March 31, 2011: Britain recently awarded one of its Gurkha soldiers
(sergeant Dipprasad Pun) the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (second only to the
Victoria Cross) for killing or chasing away over 30 Taliban who tried to
overwhelm his guard post in Helmand province, Afghanistan, last September. The
night attack was detected by sergeant Pun, who was alone in the outpost. He
grabbed all the weapons (machine-gun, assault rifle, and grenades) he could and
to the roof of his building. During a fifteen minute fight, he killed at least
three Taliban, wounded many more, and caused the others to flee. Pun's father
and grandfather had also been decorated while serving with Indian Gurkha
This Gurkha gallantry sometimes backfires. A year ago, in
Afghanistan, a Gurkha solider found himself facing court martial for doing what
Gurkha's are trained to do (beheading an enemy in combat with his khukuri). The
trouble began when the accused Gurkha's unit had been sent in pursuit of a group
of Taliban believed to contain a local Taliban leader. When the Gurkhas caught
up with the Taliban, a gun battle broke out and several of the enemy were
killed. The Gurkhas were ordered to retrieve the bodies of the dead Taliban, to
see if one of them was the wanted leader. But the Gurkhas were still under heavy
fire, and the Gurkha who reached one body realized he could not drag it away
without getting shot. Thinking fast, he cut off the dead Taliban's head and
scampered away to safety.
Gurkha Who Beheaded Taliban in Afghanistan Returned to Duty
A Gurkha solider who beheaded a Taliban gunman and
carried his head back to base in a bag has been cleared to resume his
duties. The private, from 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, was
involved in a fierce firefight with insurgents in the Babaji area of
central Helmand Province when the incident took place.
This is considered a gross insult to the Muslims of Afghanistan, who bury the entire body of their dead even if parts have to be retrieved. However, the decision taken was that the soldier was fighting for his life and did not have time to reload his weapon as his victim attacked.
It is the traditional utility knife
of the Nepalese people, but is mainly known as a symbolic weapon for
Gurkha regiments all over the world.
The Gurkhas: Special Force
The Gurkhas have fought on behalf of Britain and India
for nearly two hundred years. As brave as they are resilient,
resourceful and cunning, they have earned a reputation as devastating
fighters, and their unswerving loyalty to the Crown has always inspired
affection in the British people. There are also now up to 40,000 Gurkhas
in the million-strong army of modern India. But who are the Gurkhas? How
much of the myth that surrounds them is true? Award-winning historian
Chris Bellamy uncovers the Gurkhas' origins in the Hills of Nepal, the
extraordinary circumstances in which the British decided to recruit them
and their rapid emergence as elite troops of the East India Company, the
British Raj and the British Empire. Their special aptitude meant they
were used as the first British 'Special Forces'. Bellamy looks at the
wars the Gurkhas have fought this century, from the two world wars
through the Falklands to Iraq and Afghanistan and examines their
remarkable status now, when each year 11,000 hopefuls apply for just
over 170 places in the British Army Gurkhas. Extraordinarily compelling,
this book brings the history of the Gurkhas, and the battles they have
fought, right up to date, and explores their future.
Professor Bellamy's grasp of military theory and in particular Russian history enables him to put the "Great Game" and the 19th, 20th and 21st-century wars in Afghanistan in illuminating context. He also has an interesting chapter on Gurkhas in the post-independence Indian army, where their numbers have expanded in inverse proportion to their contraction in the British army.
Above: a group of prospective Gurkas run the doko race at Pokhara, part of the gruelling selection process
The Sovereign Order of Saint John of
Jerusalem had lost its territory and spent 7 years moving from place to
place throughout Europe until, in 1530, the Holy Roman Emperor, King
Charles V of Spain, gave the Knights the Maltese Islands and the North
African port of Tripoli as fief, under the overlordship of the Spanish
Viceroy of Sicily. The annual fee for the island was a single Maltese
"The Maltese Falcon"
Dashiell Hammet's best known creation was
Sam Spade, the tough, shifty detective of The Maltese Falcon. Based in
San Francisco, a city Hammett knew well. If a Hammett story mentioned a
pawnshop or apartment building at a certain location, it probably
existed, and possibly still does.
Born in Maryland in 1894,
Samuel Dashiell Hammett dropped out of school at fourteen. Over
the next several years he held a string of menial jobs, from which he
was usually fired.
The Maltese Falcon
The Maltese Falcon debuted in serial form
in five issues of Black Mask, between September 1929 and January 1930.
The hardback edition became available in February 1930.
