In the Shadow

It was down on the Island of Jolo
On the edge of the Sulu Sea
Where I got myself in a heck of a jam
That was nearly the end of me.

We had all gone ashore this bright afternoon
For some scenery, fresh air and beer,
With never a thought of the terrible sight
That would soon freeze our souls with fear.

We had wandered around for about an hour
When we sighted (and it's lucky we found)
A place that looked like and elephant trap
It was really the Police Compound.

They invited us into this might fort
Which we gazed at with wonder and awe,
Not realizing for one fleeting moment
That we were entering the proverbial Death's Jaw.

We had been there about fire minute, I guess,
When from the jungle 'rose such a sound
A noise bone-freezing and horrible
Nowhere else in the world could be found.

As I peered at the edge of the jungle,
From a loophole in this flatfoot's abode,
I really couldn't believe my eyes
The whole countryside seemed to explode.

From the right, from the left from the tops of the trees,
They rushed with a terrible cry
"Twas a band of the islands dread Moros
Intent that all Christians should die.

They were closing around us so swiftly,
Their bolos agleam in the sun
How was I to protect myself?
Oh thanks*** the cops gave me a gun.

They shoved me back in a corner
Near a sort of oversized shelf,
With a word of dark grim warning
"If we lose - save one shell for yourself."

On came the Moros as swiftly as light,
Still screaming that terrible sound
'Till the coppers could see the whites of their eyes
Then they started to mowin' them down.

I saw, yes I did, one huge savage
That one of the cops was a gunnin'
Three times he smacked him with a '45 slug
But that wild man just kept right on comin'.

It lasted not more than three minutes,
But I'd swear it lasted a year.
That shows how slowly time goes
When you're almost frozen with fear.

We had driven them off'n it was over
And we all rushed out in the sun.
Gee***It was a wonderful victory
That me and the coppers had won.

They wanted to give me a medal,
all gold and silver and bright,
But I politely refused, because after all
It was my profession - Fight!

But it gave me a grateful warm feeling,
an honor, a privilege it seems,
To have been examined and found physically fit
To fight in the Philippines.

By H. M. Percifield USS George Clymer APA 27

Background for this poem:

I found this poem among a batch of papers from the George Clymer APA 27 that I bought this on Ebay.

It retells the story I have heard from a number of men who served in the Pacific, including my Father, of being as afraid of the Natives as they were the Japanese. 

When we ran out of Indian territory to conquer with the closing of the frontier (as stated in 1890 by Frederick Jackson Turner), we turned our attention overseas. Using the sinking of the Maine in Cuba as a reason to declare war against Spain, we quickly gained colonies (we called them "Protectorates"). When we acquired the Philippines, we inherited an ongoing struggle to "Christianize" the natives.

During the early 16th century, Mindanao was part of the Sultan of Sulu's domain. The native Filipino Moslems, who had been converted to the Islamic religion many years before, were under the rule of the Sultan and were a proud part of a kingdom which extended as far away as Manila and Pampanga on Luzon island more than 600 miles to the north. When the Spaniards arrived in the mid 1500s, they attempted to colonize the native Filipinos (called Moros) and convert them to Christianity. 

The Moros, however, fiercely resisted. Later in the 19th century with the demise of Spanish rule, the Americans arrived, again trying to enforce a way of life contrary to Filipino customs. Finally, in 1945, the Philippine Islands became independent, and the island of Mindanao and its Moslem inhabitants became a part of the Republic of the Philippines along with the other 7099 scattered islands.

We had tried for 4 decades to subdue and convert the Moro - after the Spanish had failed for 300+ years...there is much to be said for knowing our history.  This was not taught in my High School or in my college where I was a History major.