Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SHTF Self-Education Book Review Series: From the Library: A Message to Garcia

One of the core books that all fresh prospective 2nd Lieutenants are directed to read is Elbert Hubbard's classic, "A message to Garcia".  The copy that I am reviewing here is the hardcover from my personal collection, it is copyrighted 1977 and 1982.  The publisher is Peter Pauper Press, Inc.  I have to say, the book as seen on the shelf is not overwhelming.  There is no graphically tweaked cover design, no attention grabber that says, "buy this!".  What did tell me to buy it was the Chain of Command, and in this, they were so, so right that anyone (military or civilian, no matter your age or station in life) is totally wrong if they do not go and read it.  Yes, it is that important.  I will even venture to call it a foundational work.

Consider the modest price of the thin volume, about that of a fancy cup of coffee to be an investment in yourself.  You may even consider gifting copies to young men and women in your circles who are searching how to live their lives.  Yes, it is that good.  Gift copies to your local libraries if you are so moved to action.

The author of Message to Garcia, as noted in the publisher's note on page 5, was killed when the Lusitania was sunk in 1915.  The relative distance from the present does not hinder the message of the book, it just illustrates the timelessness of the message.  As I have mentioned the word "message" in one way or other 8 times at this point, the reader may be sorely tempted to ask, "what the hell IS the message?"  I'll cut to the chase - the message is the allegory central to the book, all 32 (yes, 32) pages of it.  It is the character trait of taking a task to heart and seeing it through to completion without question, and without doubt that it will be achieved.

The book is the account of a Lieutenant in the American Army, Andrew Summers Rowan who was tasked at the outbreak of the Spanish American War to take a message to a leader of Cuban resistance by order of President McKinley.  He set out as they say, "alone and unafraid" into the absolute chaos of Cuban society at the time of the buildup of a war that would forge America into a global hegemon.  As one might guess, the chap who Rowan was to find was the titular character, General Garcia.

Andrew S. Rowan, circa 1904 via wikipedia

This task would be formidable under perfect circumstances.  In this case, there was no guidance as to where or when he'd find Garcia, just to get the message to him.  All else was at his discretion.

This leads to the underlying theme of the book, that of personal integrity, character and fortitude.   The main thrust of this short narration is not the details of the arduous task (the contents of the message are scarcely mentioned), but that Rowan took the message and never once asked where he could find General Garcia- he just went and did the deed.  While it is a little late for a spoiler alert on that point of the tale, it is nevertheless true as well as it is rare in contemporary society.  To quote the work in brief -

"It is not book learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing -"Carry a message to Garcia""

The application of this short book is limitless.  Employers and HR departments in particular may find serious worth in its trim prose and pages.  In personal affairs and within the confines of a family, it is advice well shared with children before they develop poor attitudes and habits of thought brought on by the corruption of so-called "public schools".

Though I mainly review military books and this one has a veneer of a military setting, its real purpose is universal in application as a way to approach life and the myriad tasks within our randomly numbered days.  I gently guided my own children to read this book.  It is entirely without violence or salacious topics, it just cuts straight to character and the application thereof.  If you have a few spare dollars and 30 minutes to read, it may give you a germ of thought that may lend shape to your own thoughts and drives.  May you in all things bring the ephemeral message to your own personal Garcia, in all your daily doings.

Postscript- to give you some more meat on the bone for this by way of background in Rowan's own words, please read

This covers the details that were not mentioned in Hubbard's work. The wikipedia article also mentions the role of Rowan in the war as a leader of African American troops who were selected for apparent immunity to malaria.

LT COL Rowan is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section East, site 4856.  He died on 1/10/1943.

You may also enjoy some of the books previously reviewed:

Special Forces - Guerilla Warfare Manual

Coup D'Etat

Total Resistance

Phantom Soldier - The Enemy's Answer to US Firepower

"Message to Garcia" is part of our Tuesday Book Review series ~ Written by StopShoutingBlog contributor and #FAB50 Blog Award Winner Partyzantski, coolest cat on teh inner webs, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military Advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-terrorism officer and combat seasoned USMC (0202) field grade intelligence officer. When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales. You can follow him on Twitter @Partyzantski  

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Roper Goatey said...

When I became a non-commissioned officer, my company commander gave me a copy of this book and instructed me to read it, and then come back to him to discuss it.
I never forgot the book, nor that Company Commander, as I contribute his actions to my making the military my vocation.

Anonymous said...

Always enjoy reading your book reviews. I hope that you keep it up - missed today's?

Digital Remnant said...

One of my professors assigned this book to us as part of a course on practical knowledge. This was in a small Bible college, in Texas, in the late 90s. I doubt this book would be assigned today, in most schools. But it certainly should be: this book is one of the things that influenced me the most - ever - in my life, and I am preparing to have my boys read it when they're teenagers.

DTG said...

While I appreciated the points raised about the young officer 'getting it done,' and being resolute in his dedication, I did not actually care for the pitch for socialism made by the author when relating the emulation of the young officer to forward that particular, 'ism.'

It did, however, show how long socialist goals have been being slowing infiltrated into the 'American ideal.'

Not the best book, IMHO, to give to someone in training without guidance and instruction to ignore the socialist cheer leading near the end.