On a Mississippi steamboat four men were playing poker, three of which were professional gamblers, and the fourth, a hapless traveler from Natchez. Soon, the young naïve man had lost all his money to the rigged game. Devastated, the Natchez man planned to throw himself into the river; however, an observer prevented his suicide attempt, and then joined the card game with the "sharps.”
In the middle of a high stakes hand, the stranger caught one of the professionals cheating and pulled a knife on the gambler, yelling, "Show your hand! If it contains more than five cards I shall kill you!” When he twisted the cheater’s wrist, six cards fell to the table. Immediately, the stranger took the $70,000 pot, returning $50,000 to the Natchez man and keeping $20,000 for his trouble.
Shocked, the Natchez man stuttered, "Who the devil are you, anyway?” to which the stranger responded, "I am James Bowie.”
Jim Bowie and the Bowie knife have almost become
synonymous. In the early 1800's it was common place for men to carry a
knife as a sidearm but it wasn't until 1830 that the famous Bowie knife
was made and forever carved a niche in history.
Bowie was a slave trader and land speculator who became an instant legend when he and his ferocious butcher knife emerged victorious from a fight in 1827.
Jim Bowie's Vidalia Sandbar Fight, Account in Niles Weekly
Register, November 17, 1827. Under the headline of "Terrible
Rencontre" the Register recounts an "eye witness" account of the events
that defined the legend of Jim Bowie and the knife that bears his name.
March 6, 1836
Day 13 - At 1:00 am Mexican troops (1,400 men) move towards positions. At 5:00 am Santa Anna gives signal : Mexican bugler sounds Deguello, four columns of the Mexican army advance on Alamo. Texans repulse twice the invaders with desperate, intense fighting. Heavy Mexican casualties (nearly 600 killed or wounded). Battle rages through The Alamo. 6:30 am : Last firing over. The Alamo has fallen.
In the words of General Vincente Filisola, "... by grapeshot, musketshot and the bayonet, they were all killed at last."
The Century Magazine in 1884
What exactly happened on March 6,
1836 at the Alamo?
Jim Bowie's Death Fight at the Alamo
When Bowie's mother was informed of his death, she calmly stated, "I'll wager no wounds were found in his back."
On the final day of the 13-day siege, legend claims that it was Crockett who stole into Bowie’s room and gave the sick man two pistols to be used for defense.
Various eyewitnesses to the battle gave conflicting accounts of Bowie's death.
A newspaper article claimed that a Mexican soldier saw Bowie carried from his room on his cot, alive, after the conclusion of the battle. The soldier maintained that Bowie verbally castigated a Mexican officer in fluent Spanish, and the officer ordered Bowie's tongue cut out and his still-breathing body thrown onto the funeral pyre. This account has been disputed by numerous other witnesses, and it is thought to have been invented by the reporter.
Other witnesses maintained that they saw several Mexican soldiers enter Bowie's room, bayonet him, and carry him, alive, from the room. Various other stories circulated, with some witnesses claiming that Bowie shot himself and others saying he was killed by soldiers while too weak to lift his head. Alcalde Ruiz said that Bowie was found "dead in his bed."
|Since Bowie's nurse, Madame Candelaria, never told the exact same
story twice about the sequence of events, who really knows what happened
In one instance, Madame Candelaria testified that Bowie died the day before the final onslaught. On another occasion, she claimed she received two wounds from the Mexican soldiers when she threw her body over Bowie’s to shield him during the attack. She also said that Bowie fired both his pistols, dropping Mexican soldiers in the doorway to his room, and killed another with his great knife before being overrun.
Most accounts agree that Bowie was found dead on his cot, and is probably the most accurate version. Bowie died on his cot, "back braced against the wall, and using his pistols and his famous knife."
PETRONELL-CARNUNTUM, Austria — They lived in cells
barely big enough to turn around in and
usually fought until they died. This was the lot of those at a
sensational scientific discovery unveiled Monday: The well-preserved
ruins of a gladiator school in Austria.
|"(This is) a world sensation, in the true meaning of the
word," said Lower Austrian provincial Governor Erwin Proell. The
archaeological park Carnuntum said the ruins were "unique in the world
... in their completeness and dimension."
Digging at the city site began around 1870, but only 0.5 percent of the settlement has been excavated, due to the enormity of what lies beneath and to the painstaking process of restoring what already has been unearthed.
Virtual video presentations of the former Carnuntum gladiator school showed images of the ruins underground that morphed into what the complex must have looked like in the third century. It was definitely a school of hard knocks.
