The Alamo
Gurkhas Special Force - Book Review
Jim Bowie
Knights of St. John of Jerusalem
Maltese Falcon
Moro Rebellion - 45 Auto Pistol 1911
Moro Warriors
Moro Warriors Today
One Gurkha, No Passage
Roman Gladiators

One Gurkha, No Passage

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 went 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 regiments.

For Gurkhas, this was not an unusual feat. For example, about the same time sergeant Pun was battling the Taliban in Afghanistan, in India, a retired Gurkha soldier (Bishnu Shrestha), singlehandedly killed three bandits, wounded eight and drove off another 30 when the train he was on was attacked by a large gang, who planned to rob several hundred passengers. It all began when some forty bandits, pretending to be passengers, suddenly revealed themselves, and, armed with knives, swords and pistols, stopped the train in the jungle, and proceeded to rob the passengers. When the bandits reached Shrestha, he was ready to give up his valuables, but then the 18 year old girl sitting next to him was grabbed by the robbers, who wanted to rape her. The girl, who knew Shrestha was a retired soldier, appealed to him for help. So he pulled out the large, curved khukuri knife that all Gurkha soldiers (and many Gurkha civilians) carry, and went after the bandits. In the narrow aisle of the train, a trained fighter like Shrestha had the advantage. Although some of the bandits had pistols, they were either fake (a common ploy in India), inoperable, or handled by a man who didn't want to get too close to an angry Gurkha. After about ten minutes of fighting in the train aisles, eleven bandits were dead or wounded, and the rest of them decided to drop their loot (200 cell phones, 40 laptops, lots of jewelry, and nearly $10,000 in cash) and flee. The train resumed its journey promptly, in case the bandits came back, and to get medical aid for the eight bandits who had been cut up by Shrestha (who was also wounded in one hand). Shrestha required two months of medical treatment to recover the full use of his injured hand. Shrestha was hailed as a hero, not just by the Indian public, but also by the regiment he, and his father, had retired from.

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.

When senior British commanders heard of this, they had the Gurkha arrested (and sent back to Britain for trial), and apologized to the family of the dead Taliban. The head was returned, so that the entire body (as required by Islamic law) could be buried. The British are very sensitive about further angering pro-Taliban Afghans, and go out of their way to collect all body parts of dead Taliban (especially those hit with bombs), so that the body can be buried according to Islamic law. The Taliban use accusations of Western troops disrespecting Islam as a major part of their propaganda efforts. When there are no real cases of such disrespect, which is usually the case, they make it up. British officials have said nothing about this case since, indicating that they are waiting for the fuss to go away.

As far as beheading goes, the Taliban often do that on living victims, which even horrifies Afghan warriors. But a Gurkha beheading an Afghan warrior is somehow more familiar. That's because Gurkhas have been fighting Afghans for centuries, in the service of Britain or Indian princes. Gurkhas, who tend to be Hindus, featured prominently in an Indian effort to stop Moslem armies from entering India 1,300 years ago, and then pushing the Moslems out of Kandahar (which was then an Indian border town).

Gurkhas are tribal people (of Tibetan and Mongol origin) from the mountains of Nepal, and have interacted, and intermarried, with Indians for thousands of years. Britain fought a war with the Gurkha kingdom two centuries ago, and found them such formidable opponents that they began hiring them as mercenaries, and continue to do so. India has even more Gurkha mercenaries than Britain, and Gurkhas are popular security operatives worldwide. Most Afghans are somewhat amused at the British punishing a Gurkha for simply doing what Gurkhas have been doing to Afghans for a long, long time. But the Gurkhas put their skills to use wherever they are, no matter what they are up against. Extraordinary displays of courage by Gurkhas are not unusual.

Gurkha Who Beheaded Taliban in Afghanistan Returned to Duty

October 17th, 2011

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.

