Monday, April 20, 2009

Extreme Filipino Warriors cause the term "Leatherneck" and the introduction of the .45 Colt?

Summary: There are two rumors about the Philippines I often hear from Kali practitioners: Both the term "Leatherneck" and the introduction of the .45 caliber Colt are a result of highly aggressive and effective Filipino warriors. I've found some sources on the topics and will address these claims.
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The martial art of Kali (aka Escrima, Arnis) is said to have protected the Philippines from various foes: Spain, United States, Japan and others. The Southern Philippines, particularly the island of Mindanao is noted in history as being particularly problematic for enemies. While there is undeniable history surrounding these basic facts, there are some surrounding rumors that should be addressed.


I've had multiple Kali / Escrima / Arnis folks tell me that the origin of the term "Leatherneck", a slang term for a member of the United States Marines, comes from a band of leather worn by Marines around their necks to prevent cuts to the throat. The claim is that Moro and other Filipino warriors around or after the Philippine–American War were so routinely killing American Marines by cutting their throats that they adopted the leather collar to prevent this. Many sources (1,2,3) point to other reasons much earlier in history - all the way back to 1776. Reasons being "it prevented the neck movement necessary for sighting along a barrel" and "to protect the neck against cutlass slashes and to hold the head erect in proper military bearing". Most also say that the leather collar was abandoned before the Philippine–American War started and I have read nothing saying that it was ever resurrected. It would not surprise me if the military readopted this practice either formally or informally and it is not documented. It's also likely that some soldiers may have individually added this to their armor - practice still going on today. Regardless of whether it was or not, the evidence seems to predate US Marines in the Philippines.

.45 Colt (aka .45 ACP, .45 Auto)

List of the cartridges pictured: Left to right:
1) 3 inch 12 ga magnum shotgun shell
2) AA battery (for size comparison)
3) .454 Casull
4) .45 Winchester Magnum
5) .44 Remington Magnum
6) .357 Magnum
7) .38 Special
8) .45 ACP
9) .38 Super
10) 9 mm Luger
11) .32 ACP
12) .22 LR
Kali people have also often told me that the Colt .45 (#8 in the photo) was also introduced as a result of conflict in the Philippines. The story usually goes something like: "The .38 Colt (#9 in the photo) was not powerful enough to stop them (Filipino warriors). Some were drugged, some were just determined to kill. Military members would shoot them multiple times, yet the warriors would continue to advance and, despite being wounded, get close enough to cut their throats anyway. The .45 was needed to produce adequate stopping power." I have found one source that backs up this claim. The time frames certainly match up. The .45 was designed in 1904 and adopted by the U.S. Army in 1911. The Philippine–American War war went from 1899 till 1902 and American occupation continued long after. The Moro Rebellion and other Philippine resistance movements continued for some time after the war and also into the occupation till at least 1913. The Philippines did not gain independence until 1946. The similar reasoning and time frame of the expanding bullet (or dumdum bullet) by the British seems to reinforce this claim as well.


The term "leatherneck" seems to come from an earlier time, but it isn't necessarily true that American soldiers did not wear leather collars during the occupation of the Philippines. The stories of the time before the Colt .45 (.38 calibers not strong enough to stop a drugged or determined Filipino) certainly back up why soldiers would wear it. This is probably why the stories are often told together.

History seems to point in favor of the Colt .45 legend.


Anonymous said...

Uh, the cartridges shown here are the .45ACP and the .22. The .22 is very different from the .38. I seems the editor is hyping the difference between the .38 and .45 by showing the incorrect cartridge.

Jesse Crouch said...

Thanks for pointing this out. I was aware that it was not a .38, but could not find a better photo for use. I have found one now. Both the photo and the article are now accurate.

Anonymous said...

the cartridges pictured and referenced are not correct. The article references a .45 colt but pictures a .45 ACP. The .45 colt is about the size of a .44 magnum. This cartridge was also used in during the Philippine Insurrection.

Additionally, a .38 colt is referenced, but a .38 Super is pictured. These are also 2 different cartridges. I believe that the 2 correct cartridges that this myth refers to is the .45ACP and the .38longcolt or the .38 special.

Anonymous said...

The moro used to wrap each other very tightly with cotton cloth. The reason was that when the bullet entered, it didn't blast out the back end. They weren't drugged, that's an ancient technique that they probably originally used for all sorts of conflicts from knives to arrows. The US needed a weapon that could drop the moro warriors where they stood. .45 Colt was the perfect round for just that.

Anonymous said...

The .45 acp was never used against the Moros. Old Colt Single Action Army revolvers were put back into service from the cavalry days. The ACP was later developed to replicate the.45 Colt's performance but in a cartridge that could be used in an automatic pistol, John Brownings model 1911.

Scott Crafton said...

The 12ga shotgun, 00 Buckshot, was also favored over the 38/40 Kraig (I thik that was the rifle used). There is the .45COLT (LONG COLT as some call it) and the .45ACP. Two different animals.

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