By R.W. Gaines, GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
November 21, 2004
I recently again viewed the film The Wind And The Lion, 1975, (Sean Connery, Candice Bergen), and I noticed that although the story was set in the year 1904, the Marine Corps battle color shown was the one w/the scarlet background, not the battle color w/the blue background as would be correct for that time. As you all know, the background color for the USMC battle color was changed from blue to scarlet in 1925, although it did not become completely effective till 1939. Also noticed the same error in another film, Shores Of Tripoli (John Payne, Randolph Scott). in this case, the blue battle color vice the scarlet was shown on the occasion of the beginning of WW II and Pearl Harbor. Decided to check into the events of the The Wind and The Lion plot to see whether or not the story line of this film had any basis in fact, and perhaps discover what else they had gotten wrong...
Here's what I found.
"May 30, 1904 — The bandit chieftain, Raisouli, kidnapped a naturalized American citizen, Ion Perdicaris, in Morocco. President Roosevelt informed the Moroccan government that we wanted "Perdicaris alive or Raisouli dead" and landed Captain J.T. Myers's Marine detachment from the cruiser USS Brooklyn (ACR 3) at Tangier. Shortly thereafter, Raisouli released Pedicaris."
The above incident involving Pedicaris and Raisouli is not specifically mentioned in "Who's Who In The Marine Corps" (below), however it does indicate Capt Myers's Marine Detachment on the USS Brooklyn during that period.
1904: 'Pedicaris Alive Or Raisuli Dead'
"Long before there were suicide bombers, Osama bin Laden or chants of "Death to the Great Satan," a Trenton man named Ion Perdicaris became the 20th century's first American victim of Middle Eastern terrorism.
It all happened in 1904, when the 64-year-old Perdicaris and his stepson found themselves taken hostage from their villa in Tangier, Morocco by a scruffy band of rifle-toting Berber tribesmen on horseback.
The bandits' chieftain was flamboyant, black-bearded Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli, and he wanted to extort a heavy ransom from the Sultan of Morocco -- not to mention embarrass the sovereign by showing his powerlessness to protect foreign citizens.
This was more than a simple kidnapping in a distant land. For President Theodore Roosevelt, it was an opportunity to start waving his "big stick," sending battleships steaming toward the African coast to ensure Perdicaris' safe release.
It also gave Roosevelt the chance to issue one of his most blood-curdling proclamations, a statement that helped ensure his re-election while sending Americans wild with joy:
"Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!"
Still, for all the bluster contained in that ringing phrase, Roosevelt concealed a secret that Perdicaris wasn't even an American citizen.
The strange saga of Ion Hanford Perdicaris began in 1840, when he was born an American citizen in Greece, son of Gregory Perdicaris.
The elder Perdicaris was an Athenian who had emigrated to the United States, married a wealthy young woman from South Carolina and headed back to his native land to serve as American consul. When Ion was 6, the Perdicarises moved back to America and settled in the industrial boom town of Trenton.
There, Gregory Perdicaris built a mansion at East State Street and North Clinton Avenue, published a short-lived newspaper, and turned his wife's wealth into a fortune by creating the Trenton Gas Light company
Young Ion Perdicaris grew up with few cares in his luxurious life. He attended prestigious Trenton Academy, took on a dilettantish love of art and literature and wrote a verse play, "Tent Life," around one of his paintings. It bombed.
In 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, Ion Perdicaris secretly went back to Greece to forswear his American citizenship and be naturalized a Greek citizen. He made this rash move to prevent the Confederacy from confiscating his mother's huge estate there. But few even in his family knew about it.
On a later trip abroad, Ion Perdicaris fell in love with the warm, breezy climes of Tangier and built his own house there, calling it Place of Nightingales and filling it with a menagerie of dogs, monkeys and cranes.
Late in life, he married an English actress and became a fixture in the large diplomatic community in Morocco, who also included another Trentonian -- the American consul, Samuel R. Gummere.