The Nepalese soldier, who is in his early 20s, made the decision to remove the head in a misunderstanding over the need for evidence of the kill. His unit had been told that they were seeking a ‘high value target,’ a Taliban commander, and that they must prove they had killed the right man. The Gurkhas had intended to remove the Taliban leader’s body from the battlefield for identification purposes, but they came under heavy fire as they tried to do so. Military sources said that in the heat of battle, after running out of ammunition, the Gurkha took out his curved kukri knife and beheaded the dead insurgent. He is understood to have removed the man’s head from the area, leaving the rest of his body on the battlefield.

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.

The Kukri Knife used by the Gurkhas
can be a Weapon or a Tool

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 Kukri signifies courage and valor on the battlefield and is sometimes worn by bridegrooms during their wedding ceremony.
The Kukri’s heavy blade inflicts deep wounds, cutting muscle and bone in one stroke.
It can also be used in stealth operations to slash an enemy’s throat, killing him silently
.

The Gurkhas: Special Force
by Chris Bellamy

Book Review

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.

The Gurkhas: Special Force is thoroughly researched and clearly written. By and large it sticks to conventional military history, covering the many campaigns and battles in which Gurkhas have fought over a period of almost 200 years (and providing a number of useful maps of these).

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.

Gurkha Camp

Above: a group of prospective Gurkas run the doko race at Pokhara, part of the gruelling selection process

The Knights of St John are the worlds oldest Knighthood and the worlds third oldest Religious Order

The most important of all the military orders, both for the extent of its area and for its duration. It is said to have existed before the Crusades and is not extinct at the present time. During this long career it has not always borne the same name. Known as Hospitallers of Jerusalem until 1309, the members were called Knights of Rhodes from 1309 till 1522, and have been called Knights of Malta since 1530. The Knights of Malta are the militia of the Pope, and are sworn to total obedience by a blood oath which is taken extremely seriously and to the death. The Pope as the head of the Vatican is also the head of a foreign national power.

The Origins of the Order, which is known as the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, date back to around 1050 when the Republic of Amalfi obtained permission from Caliph Ali az-Zahir of Egypt to build a hospice in Jerusalem along with a church and convent to offer treatment and care to pilgrims of any faith or race. The hospice was built on the site of the monastery of Saint John the Baptist and was served by Benedictine brothers.

Following the First Crusade, and under the guidance of its founder, the Benedictine Monk Blessed Gerard of Ridefort, the establishment of the Hospital and its Order was approved by a Papal Bull issued by Pope Paschal II in 1113. Placed under the aegis of the Holy See, the community (now known as The Order of Saint John of Jerusalem) had the right to freely elect its superiors without any interference by other secular or religious authorities.

The Hospitalers in order to protect the pilgrims had to fight the infidels and when this gradually became of greater importance than healing, it resulted in the Order's members becoming also Soldiers of Christ. The "Knights" themselves who had military duties never exceeded six hundred in number and had to be of noble birth from both parents and bound by the monastic vows of Charity, Obedience and Poverty.
The Eight Pointed Cross, later known as the Maltese Cross was worn on the black monastic habit of the Hospitaller Brothers as a symbol of Jesus’ crucifixion. The first cross was made of white material symbolizing purity, and had long arms with slightly split ends as was common in depictions of crucifixes in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Order was governed by its Grand Master and the Council. It also minted its own money. The Order remains a Catholic organization which claims sovereignty under international law and has been granted permanent observer status at the United Nations.

                                             St. John's Co-Cathedral

                      Great Siege of Malta (1565)

Historical Perspective

In 1291, Acre, the last Christian stronghold in the Holy Land, was lost when the Egyptian army routed the Christian forces. The Knights who survived sailed to Cyprus to regroup their forces. Fast becoming entangled in the kingdom’s politics, the Order set its sights on the island of Rhodes as its new home. In 1309 they captured Rhodes after overcoming the inhabitants' heroic resistance. In 1310, Grand Master Fulkes de Villaret completed a successful two year campaign to capture the territory as well as a number of neighboring islands. Their years at Rhodes were the most brilliant of their history.