"A gladiator school was a mixture of a barracks and a prison, kind of a high-security facility, The fighters were often convicted criminals, prisoners-of-war, and usually slaves." Still, there were some perks for the men who sweated and bled for what they hoped would at least be a few brief moments of glory before their demise.
At the end of a dusty and bruising day, they could pamper their
bodies in baths with hot, cold and lukewarm water. And hearty meals of
meat, grains and cereals were plentiful for the men who burned thousands
of calories in battle each day for the entertainment of others.
Formidable Moro Warriors of Mindanao
Called Moros by the Spanish because they reminded Europeans of Muslim, Moroccan Moors, the Moro tribes occupied—and still occupy—Mindanao, the second largest Philippine island. They were accomplished seafarers, to whom piracy and slavery seemed natural rights, and their small, speedy ships were remarkably elusive. Ruled by local Datus whose arbitrary decisions were law, Moro tribes were rivals who often engaged in internecine warfare. The Spaniards had never been able to pacify, much less govern, those keen warriors, not even on the much smaller islands of the Sulu Archipelago.
At the end of the 19th century, the Moros numbered about 265,000 while their Christian neighbors on Mindanao counted only 65,000. Each group had a very low opinion of the other. Spaniards and Filipino Christians saw the Moros as cruel, cunning and treacherous raiders and slavers, whereas the Moros viewed the Christians primarily as land-thieves, bullies and cowards, who were changing the Moro way of life, one they had held for centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards.
Mutual revulsion between the Islamic Moros of the southern Philippines and the Western world goes back a long way. For more than two centuries, Spain attempted unsuccessfully to subjugate the fanatical Muslim Moros, who average slightly over 5 feet in height. Spanish soldiers had been captured by the Moros, dragged into the jungle and tortured for hours on end, finally dying in utter agony over a slow fire after being emasculated. Add to that the Moro practices of polygamy, piracy and slavery.
On April 25, 1898 the United States declared war on Spain following the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898. Spain was by this time a decaying, weak empire, and no match for a vigorous, muscular American military kept in shape by killing American Indians. On May 1, 1898, U.S. ships sent from Hong Kong to the Philippines, won the Battle of Manila Bay. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. As a result Spain lost it's control over the remains of it's overseas empire; Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Spain agreed to sell the Philippines to the United States for the sum of $20 million. The Moros expected independence after America defeated Spain in 1898. The fighting largely spared Mindanao and surrounding southern islands, inhabited by Moros. Preoccupied American forces left the Moros alone until matters were settled in the north.
America’s first jungle war remains largely unknown, except in the Philippines where it began in 1900. Even those rare Americans who have heard of the U.S. jungle war against the Moros often connect it erroneously with the Philippine Insurrection. The Moro people resisted U.S. invasion of the island of Mindanao, Philippines, with such courage and bravery such as in the Battles of Bud Bagsak and Bud Dajo, that the armed resistance to U.S. occupation was extended till 1913 (though the U.S. officially declared the "Philippine Insurrection" terminated by 1902). The Moro resistance to both Spanish and U.S. colonization is often downplayed by official historical accounts.
Until the spring of 1902, the Americans were not seriously involved except by the sudden, frightening attacks of individual Amoks and Juramentado. An amok was a Moro who, for a variety of personal reasons, went berserk and tried to kill as many of the enemy as possible before meeting his own, expected death. Juramentados were perhaps even deadlier, since they were religiously motivated, swore a formal oath before the proper Muslim authority to attack anybody considered to be a foe of Islam, and always struck when and where least expected. Although certain of their own extinction, those fanatics were secure in their belief that they would be whisked to the Muslim paradise for their valorous self-sacrifice. Both Amoks and Juramentados attacked with the Malay Kriss, a wavy-edged sword, in length halfway between a long dagger and a saber and easily disguised under their clothes. In addition, they were deadly with a blowgun and poison darts, and were quite good with their muzzleloading rifles.
|Thus the Americans never knew when or where—from a jungle ambush, a
quiet street, in a marketplace—those zealots would strike. When they
did, however, such were their frenzied charges that they usually scored
devastatingly, since nearly all of them found at least one target on
their way to glorious death. A Juramentado at Zamboango, though hit in
seven different places by revolver shots, nevertheless reached an
American officer and sliced off one of his legs!