Morocco was then the only independent country try in North Africa. But the sultan, Mulia Abdul-Aziz, was a weak puppet who played with his collection of grand pianos while rival bands of warlords tore his country apart and the European powers jockeyed for influence.
In this chaotic environment, western diplomats banded together and lived apart from the natives -- a situation that was later described by Gummere's niece, Mathilde Bedford.
"[Perdicaris'] villa, like most of the diplomats' homes, was outside the city walls," she wrote in 1964. "Morocco, at that time, had no roads, not even a carriage or wheel of any kind, so we went everywhere, even at night to dinners and dances, on horses and donkeys, and if it rained, I was carried in a sedan chair on the shoulders of four Jews. No Moor would carry 'a dog of a Christian,' so the Jews kindly helped us out."
This carefree existence was shattered the evening of May 18, 1904.
Perdicaris and his stepson, Cromwell Varley, were dining on their terrace when they heard shrieks and barked commands coming from their servants' quarters. As they ran to the scene of the commotion a gang of Berbers brazenly grabbed them, clubbed them with gun stocks and bound their arms.
A housekeeper shouted "Help!" into the telephone before the kidnappers clubbed her too, cut the wire and ordered the captive duo out of the house. Guns to their backs, curved daggers at their throats, they were ordered onto horses and driven off in a wild storm of dust.
After a daylong ride Perdicaris and Varley reached a tent deep in the desert. There, they rested on sheepskins, ate a dinner of couscous and came face to face with Raisuli.
Raisuli was a notorious brigand known as "Last of the Barbary Pirates." But for his admirers, he was a Robin Hood in white robes doing battle with a corrupt sultan.
The raid on Perdicaris' home it turned out, was only his latest and boldest power play against
that sultan. Raisuli issued the hated ruler a list of exorbitant demands for the hostages' release: $70,000 in gold, safe-conduct for all his tribesmen and, most outrageous of all, recognition as the sultan's bashaw, or governor, over two districts around Tangier.
How did Perdicaris, this heir to privilege, react upon meeting the desert warrior Raisuli? Incredibly, the two hit it off.
"I go so far as to say that I do not regret having been his prisoner for some time," Perdicaris would later write. "He is not a bandit, not a murderer, but a patriot forced into acts of brigandage to save his native soil and his people from the yoke of tyranny."
Roosevelt did not see it that way. He was, after all, the swinger of the big stick, the trust-buster, the man who, months earlier, engineered a Latin American revolution to dig the Panama Canal. And he wasn't going to let an obscure tribe of Berbers get away with kidnapping an American.
"Preposterous," said Roosevelt's Secretary of State, John Hay, responding to the ransom demands.
Seven battleships from the Atlantic fleet were dispatched to the Moroccan coast. But even with the public and press crying for blood, Roosevelt knew he couldn't send marines on a rescue mission on unfamiliar soil. And on June 1, he was faced with further trouble -- a confidential message from the U.S. embassy in Greece sending word that Perdicaris was not, as widely believed, an American citizen.
So the United States quietly enlisted Britain and France to put pressure on the tottering sultan and accept Raisuli's demands.
This the sultan agreed to do, on June 21. But to cover his tracks, Hay -- no doubt with some prodding from the hot-blooded commander in chief -- issued a stirring telegram to Gummere in Tangier.
"This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead," went the telegram.
Read for the first time at the Republican national convention, the challenge turned a dull proceeding into a frenzy of all-American excitement.
A few days later, Perdicaris was free and safe, Raisuli was $70,000 richer and Roosevelt was renominated for another term, propelling him to easily win a second term in the November elections.
Forgotten in the excitement was the fact the U.S. government had, essentially, given in to all the kidnapper's demands. And the public was never told Perdicaris' secret that he wasn't even a citizen.
"It is a bad business," Hay wrote. “We must keep it excessively confidential."
