I was first introduced to this book because it was featured in a Marine Corps PX as recommended reading by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It can easily be read in one sitting but I found myself returning to ponder some aspect that was subtle but admired. It is more than a century old now and at least thirty years since I read it the first time. It is both interesting and inspiring with messages that apply to the professions of arms as well as the business community. The setting is in Cuba during the Spanish/American War (1898). The main character is Lt. Andrew Rowan, who is ordered by President McKinley to “carry a message to Garcia,” one of the insurgent guerilla leaders. The narrative describes the challenges and trials of Rowan’s efforts, but what is not stated is even more poignant. Rowan accepted and completed the assignment without burdening his superiors with countless details for which he accepted responsibility as part of the assignment. For example, he did not even ask where Garcia was. Without revealing more, this short (64 page) book has become a touchstone for the value of attributes like loyalty, dedication, courage, initiative, ingenuity and other critical traits that are treasured in all people, especially those whose professions require the best.
Interestingly, this book is based on a true story and was published as a “filler” without a title in the 1899 issue of the magazine “Philistine.” It was promptly reprinted and has been translated into more than three dozen languages, selling more than 40,000,000 copies. The phrase, “carry a message to Garcia,” is still a catchphrase in many military environments for the noble expectations of people carrying out dangerous and complex assignments without detailed supervision. A great book for teaching and discussing those traits expected of the noblesse oblige. It is in my own library next to the likes of “The Art of War,” “Duffer’s Drift,”
“Rifleman Dodd,” and “The Book of Five Rings.”
—Reviewed by Sid Heal
Recommended by Sid Heal in Episodes 1 & 2