To survive the constant threats of Barbary pirates, the Egyptians and the Ottoman forces, the Order was forced to become even more of a military organization and created a powerful naval fleet. At Rhodes they established themselves as a great naval force and were a vigorous and belligerent outpost of Western Christendom. This most important change in the character of the order was a transformation of the knights into corsairs. The piracy practiced by the Muslims was the scourge of the Mediterranean and especially of Christian commerce. The Knights of Rhodes, on their side, armed cruisers not only to give chase to the pirates, but to make reprisals on the Turkish merchantmen. With increasing audacity they made descents on the coast and pillaged the richest ports of the Orient, such as Smyrna (1341) and Alexandria (1365)

In 1522, an invading armada of 400 ships under the command of Sultan Suleiman descended upon the Order in Rhodes. Against a force of 200,000 Ottomans, the Knights, under Grand Master Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, had about 7,000 men-at-arms. Six months of siege ended with the brave Knights finally surrendering. The survivors were allowed to leave Rhodes with military honors, so they retreated to Sicily in 1523.

The Order 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 falcon.

From their new base and small number of ships, the Knights were soon proving to be a thorn in the side of the Ottomans once again. It wasn’t long before Suleiman gathered another massive invasion force of about 48,000 men, including some of his elite warriors. In 1565, the Turks invaded Malta. What became known as The Great Siege of Malta resulted in one of the greatest victories in history for an undermanned and vastly outnumbered defense force. Under the inspired leadership of Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, 700 Knights, 2,000 professional soldiers and 3,000 militia drafted in from the Maltese population and a handful of servants and slaves fought valiantly for three months until victory was secured.

Also in the year 1565, following the Great Siege, it seems that the Knights vowed to turn Malta into a fortress that befitted a military Order. Because of the critical financial difficulties following Malta's Great Siege by Turks against the Knights, and to have funds to pay the several thousand laborers engaged in the building of the new city of Valletta, the Order found it expedient to strike fiduciary copper coins. The foundation stone was laid by La Valette for the city which would bear his name, and pride of place in the centre of the city was reserved for St John’s, the Church of the Order. The fleet of the Order, becoming one of the most powerful in the Mediterranean region, contributed to the ultimate destruction of the Ottoman naval power in the battle of Lepanto in 1571.

            Grand Master
  Jean Parisot De La Valette
              (1557-1568)

History of Valletta - Malta
Valletta owes its existence to the Knights of St John, who planned the city as a refuge to care for injured soldiers and pilgrims during the Crusades in the 16th century. Until the arrival of the Knights, Mount Sceberras, on which Valletta stands, lying between two natural harbours, was an arid tongue of land.

No building stood on its bare rocks except for a small watch tower, called St Elmo, to be found at its extreme end. Grand Master La Valette, the gallant hero of the Great Siege of 1565, soon realised that if the Order was to maintain its hold on Malta, it had to provide adequate defences. Therefore, he drew up a plan for a new fortified city on the Sceberras peninsula.

Pope Pius V and Philip II of Spain showed interest in the project. They both promised financial aid and the Pope lent the Knights the services of Francesco Laparelli, a military engineer, who drew up the necessary plans for the new city and its defences. Work started in earnest in March 1566 - first on the bastions and, soon after, on the more important buildings. The new city was to be called Valletta in honour of La Valette.

The Grand Master didn’t live to see its completion and he died in 1568. His successor, Pietro del Monte continued with the work at the same pace. By 1571, the Knights transferred their quarters from Vittoriosa (Birgu) to their new capital. Architect Laparelli left Malta in 1570. He was replaced by his assistant Gerolamo Cassar, who had spent some months in Rome, where he had observed the new style of buildings in the Italian city.

Cassar designed and supervised most of the early buildings, including the Sacra Infermeria, St John's Church, the Magisterial Palace and the seven Auberges, or Inns of Residence of the Knights.

By the 16th century, Valletta had grown into a sizeable city. People from all parts of the island flocked to live within its safe fortifications especially as Mdina, until then Malta's capital, lost much of its lure. In the ensuing years, the austere mannerist style of Cassar's structures gave way to the more lavish palaces and churches with graceful facades and rich sculptural motifs.