Into this slowly boiling pot, in the spring of 1902, the U.S. military command sent 40-year-old Captain John Pershing, a West Point veteran of Indian fighting in the United States. He believed that the Moros were savages who respected nothing but force. But the Mindanaos took to sniping and cutting telegraph wires. In response Pershing attacked Bayan. Every Moro settlement of any size was defended by a Cota, a fort made of bamboo and mud 75 to 100 feet square, with walls 12 to 21 inches thick. Cotas were usually surrounded by trenches 5 to 30 feet deep, in front of which the Moros often planted loosely covered sharpened stakes to further inhibit attackers. Cotas were also defended by Lantakas, small, artistically made brass cannons. At Bayan, the Americans set the pattern for all ensuing clashes with the Moros—a light artillery bombardment, which was typically both deadly and decisive, followed by a charge through what was left of the enemies’ defenses. The Sultan of Sulu warned, “Americans,” he said, “were like a match box. If you strike one they all go off!”
Pershing’s successor was Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood. General Wood thought the Moros were an excessively brave but depraved race of pirates, bandits and outlaws. They were “stupid fighters, utterly unable to stand up in the open....Their strong point was attempted ambush…though brave, they die foolishly....they should attack at night en masse where their dexterity with swords and spears would count most.” The only way to handle Moros was to be just and firm: “Every concession to them is a mistake.”
|Americans won essentially all engagements in this
11-year campaign because the Moros were incompetent insurgents,
preferring to fight from behind massive earthwork forts rather than in
the jungle, which was perfect for guerrilla warfare. The Americans never
ceased to wonder why the Moros did not take to the dense jungle where,
with their Amoks and Juramentados, they could strike far more
effectively from ambush. For their part, the Moros could not understand
why the Americans did not destroy every Cota in the area.
The American position in the Philippines was not to destroy the Moros, but intended instead to suppress piracy, eliminate the slave trade, prevent intertribal war and bring the “natives” into the modern world. But piracy, slavery and fighting were as much a part of the Moro way of life as was Islam. The Moros saw those well-meant but abrupt changes as threatening to their religion and their social fabric.
One of the bloodiest battles of the whole Moro experience occurred near Jolo City in March 1906, when the Moros there made a determined stand in the crater of an extinct volcano, Bud Dajo. In what came to be known as the “Battle of the Clouds” because it was fought largely at an elevation of 2,000 feet, the Americans launched a heavy bombardment followed by an assault over fallen trees and around huge boulders. American casualties were 21 killed and 73 wounded, against the more than 600 Moros dead, some of them women dressed as men.
Pershing left in 1903, but returned in 1909 as governor. He supported reforms but chafed at the persistent disorder. His solution was to disarm everyone. He proceeded with his usual efficiency and made great use of the native constabulary. Much bloodshed followed, but he ultimately succeeded.
June 1913, when the Moros challenged their enemies at Bud Bagsak in what would be the ultimate battle of the American experience in Moro territory. Although the 6,000 to 10,000 Moros engaged were the greatest concentration the Americans ever faced in the Philippines, the Moros lost to superior weaponry, with at least 500 killed.
|The Philippines did not gain independence until 1946, but already by the 1930s the Philippine army was battling Moro rebels, and it still is today. The Moros never accepted rule from Manila. They are better equipped to fight for a homeland of their own in Mindanao and Sulu than ever before. Powerfully armed and trained by wealthier Muslims, they clamorously demand self-rule. 300 years after the Spanish assaults and 100 years after the American efforts, the Moros are as resistant as ever. One can only marvel today at the staying power of the Moros’ ferocious dedication.|
The Malay Moros - Mindanao, Philippines . . circa 1900
The Moros, a Malay Muslim warrior elite, in 1900 numbered 300,000 persons and controlled Mindanao, the second largest of the Philippine Islands, together with a scattering of smaller islands to the south and west of Mindanao known as the Sulu Archipelago. Culturally, the Moros are Malays, mixed with the blood of negro slaves, Filipino Tribal Hillmen, Chinese, and Dyak pirates and the result is a unique and ferociously independent people. Polygamy and slaveholding were significant parts of Moro culture in 1900. All a Moro wanted was to be left alone to rob, plunder and fight. The Moro philosophy, "That he should take who has the power, and he should keep who can."
Those who denied him these
"rights" were his enemies, and the Moro knew how to deal with an enemy
in only one way. If the Americans wanted to abolish slavery let them
come and try. The Moros were prepared to fight these new invaders as
they had first fought the Spaniards nearly 400 years before. As General
Pershing wrote in 1913, while still a captain in the Philippines. . .
"The Moro is not at all over-awed or impressed by an overwhelming force.
