Collecting relics of the Philippine
by Ron Norman
About 20 years ago at a gun show in Florida, I was involved in a trade with a dealer friend. We were close to making a no-cash trade, but I was just a bit short of being satisfied. Seeing this, my friend said, “I will throw in this 1902 sword to sweeten the pot.” I agreed and the deal was done. That is, until later when I looked more closely at the sword.
WHAT IS “PC?”
I really did not pay much attention to the sword until later when I started to look it over. I was completely baffled. I had never seen a sword quite like it.
It was etched “PC” on the blade. The same “PC” appeared in a wreath near the throat of the scabbard. It had a wire-wrapped grip rather than a finger grooved ebony style usually seen on the 1902 US officers models sword — which I had originally believed this sword to be.
Being curious,I thought, perhaps, “PC” referred to a college, the police corps, or a military school. So, as I usually like to do, I started researching in my library. But, I didn’t discover any clues.
I then went to the internet to ask military dealers — again, I struck out. So, I went to military and sword forums on the internet and finally found a few references and photos of my type of sword identified as a “Philippine Constabulary Sword.”
At the next gun show, I made a display stand for the sword with a brief description as to what it was to see if it might draw more information. During the show, my friend Norm Flayderman (now deceased, but then, America’s foremost military goods dealer and author) came by my tables to visit. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, I pointed out the PC sword and asked Norm how many of these swords he had owned. He looked at it and with a puzzled look on his face said, “What is it?I have never seen or owned one like it.”
After I told him what I had learned about it, Normtold me to get the information to a friend who was writing a book on US swords. Norm felt this needed to be included.
This reaction from Norm told me just how rare the sword was! It really encouraged me to do further research. In doing so, I became so interested,I started collecting material related to the Philippine Constabulary with an emphasis on the early US period of 1902-1925.
PHILIPPINE CONSTABULARY: A BRIEF BACKGROUND
During the War of 1898, the US went to war with Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. After Spain surrendered, there was a problem in settling the treaty regarding the worth of the Philippines. The US finally agreed to purchase the entire Philippines from Spain for 20 million dollars. This began the American rule and occupation of the Philippines.
In 1901, William Howard Taft became the first Governor General of the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands. The future US president established the Philippine Constabulary as the peace-keeping force in the Philippines. Due to all of the insurgent problems, he later raised the Constabulary from a police force to a combat-level force.
In the beginning, the Philippine Constabulary was primarily made up of American military officers and Philippine enlisted personnel. With the establishment of a Philippine Military Academy, however, the American military officers were phased out. Finally, in 1935, the US Insular Government was dissolved and replaced by the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
In the beginning, the enlisted soldiers and officers of the Constabulary were armed with weapons left over from the Spanish American War. Some were captured from Spain, but many of the rifles and revolvers were left behind by the U.S. National Guard units that had served during the War in 1898. The principal early Constabulary arms were US .45/70 rifles and carbines, Colt .38 military revolvers, and Remington single-shot shotguns.
Even though the War with Spain was over, it soon became apparent that the Filipinos, led by several insurgent groups, wanted the Americans out of the Philippines. This period is known as the Philippine Insurrection. Officially, it lasted2 years, but in reality, it continued on for about 8 years as the Filipinosattempted to drive the United States colonial government out of their country.
In order to fight the Philippine insurgents and especially, the Moro natives in the jungles, it became apparent that changes would be needed to improve the quality and effectiveness of the weapons provided to the Constabulary. Originally, the Constabulary personnel just had single-shot, black powder weapons. These gave away the location of the firer, making it easy for the natives to attack from the bushes with their razor sharp edged weapons — principally the kris and barong. The enlisted native soldiers of the Constabulary also carried these edged weapons and used them after their single shot rifles were expended. Because of their bravery, training and effectiveness, the Constabulary soon gained a reputation (that later became their motto: “Always outnumbered, never outfought!”).
Other than the leftovers from the 1898 War, unique Krag .30/40 rifles were made at the Manila arsenal from standard Krag rifles that were reworked with a carbine-length barrel and a full wood stock. These specially made rifles area full 8 inches shorter than a standard Krag rifle, though the end of the muzzles were turned down to accept the standard Krag bayonet. These were manufactured to be issued to the smaller stature natives who served as enlisted personnel in the Constabulary.
It has been speculated that the Philippine Constabulary Krags were dumped into the Ocean because it was cheaper than sending them back to the US. The example shown in this article (from my personal collection) has been declared as “probably the only known correct Philippine Constabulary rifle known in existence today” by several Krag experts.
There were other rifles cut down and reworked at both the Springfield and Rock Island arsenals. While these were inspected and marked by those arsenals, they were never used in the Philippines by the Constabulary. Beware! These are often offered as “Constabulary rifles” at high prices, but they were not ever used by the Philippines Constabulary.
Within a few years, the Springfield 1903 Model rifles replaced the Philippine Constabulary’s Krags. The troops carried these until the Japanese takeover during WWII. Because of the close quarters of jungle fighting, the 1897 Winchester short-barrel “riot shotgun” in 12 gauge (using 00 buckshot) was probably one of the most important weapons carried by each squadron or group.
The hand guns are an interesting story. Officers soon discovered that the old leftover Spanish revolvers or even the new issues of US .38 caliber revolvers would not stop the Native “Juramentados.” These suicidal assassins were Moro natives who were often drugged and tortured before being sent out to kill all in sight.
Because The .38 caliber lacked the stopping power, the Colt single action artillery models in .45 long Colt, were quickly dispatched and issued until the modified Model 1902 Colt .45 caliber revolver with the large trigger guard (often referred to as the “Colt Alaskan model”) and the Colt Model 1909 were supplied. These remained the primary officers’ handguns until the 1911 automatic pistol was issued.
One can only speculate as to why there was an effort to provide some unique, attractive, and distinctive equipment and accessories to the Constabulary, especially during the early period of 1902 to 1915. It is this author’s humble opinion that the impressive accouterments were used in an effort to recruit new officers from college graduates to come to the Philippines and become military officers. There were organized campaigns to reach college graduates to enlist in the Philippine Constabulary, especially in the Northwest United States Colleges .
According to an excellent article by Steven Dorsey in the Gun Report (December 1999), there were distinctive belts and holsters made for the Philippine Constabulary. It is known that there are belts with the 2-piece “PC” buckles that apparently preceded the 1910 US garrison belts. There exists a very rare Philippine Constabulary sword belt plate that resembles the “PC” in a wreath found on Constabulary swords.
As for the holsters and cartridge boxes, there were limited productions of both that featured “PC” in an oval replacing the standard US markings. Probably due to the harsh heat and moisture of the Philippines and the heavy use, there are very fewexisting examples of these leather goods.
After the first 10 years or so, the distinctive PC-marked belts, holsters, cartridge boxes, and related equipment were replaced by the ready available US equipment.
I have included photos of the long guns, pistols, edged weapons, belts, and other accessories in my collection. I encourage others to become interested in this unusual little known about period of American history.
If you have any questions or need identification, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will try to answer or refer you to someone I think can help you. — Ron Norman