The new city, with its strong bastions and deep moats, became a bulwark of great strategic importance. Valletta’s street plan is unique and planned with its defense in mind. Based on a more or less uniform grid, some of the streets fall steeply as you get closer to the tip of the peninsula. The stairs in some of the streets do not conform to normal dimensions since they were constructed in a way so as to allow knights in heavy armor to be able to climb the steps.

Charles V Holy Roman Emperor

Crusader Knights Battle Charge

Crusader Knight

Knight of St. John of Jerusalem

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 falcon.

When in 1530 these Knights of St. John of Jerusalem were offered the Maltese Islands by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to hold in feudal tenure, they changed their name to Knights of Malta. The sole fee for Malta was a falcon to be delivered to the Emperor each All Saints Day. The Order accepted the Emperor's gift and remained on Malta for over 250 years. From here the Knights of Malta carried on a war against the Barbary Corsairs.

This bizarre bargain inspired Dashiell Hammett's novel and the classic movie of the same name.

"The Maltese Falcon"

Suleiman the Magnificent


THE MALTESE FALCON - 1941
Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett. Screen play by John Huston; directed by Mr. Huston; produced by Hal B. Wallis

Warner Bros. Pictures
Samuel Spade . . . . . Humphrey Bogart
Brigid O'Shaughnessy . . . . . Mary Astor
Joel Cairo . . . . . Peter Lorre
Kasper Gutman . . . . . Sidney Greenstreet
Detective Polhaus . . . . . Ward Bond
Wilmer Cook . . . . . Elisha Cook Jr.

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.

Who shot Miles Archer? It doesn’t really matter. The characters and dialogue in The Maltese Falcon are so vivid that thus question is ignored throughout most of the story. The novel's atmosphere is dense as a San Francisco fog, and its uncanny descriptions of locations.

With Hammett's dialogue incorporated virtually verbatim into the screenplay, Bogart in top form, and Huston allowed total directorial freedom, watching this first of the films noir is an experience to be embraced.
 

 

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.

In 1915, he responded to an intriguingly vague classified ad, and soon found himself employed as a Pinkerton detective. Around 1922 he decided to stop being a detective and start writing about them.

Appearing primarily in the pulp magazine Black Mask, Hammett's work soon became a favorite with readers. Bringing his real-life detective experience to his writing. He is today regarded as a founding father of the "hard-boiled" genre, as well as elevating detective fiction to the level of literature.
 

 

 

 

The Maltese Falcon
as it appeared on the first edition of
Dashiell Hammett's novel

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.

The Maltese Falcon is America's greatest detective novel: recognized as such when published, and critics continue to affirm its importance. It defines the American conception of the private eye, of the femme fatale, and of the hard-boiled style.

Sam Spade, was a San Francisco private detective. He didn’t work for a big agency; he also lacked a hard-and-fast ethical code. For a great deal of the story, it’s hard to tell which side he’s on.

Nevertheless, Sam Spade and company lead us on a merry chase as they bargain and scheme (and murder) to get their hands on the priceless treasure that is the Maltese Falcon.
 

Iron MIstress

It Was During the Riverboat Gambling Heydays that an Interesting Story Occurred in 1832

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
1796 - 1836

 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.

     The actual making of the Bowie knife was a progression of knife designs.   The first knife was claimed to be designed by his brother Rezin in Avoyelles Parish in Louisiana and made by a blacksmith Jesse Clift in order to protect his younger brother from some of the company he was keeping.

     This knife was referred to by many as Bowie's butcher knife and was used at the Sandbar Fight.   Another rendition of the story according to Jim's older brother John was that a blacksmith named Snowden, made a hunting knife for Jim which was used during the duel.   Either way the prototype and the legend had begun.

     In 1827 the famous duel occurred across from Natchez, Mississippi on a Mississippi River sandbar.   As a second in the duel, Bowie found himself in the middle of the ruckus armed with a butcher knife.   In the events that followed Bowie found himself badly beaten, shot and stabbed but before him laid one man cut to ribbons and another one disemboweled.

     In 1830 in Texas, Jim Bowie armed with the famous Bowie knife made by James Black, was attacked by three men hired to kill him.   The stories flourished as Bowie wielded the heavy knife against his attackers.   In the end, one man was almost beheaded, another was disemboweled and the third had his skull split open. 

