Maintaining Order: Belts of the Philippines Constabulary - Military Trader/Vehicles

Maintaining Order: Belts of the Philippines Constabulary

When future U.S. President William Taft established the Philippine Constabulary in 1901, he set forth an organization that would be regarded as an elite prestigious organization to maintain law and order in the Philippine Islands. From its onset, the Constabulary members wore a variety of unique uniforms and accouterments,
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 When future U.S. President William Taft established the Philippine Constabulary in 1901, he set forth an organization that would be regarded as an elite prestigious organization to maintain law and order in the Philippine Islands. From its onset, the Constabulary members wore a variety of unique uniforms and accouterments, some of which are visible in this photo of Owen A. Tomlinson and members of the 4th Mountain (Ifugao) Company, Philippine Constabulary. Owen A. Tomlinson papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

When future U.S. President William Taft established the Philippine Constabulary in 1901, he set forth an organization that would be regarded as an elite prestigious organization to maintain law and order in the Philippine Islands. From its onset, the Constabulary members wore a variety of unique uniforms and accouterments, some of which are visible in this photo of Owen A. Tomlinson and members of the 4th Mountain (Ifugao) Company, Philippine Constabulary. Owen A. Tomlinson papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

by Ron Norman

There were many factors that caused the United States to enter into what would become known as the “Spanish American War” in 1898. Many cite the so-called “yellow journalism” of the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. They tried to outdo each other with their sensational reporting of the problems that the Cubans were having with Spain and the mysterious explosion and sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. All of these were cited as reasons for the United States to enter into war with Spain.

Ultimately, the United States entered into a war that would find troops deployed to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines — though the conflict lasted only a few months.

When Spain surrendered, both sides met in Paris, France to agree to a treaty. An agreement was finally reached in December 1898. Negotiations concluded with the United States agreeing to pay Spain $20 million for the Islands of the Philippines.

And so, the US Government became the owner of the Philippines. The United States annexed the island, and under President McKinley, set up a provisional government. William Howard Taft (later, a U.S. president) became the first Governor General of the Philippines.

THE PHILIPPINE CONSTABULARY

For whatever reason, Taft wanted a Constabulary to implement the laws, rules, and regulations of the new government of the U.S. Philippines rather than a police force or the Army. He established the Philippine Constabulary to do this in addition to dealing with the many problems with pirates, outlaws, and native tribes in the country’s many islands.

With the new government, immediate problems emerged, especially with the Filipinos who wanted Spain out of their county. They also wanted the U.S. to get out. In a short period of time, they went to war with the U.S. in an attempt to end the occupation. Whereas the “Philippine Insurrection” was officially declared over in 1902,in reality, it continued for almost another 10 years.

 THE PHILIPPINE CONSTABULARY, 1901-1991The Philippine Constabulary (PC) was established on August 18, 1901, under the general supervision of the civil Governor-General of the Philippines, by the authority of Act. No. 175 of the Second Philippine Commission, for the purpose of maintaining peace, law, and order in the various provinces of the Philippine Islands. By the end of 1901, a total of 180 officers had been commissioned.A school for the constabulary was established on February 17, 1905, at the Santa Lucia barracks in Intramuros. In 1908, the school was transferred to Baguio. In 1916 the school was renamed Academy for Officers of the Philippine Constabulary. Ten years later, in 1926, the school was renamed the Philippine Constabulary Academy.Under the National Defense Act of 1935, the PC became the backbone of the Philippine Army, later re-established after World War II and was known as both the Philippine Constabulary and as the Military Police Command. It consisted of soldiers trained in military police duties with nationwide jurisdiction. The insular police duties, formally reposed in the PC, was discharged by a “State Police” created by Commonwealth Act No. 88 dated October 26, 1936.Turning over the former Constabulary duties to a State Police proved to be short-lived and unsuccessful. The Constabulary was revived as a military police force on June 23, 1938, by Commonwealth Act No. 343. The State Police was abolished and the PC was reconstituted into a separate organization, distinct and divorced from the Philippine Army.The PC once again existed as an independent force retaining all duties in maintaining peace and order and protection of life and property. The PC was merged with the Integrated National Police in 1991.

THE PHILIPPINE CONSTABULARY, 1901-1991The Philippine Constabulary (PC) was established on August 18, 1901, under the general supervision of the civil Governor-General of the Philippines, by the authority of Act. No. 175 of the Second Philippine Commission, for the purpose of maintaining peace, law, and order in the various provinces of the Philippine Islands. By the end of 1901, a total of 180 officers had been commissioned.A school for the constabulary was established on February 17, 1905, at the Santa Lucia barracks in Intramuros. In 1908, the school was transferred to Baguio. In 1916 the school was renamed Academy for Officers of the Philippine Constabulary. Ten years later, in 1926, the school was renamed the Philippine Constabulary Academy.Under the National Defense Act of 1935, the PC became the backbone of the Philippine Army, later re-established after World War II and was known as both the Philippine Constabulary and as the Military Police Command. It consisted of soldiers trained in military police duties with nationwide jurisdiction. The insular police duties, formally reposed in the PC, was discharged by a “State Police” created by Commonwealth Act No. 88 dated October 26, 1936.Turning over the former Constabulary duties to a State Police proved to be short-lived and unsuccessful. The Constabulary was revived as a military police force on June 23, 1938, by Commonwealth Act No. 343. The State Police was abolished and the PC was reconstituted into a separate organization, distinct and divorced from the Philippine Army.The PC once again existed as an independent force retaining all duties in maintaining peace and order and protection of life and property. The PC was merged with the Integrated National Police in 1991.

