Captain Nieves Fernandez shows to an American soldier how she used her long knife to silently kill Japanese soldiers during occupation, 1944.

Captain Nieves Fernandez shows to an American soldier how she used her long knife to silently kill Japanese soldiers during occupation, 1944.

Captain Nieves Fernandez, the only known Filipino female guerilla leader and formerly a school teacher, shows US Army Pvt. Andrew Lupiba how she used her long knife to silently kill Japanese soldiers during the Japanese occupation of Leyte Island. Image taken by Stanley Troutman, 7 November 1944, Mabuhay Las Piñas, Leyte Island, Philippines.

Captain Nieves Fernandez was the only known Filipino female guerrilla leader. Working with guerrillas south of Tacloban, Miss Fernandez rounded up native men to resist the Japanese. She commanded 110 native who killed more than 200 Japanese with knifes and shotguns made from sections of gas pipe. The Japanese offered 10,000 pesos for her head. She was wounded once. The bullet scar can be seen on her right forearm.

Filipinos call that weapon a bolo, basically a long knife. The primary use for the bolo is clearing vegetation, whether for agriculture or during trail blazing. Because of its availability, the bolo became a common choice of improvised weaponry to the everyday peasant, especially during the Japanese occupation. There is a rich tribal history in Filipino culture of beheading enemies and doing rituals with their head. In the Northern province of Luzon, headhunter warriors are tattooed to represent their successful enemy headhunts. This headhunting still went on during WWII, instead of using guns Filipino warriors would hide in the forests and ambush the Japanese. They would bring back their heads to their tribe and do a black magic ceremony with it and put their heads on a spike to ward off future attacks. Even today the Philippines government fear these Northern tribal lands.

Why the kill would be silent? The death comes very quickly. Before you realize what’s going on you pass out, and die without immediate medical intervention. It’s painful, yet almost instantaneous. The technique she is showing is cutting a carotid artery and the internal jugular, which leads to the brain. The trick is to stab sharply into that soft spot directly behind/below the ear lobe. Once you push the blade in about two inches you give a sharp, upward thrust while twisting the blade ninety degrees. This operation causes the knife to enter the base of the victim’s brain, causing instant unconsciousness. And the twisting of the blade somehow causes the victim to suck in air so screaming is impossible. If performed correctly, the only sound the victim will make is that of the physical struggle. And that is taken care of from the start because of the way you attack from behind.