1996 Commandant's Reading List


Corporal and Sergeant


Marine Corps Heritage

Battle Cry, Uris
Fix Bayonets! Thomason
Strong Men Armed, Leckie
The Right Kind of War, McCormick

Leadership, Memoir and Biography

Battle Leadership, von Schell
Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller
, Davis
Uncommon Men, Chapin

Operations, Campaigns and Battles

Fire in the Streets, Hammel
The Buffalo Soldiers, Leckie

Doctrine, Tactics and Training

Defense of Duffer's Drift, Swinton
The Soldier's Load, Marshall
Red Badge of Courage, Crane
Ender's Game, Card

Small Wars

The War of the Running Dogs, Barber
The Village, West
The Old Man's Trail, Campbell


1996 Commandant's Reading List


Private, Private First Class and Lance Corporal


Marine Corps Heritage

Rifleman Dodd, Forester
U.S. Marines: 1775-1975, Simmons

Leadership, Memoir and Biography

A Message to Garcia, Hubbard
Fields of Fire, Webb

Strategy, Policy, and Civil-Military Relations

U.S. Constitution

Operations, Campaigns and Battles

The Bridge at Dong-Ha, Miller

Doctrine, Tactics, and Training

Starship Troopers, Heinlein



A Message to Garcia

Elbert Hubbard

In all this Cuban business there is one man who stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion.

When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba — no one know where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly.

What to do!

Someone said to the President, "There is a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off of the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared in the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot and delivered his letter to Garcia — are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?"

By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and statue placed in every college of the land. 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."

General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias. No man who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed but has been well-nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man — the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds unless, by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in his goodness performs a miracle and sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant.

You, reader, put this matter to a test. You are sitting now in your office; six clerks are within call. Summon anyone and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio."

Will the clerk quietly say, "Yes, sir," and go do the task?

On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:

Who was he?

Which encyclopedia?

Where is the encyclopedia?

Was I hired for that?

Don't you mean Bismarck?

What's the matter with Charlie doing it?

Is he dead?

Is there any hurry?

Shan't I bring you a book and let you look it up yourself?

What do you want to know for?

And I will lay ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it , the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia — and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the law of averages, I will not.

Now if you are wise, you will not bother to explain to your "assistant" that Correggio is indexed under the C's, not in the K's, but you will smile sweetly and say, "Never mind," and go look it up yourself.

And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness cheerfully to catch hold and lift — these are the things that put pure socialism so far in the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their efforts is for all?

A first mate with a knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting "the bounce" Saturday night holds many a worker to his place.

Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply can neither spell nor punctuate — and do not think it necessary to. Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

"You see the bookkeeper," said the foreman to me in a large factory.

"Yes, what about him?"

"Well he's a fine accountant, but if I'd send him uptown on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right and, on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main street, would forget what he had been sent for."

Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the "downtrodden denizens of the sweatshop" and the "homeless wanderer searching for honest employment" and with it all often go many hard words for men in power.

Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowzy ne'er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long, patient striving with "help" that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away "help" that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues; only, if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer — but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go. It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best — those who can carry a message to Garcia.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to anyone else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing or intending to oppress him. He cannot give orders, and he will not receive them. Should a message be given to him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, "Take it yourself."

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dares employ him, for he is a regular firebrand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled number nine boot.

Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying, let us drop a tear too for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, and whose working hours are not limited by the whistle; and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slipshod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry and homeless.

Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming, I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds — the man who, against great odds, has directed the efforts of others and, having succeeded, finds there's nothing in it — nothing but bare board and clothes.

I have carried a dinner-pail and worked for a day's wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is some thing to be said on both sides. There is no excellence per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; and all the employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all men are virtuous.

My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the "boss" is away as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter to Garcia, quietly takes the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets "laid off" nor has to go on strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long, anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town, and village — in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such; he is needed and needed badly — the man who can "Carry a message to Garcia."