The principal officers of the Philippine Constabulary were Americans who had come to the Philippines during the Spanish American War with state or federal troops. The enlisted personnel were primarily natives.

In the attempt to continue the flow of American officers into the Constabulary, programs emerged to encourage American college graduates to come to the Philippines to become commissioned officers in the Constabulary. As part of the efforts to induce Americans to join ranks, the Constabulary adopted elaborate and distinctive uniforms and accouterments.

BELTS UNIQUE TO THE CONSTABULARY

 (TO TO BOTTOM) Shown together, the distinct differences of the Types 1, 2, and 3 belt buckles are obvious.

(TO TO BOTTOM) Shown together, the distinct differences of the Types 1, 2, and 3 belt buckles are obvious.

Among the first known Constabulary orders with Hartley Graham in New York for 5,000 Remington 12 Ga, single-shot shotguns was a contract for 5,000 leather cartridge belts with 2-piece brass buckles. They were tongue-and-wreath style with the letters “P C” in the center of the tongue.

Later contracts were made with the Mills Company for a similar belt and buckle but furnished in Mills Company’s distinctive web material. A third style 2-piece sword belt existed with a fancier tongue and wreath around the letters, “P C” — very similar to the emblem on the scabbard of the rare Philippine Constabulary Officer’s sword. As of this writing, this latter style is considered extremely rare.

In U.S. Martial Web Belts and Bandoliers (published in 1993),author R. Stephen Dorsey supposed that the belts other than the Mills variety were possibility done at the Maestranza de Manila in the Philippines. Further research by both Dorsey and Archer was published in an article for Gun Report in 1999. In it, Dorsey reported that they had determined that the Hartley & Graham contracts of 1901 and 1902 for shotguns also included the 5,000 leather belts with the P.C. buckles for shotguns shells. The pair were not able to identify who manufactured and furnished the belts to Hartley & Graham, however. It is thought that a New York manufacturer produced the belts and P.C. buckles and shipped them to the Philippines.

 This close-up photo shows stitching holes on the belts that were converted from shot shells to various rifle or pistol cartridges or combinations.

This close-up photo shows stitching holes on the belts that were converted from shot shells to various rifle or pistol cartridges or combinations.

Early photographs datable to around 1904 of the Philippine Constabulary depict men wearing the P.C. belts. Apparently, by around 1915, the new officers do not have the distinctive P.C. belts or swords. Rather, the photographic evidence shows them wearing the then-current, standard U.S. Army swords and belts.

CLASSIFYING THE PC BELTS AND BUCKLES

Type 1. Delivered under the Hartley & Graham contracts, this type of belt buckle is more stippled and rounder shaped. The leather belt was the first and earliest P.C. belt used.

Apparently, Type 1 belts were issued configured for 12 gauge shotgun shells, but because the arsenals in the Philippines often re-configured accouterments, various examples are known converted for rifle and pistol cartridges. Original stitching holes are usually visible on the majority of leather belts that have been changed. Occasionally, these Type 1 belts have been stripped of their cartridge loops and have added sword belt hangers.

 Two Type 2 belts as supplied through the Mills contract. The web belts are fitted with 2-piece tongue-and-wreath buckle. These are much scarcer than Type 1 belts and buckles.

Two Type 2 belts as supplied through the Mills contract. The web belts are fitted with 2-piece tongue-and-wreath buckle. These are much scarcer than Type 1 belts and buckles.

Type 2. Buckles are the flatter style, Mills-made type with the more ordinary “P.C.” on the tongue. In reality, these are much scarcer than the first type.

These are usually found as sword belts in the original web material but many photographs show these in leather. It is not known if Mills furnished any of these in leather. They may have been converted to leather belts at the arsenals.

 The Type 3 PC officer’s sword belt had a much more ornate tongue-and-wreath buckle. The “PC” letters are very similar in style to those found on the emblem on the Constabulary sword scabbard

The Type 3 PC officer’s sword belt had a much more ornate tongue-and-wreath buckle. The “PC” letters are very similar in style to those found on the emblem on the Constabulary sword scabbard

Type 3. The third type is very rare and is only known as a sword belt in leather. At this time, only two complete sword belts and one buckle set with no belt are known to exist. There are a few period pictures that show officers are wearing this belt including the well-known, Captain Cary Crockett (relative of Davey Crockett).

It would appear, that from the beginning 10 to 15 years, the Constabulary had their own distinctive accessories. After that — during the Mexican Border conflict and World War 1 period —the Constabulary appears to have relied on standard U.S. equipment and insignia of the period.

 Captain Gary S. Crockett awarded the Medal of Valor for actions on the Island of Samar against Pulajane Warriors. Captain Crockett was known as one of the bravest American officers operating in Samar and his exploits in hand-to-hand fighting became legendary. This studio portrait of Captain Crockett was given by him to his friends. This copy was given to Captain Emil Speth, commanding officer of the 39th Company, Philippine Scouts who conducted many patrols and operations alongside Captain Crockett.

Captain Gary S. Crockett awarded the Medal of Valor for actions on the Island of Samar against Pulajane Warriors. Captain Crockett was known as one of the bravest American officers operating in Samar and his exploits in hand-to-hand fighting became legendary. This studio portrait of Captain Crockett was given by him to his friends. This copy was given to Captain Emil Speth, commanding officer of the 39th Company, Philippine Scouts who conducted many patrols and operations alongside Captain Crockett.

Because of the early use, limited numbers of officers, harsh climate in the Philippines, and then the occupation by Japan during WWII, very few of the original belts, buckles, and swords remain. They are truly rare and little-known collectibles from the first attempt of the United States to become a world colonial power.

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