If he takes a notion to fight, it is regardless of the number of men he
thinks are to be brought against him. You cannot bluff him!"
The Moros as Muslims believed that one who takes the life of an infidel increases his own rewards in paradise. From time to time a Moro desiring a short road to glory would bathe in a sacred stream or spring, shave off his eyebrows, and after dressing all in white would take a holy oath before the village priest to die killing infidels. Such a "Juramentado" (From the Spanish for one who has taken an oath) then hid a Kriss or Barong under his clothes and sought the nearest infidel.
The weapons and physique of
the Moros were particularly suited to the slash and hack school of
combat. Moro men were of medium height, and their physical development
was often superb. They dressed in tight pants or pantaloons, vest,
jacket, sash and small tight turban. Chain Mail and plumed helmets were
also worn widely, especially by Datus. It was common practice for
warriors to don black trousers for fighting. All males age 16 or older
went about armed constantly. The Moros made their own steel weapons,
which were often beautifully finished, and always admirably adapted to
the purpose for which they were intended. For deadly serious fighting
the Moro could carry a large, painted circular shield of lightwood or a
lance. Tactics were simple; ambush and rush. Once close enough to use
his weapons a Moro was nearly unstoppable.
The straight "Kriss" was a
narrow bladed, 2-edge sword used for cutting and thrusting. The "Serpent
Kriss" with its wavy double-edged blade was used for thrusting and
inflicting a horrible wound. The Serpent Kriss was the classic Malay
The Moro seldom succeeded to obtain firearms. Guns ranged from antique matchlocks and trade muskets to captured Remingtons, Mausers, Springfields and Krags. Ammunition was scarce. Colonial authorities severely restricted the supply and ownership of firearms by any Filipino. Gunrunning was a very serious offense.
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 tribes."
During its campaign against the Moros, the U.S. Army adopted the Colt
.45 Model 1911 semiautomatic pistol after American soldiers found that
the .38 caliber Long Colt and Smith and Wesson revolvers they
had previously used were
unable to stop the fierce Moro
Warriors of the
Southern Philippines. Eyewitness accounts describe Moros continuing to
kill American soldiers with their Barongs and Kriss after receiving
multiple rounds from the .38 pistols and .30 caliber rifles.
The 1911 .45 Auto Pistol was designed by John M. Browning
In response to problems encountered by American units fighting Moro tribesman during the Philippine-American War, the then-standard Colt M1892 revolver, was found to be unsuitable for the rigors of jungle warfare, particularly in terms of stopping power, as the Moros had very high battle morale and frequently used drugs to inhibit the sensation of pain. To prepare for battle, the Moro fighter would bind their limbs with leather, take narcotics, and use religious ritual to gain an altered state of consciousness, which turned them into almost unstoppable fighters. The Colt pistol round the U.S. soldiers used simply would not stop the Moro fanatic. The Krag rifles the U.S. soldiers carried were barely more effective.
The new weapon design process to replace the .38 started in 1906. On March 29th, 1911, the Browning designed, Colt produced, 45 Automatic Pistol, was selected as the official sidearm of the Armed Forces of the U.S.A., named Model 1911. Browning's pistols passed a test series, and it was the first firearm to undergo such a test, firing continuously 6000 cartridges. The Browning design for the US Military pistol trials was a magazine fed, gas operated, semi-automatic pistol. Browning earned the lasting reputation as “The Father of Automatic Fire.” Browning’s design genius was not limited to pistols. Among his other military inventions were the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), numerous .30 caliber and .50 caliber machine guns, etc..
It has been to war for 100 years
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."
October 24th, 2011
MANILA: The Philippines launched its first air strikes in three years against Muslim separatist
rebels in the restless south, after a series of attacks that left 35
people dead, the military said. Two OV-10 attack planes bombed a remote
village on the edge of Payao town on Mindanao island, where Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels have been entrenched since
last week, army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said. The 12,000-strong
MILF has waged a rebellion since the 1970s in Mindanao, the country's
southern third, which the minority Muslims consider their ancestral
Those attacks came just two days after 19
special forces were gunned down by MILF fighters after they strayed into
rebel territory on Basilan island, also in Mindanao. Five rubber
plantation workers and three soldiers meanwhile were killed in separate
attacks, while 200 rebels also occupied two elementary schools in remote
farming villages, stealing cattle and harassing residents.
Murad Ibrahim, Chairmen of the Southern Philippine Moro Islamic Liberation Front
Phillippine Army - Mindanao
B'laan Tribesmen Perform Traditional Moro Victory Dance