     The original Bowie knife was two inches wide and a quarter inch thick with the blade being about 12 inches long.   The back of the blade had a soft metal inlaid to catch the opponent's blade during a scrape.   Razor sharp was the top edge of the clip point.   In order to protect the hand a brass quillon was in place. 

     At the Alamo, Jim Bowie had his trusted Bowie knife.   As the Alamo was overrun by the Mexican army, Jim Bowie laid on a cot in the Low Barracks with his Bowie knife and pistol at hand. Tales exist that before he was killed he took out nine of the oncoming soldiers.

Vidalia Sandbar Fight - One of the Earliest Records of Jim Bowie Using his Renowned Knife

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.

Long standing political and personal animosities led to a September 1827 duel by Samuel Wells and Thomas Maddox on a sandbar in the Mississippi River between the states of Louisiana and Mississippi. Both men brought their pistols and their seconds for the confrontation. After the requisite formalities, both men fired without anyone being hit. Another shot was fired by the men, again, without the bullets finding their mark. The duel ended without bloodshed, but the assembled onlookers, men loyal to both Wells and Maddox, drew guns on each other and shots were fired.

One of the men firing was Jim Bowie, a friend of Wells. In the ensuing violence Bowie was hit in the side and killed another man. Bowie shouted, "You have shot me, I'll kill you if I can" and lunged at his attackers. He then, "...drew a large butcher-knife and endeavored to put his threat into action." Two men set upon Bowie, one with a gun and the other with a sword cane. The newspaper account states, "Bowie stabbed Wright through the arm in two places, he then left him and went to Alfred Blanchard --- made three stabs at him, one of which struck him in the left side: he then returned to Wright, and gave him a stab in the breast, which went to his heart --- he died instantly."

James Bowie

          Davy Crockett

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
"The last one of the garrison went down under the violence of the Mexicans. Colonel Bowie, who was sick in bed at the fall of the fort, fired from his bed until his last shot was gone and he had a wall of dead about him; the Mexicans dared not approach, but shot him from a window, and, as the enemy came to his bed, nerving himself for a last effort, the dying Bowie plunged the deadly knife which bears his name to the vitals of the nearest foe, and expired. The original Bowie knife was never found.

General Castrillon took Colonel Crockett, who stood alone in an angle of the fort, the barrel of his shattered gun in his right hand, in his left his huge bowie-knife, dripping blood. There was a fearful gash across his head, and at his feet a cordon of nearly twenty foemen, dead and dying. His captor, who was brave and not cruel, took his silvery-haired prisoner to Santa Anna, who flew into a rage, and at his command a file of soldiers shot down the dauntless Crockett. Santa Anna had given the most imperative orders that no prisoners should be taken".

General Antonio López de Santa Anna

What exactly happened on March 6, 1836 at the Alamo?
In 90 bloody minutes, the battle for the dominion of the Alamo was over. Various published and unpublished accounts of the battle provided by survivors from both sides, tell of the aftermath of the fighting. Within each of these accounts there is a wealth of conflicting information.

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 that day?

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."

Unique Roman Gladiator School Unveiled in Austria

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.

The Carnuntum ruins are part of a city of 50,000 people 28 miles (45 kilometers) east of Vienna that flourished about 1,700 years ago, a major military and trade outpost linking the far-flung Roman empire's Asian boundaries to its central and northern European lands.

Mapped out by radar, the ruins of the gladiator school remain underground. Yet officials say the find rivals the famous Ludus Magnus — the largest of the gladiatorial training schools in Rome — in its structure. And they say the Austrian site is even more detailed than the well-known Roman ruin, down to the remains of a thick wooden post in the middle of the training area, a mock enemy that young, desperate gladiators hacked away at centuries ago.

"(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.

Long Brutal Days

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.

Thick walls surround 11,000 square meters (13,160 sq. yards) of the site, and the school and its adjacent buildings stretch over 2,800 square meters ((3,350 square yards).

