Today when a person goes upon a crazy, violent rampage he can be said to have “run amok”. The origin of the word “amok” is actually Malay. The term entered the English language as an idiom when English traders encountered the strange practice of “running amok” among the Muslim peoples of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern Philippine Islands.
There, men would for a variety reasons work themselves into an uncontrollable rage; and go on a murderous killing spree. A man so running amok would cut down any who came across his path! This would continue until his neighbors, bystanders, or the authorities killed him.
Some scholars consider the origin of this strange and deadly practice to lie in the Islamic prohibition against suicide. When “dishonored” a Muslim man could regain his honor (manhood!) by going amok, and dying with sword in hand; forcing others to kill him and thus accomplish his suicide.
At the turn of the 20th Century in the Philippines, the practice took a new and unique turn; as Moro insurgents against American rule “ran amok”, attacking and assassinating American administrators or army officers.
The juramentado would prepare for his mission by having his TESTICLES TIED OFF WITH COPPER WIRE! In a state of intense agony, the juramentado would spend the night working himself into a killing frenzy. By the next day, the juramentado would be in such agony; in such an altered state of consciousness, that his mind would no longer register additional external pain. The juramentado would be led to where his target was expected (usually in public places). Just before being unleashed against the victim, his arms and legs were tied with occluding ligatures; reducing blood loss from expected wounds to these extremities.
At that moment the juramentado would charge forward (often out of a crowd) and assault the victim with the distinctive Moro sword, the Kris; or the equally nasty-looking hacking knife, the barong. Despite being shot multiple times by the victim and his escort or comrades-in-arms, the juramentado would not stop hacking till the target was slain.
After which, the juramentado would collapse and die; likely contented.
Right: Moro warrior in traditional armor.
Below: Moro warriors pose for photo, circa 1900
The problem was exacerbated by the fact that sidearm of the American Army in the PI was a .38 caliber revolver. This small caliber proved utterly incapable of stopping the juramentado.
For this reason the US Army adapted the .45 caliber colt pistol: the heavier bullet of the .45 could knock the charging juramentado onto his back, stopping his frenzied “amok” dead!
The Colt .45 revolver (not the later automatic pistol) was issued to the Philippine Constabulary (the American-led Philippino force created to fight the Moros and keep the peace throughout the archipeligo) in 1903. It proved much superior to the standard .38 caliber pistols used by the regulary American Army.
That, and the Winchester pump-action shotgun, then coming into service in both the Marines and Army, are the weapons that stopped the rampaging Moros!
There has been much discussion about the veracity of this bit of history; wither or not the .45 caliber could have made a difference. But in his Annual Report of June, 1904, General Leonard Wood (commanding American forces engaged against the Moros in the PI, stated his opinion on the subject:
“It is thought that the .45 caliber revolver (Constabulary Model 1902) is the one which should be issued to troops throughout the Army…. Instances have repeatedly been reported during the past year where native have been shot through and through several time with a .38 caliber revolver, and have come on, cutting up the unfortunate individual armed with it… The .45 caliber revolver stops a man in his tracks, usually knocking him down… It is also recommended that each company …. be furnished with … 12-guage Winchester repeating shotguns.. There is no weapon in our possession equal to the shotgun loaded with buckshot.”
For more about suicidal Islamic killers, see: http://wordwarriorsandiego.wordpress.com/