as an individual.

And so the battles of the Constabulary are stories of squads and platoons--and often of single men who stood in the glare of the bright face of danger. It is a record of men deep in a jungle, surviving by the accuracy of each man of the detail. In that swirl of stark ferocity, every bush was a threat of death; every clump of grass might conceal a krisman. The music of the spear in flight and the puff of the blowgun mingled with the roar of the shotguns and the clatter of the bolo blades.

The story can never be fully chronicled. It must remain unwritten American history. It was unclean, septic warfare, with no quarter. It was a jungle, alight with the sputter of burning bamboo, with villagers and small children and women roasted alike in the embers of shattered towns. One turns the pages blindly, reading these records of men sent into the jungle to kill and be killed. Of men who were learning the synonyms for the most grim of all words.

Stealthy sorties through the high cogon grass; the skewering of men like beetles on the hafts of long-handled spears; the murderous flick of a crimson blade, severing a man from neck to crotch; the scream of the amuck and of the juramentado Moro, weaving a twisting trail of death through the Constabulary encampments. Fallen tents a shroud for soldiers decapitated by the swish of barong and campilane; long jungle nights--terror-haunted--with every rustle in the grass a summons to the God of Battles. Kipling's

"Things jumping up in the grass,
To scurry away as you pass ..."

War in the rice paddies, with men to their waists in the swamp mud; war without a front, and battle without that comfortable solidarity of massed troop movements.

The jungle troopers were a loose organization, with no generals ordering tricky flank movements. The Insular Police had no supporting barrages to protect them from the rush of wiry, maniacal natives. It was individual accuracy in the detail that counted. In the Constabulary, the men who shot truly, lived. The soldier whose aim faltered, went down on the blade of a bolo.

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Original publication © 1938 E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.

Filipiniana Reprint Series © 1985 Cacho Hermanos, Inc.

This publication (HTML format & original artwork) © 2001 Bakbakan International.

Transcription courtesy of Ashley Bass.