Inside, a courtyard was ringed by living quarters and other buildings and contained a round, 19-square meter (23-square yard) training area — a small stadium overlooked by wooden seats and the terrace of the chief trainer.

The complex also contained about 40 tiny sleeping cells for the gladiators; a large bathing area; a training hall with heated floors and assorted administrative buildings. Outside the walls, radar scans show what archeologists believe was a cemetery for those killed during training.

The institute said the training area was where the men's "market value and in end effect their fate" was decided. At the same time, it gave them a small chance for survival, fame, and possibly liberty.

"If they were successful, they had a chance to advance to 'superstar' status — and maybe even achieve freedom," said Carnuntum park head Franz Humer.

Fierce and Formidable Moro Warriors of Mindanao
In the early 1900s, U.S. forces battled the Philippines' fiercely independent Islamic Moros.
This is a history of an obscure colonial war in which both sides fought bravely, suffered cruelly, often behaved horribly and accomplished little.

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.

The Spanish-American War, 1898

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.

Moro Rebellion

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.

Malay Kriss

Kriss Collection

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 Moro's only real allegiance, besides his religion, was to his "Datu" or chieftain. These Datus ruled as feudal pirate princelings from numerous fortified "Cottas" (villages) scattered throughout their island domains. The Datus in turn recognized a general advisory authority in the Sultan of Sulu. The cottas were heavily fortified, sometimes built of stone, and bristling with old Spanish cannon and brass wall-guns known as "Lantakas". From these strongholds a Datu would lead his warriors forth in raids upon his neighbors (who were in turn raiding him), or on any unwary travelers or foolish foreign interlopers. Warfare was a fact of everyday life for the Moro. He was proud, vain, and fearless. And war was more than just a mere pastime. It often had religious overtones.

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.

In close combat they usually trusted to a "Barong", a weapon somewhat like a butcher's meat cleaver with a thick back and a razor thin cutting edge. Normally only about 16-18" long, it was capable of inflicting fearful injuries. To lop off a head, arm, or leg with a barong was merely child's play. The strong and skillful warrior prided himself on being able to halve an opponent with a single blow.

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 weapon.

Finally, Moros not infrequently used a straight edged, two-handed sword known as a "Campilan." The blade was wide at the tip and narrowed steadily towards the hilt. It was used with great effect for cutting and hacking.

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.

Realizing the Moro was tougher than any opponent previously encountered, the Army requested guns with more “knocking power” to physically shock and immobilize their opponents.

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."

Philippines Launches Air Attack on Moro Rebels

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 homeland.

And while the government has been involved in peace talks with the rebel leadership since 2003 and the two sides are currently observing a ceasefire, the group targeted in the bombing was a breakaway faction.

"The bombing attacks began at 11.30 am," Cabunoc said. "About 100 heavily armed bandits are holed up in their bunkers and running trenches." There were no immediate reports of casualties, but the military said about 3,000 civilians had already fled the area last week. He said a combined contingent of 200 police and military commandos on the ground were also involved in the operation. Regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang said the gunmen targeted by the air strikes were rogue MILF rebels who were involved in kidnapping and other criminal activities. The same group of rebels was blamed for ambushes that killed four soldiers and four policemen.

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.

In the wake of the attacks, President Benigno Aquino has come under increasing pressure from restive military officers and critics to suspend its ceasefire. British ambassador Stephen Lillie called on the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front  to order its commanders to silence their guns. "I am seriously concerned by the reports of ambushes by members in different parts of Mindanao over the past week," Lillie said in a statement. "The current spate of ambushes must stop," he added. But he warned that meeting violence with violence could "likely lead to a downward spiral of killing, with untold misery and suffering for innocent civilians".

More than 30 years of fighting have claimed about 150,000 lives and stunted efforts to develop the mineral-rich southern region. A ceasefire signed in 2003 paved the way for peace talks between the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front  and the government, but the truce is often marred by violence and the talks are currently at an impasse.

Murad Ibrahim, Chairmen of the Southern Philippine Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Phillippine Army - Mindanao

B'laan Tribesmen Perform Traditional Moro Victory Dance

 


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