And confidential it stayed. Not until 1933, long after all the players in the Perdicaris drama had died, would a historian uncover the truth in official documents.
Into his 70s, Perdicaris came back to Trenton from time to time and visited his substantial real estate holdings. Perdicaris Place, off West State Street, is named after him and his father. He died a wealthy figure in London in 1925.
Years later, the Perdicaris story would be rediscovered by Hollywood in a 1975 movie, "The Wind and the Lion." Sean Connery played Raisuli, but the scriptwriters apparently thought the balding, bearded Perdicaris wasn't a romantic enough character as a man.
So the screenwriters turned "Ion" Perdicaris into "Eden" Perdicaris and cast Candice Bergen in the part.
Back to The Capital Century home page
1904: 'Perdicaris alive
or Raisuli dead!'
By JON BLACKWELL / The Trentonian"
MORE ON CAPT J.T. MYERS IN CHINA
AND, FROM HQMC HISTORY & MUSEUMS
"UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION
Who's Who in Marine Corps History
JOHN T. MYERS, USMC
Lieutenant General John Twiggs Myers, who earned a permanent place in Marine Corps history as commander of the American Legation Guard at Peking, China, during the Boxer Rebellion, died on 17 April 1952, at his home in Coconut Grove, Florida. A veteran of 40 years as a Marine officer, he retired from the Corps in 1935, after a career that included the Spanish-American War; the Philippine Insurrection; World War I service as Fleet Marine Officer of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet; expeditionary service in the Haitian, Santo Domingan, Cuban and Mexican campaigns; and a total of nearly ten years of sea duty.
General Myers was a great grandson of General John Twiggs, a Revolutionary War hero, and his father, Abraham C. Myers, was a West Point graduate who fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars and later served as Quartermaster General of the Confederate Army. At the end of the Civil War, Abraham C. Myers took his family to Weisbaden, Germany, where John was born 29 January 1871. The family returned to this country in 1876, and young John attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Wilkinson's Preparatory School at Annapolis, Maryland, before entering the U.S. Naval Academy in September 1887. Graduating in 1892, he continued to hold the rank of naval cadet until he was appointed an assistant engineer in August, 1894. He was transferred from the Navy to the Marine Corps on 6 March 1895, and accepted appointment as a second lieutenant the following day.
In May 1896, after completing the course at the School of Application in Washington, D.C., and studying ordnance at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, the general was ordered to the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, where he completed his studies that September. He then served briefly at the Marine Barracks, Boston, Massachusetts, before joining the barracks detachment at Mare Island, California, in November of the same year. He left Mare Island 7 May 1898, to join the Marine detachment aboard the USS Charleston, which sailed a few days later to convoy six troop ships to the Philippines. Enroute, the Charleston stopped at Guam, and on 21 June General Myers (as a second lieutenant) accompanied the captain of the Charleston ashore as head of a landing party of 16 sailors and 30 Marines, which disarmed and made prisoners of the Spanish garrison on the island.
After that, the convoy moved to the Philippines, where the general (by then a captain) was transferred to the USS Baltimore in July, 1899. While attached to that ship during the Philippine Insurrection, he commanded a landing expedition which went ashore under fire to capture and destroy an Insurrect gun at Port Olongapo on 23 September and made another landing under fire at Bacoor on 2 October. He also commanded a 100-man landing force which took over the naval station at Subic Bay on 10 December 1899, the day after it was captured by the Army. On 18 April 1900, the general was transferred from the Baltimore to the USS Oregon, and on 24 May of the same year he was detached to the USS Newark. Meanwhile, a wave of violence, led by an athletic society known as the Boxers, was erupting in China, where a number of foreigners were killed or subjected to gross indignities. The Imperial Government, sympathizing with the movement, did little to stop it, and the foreigners in Peking were soon forced to the take refuge in the legations there. On 28 May E.H. Conger, the American Minister at Peking, telegraphed the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Asiatic Squadron at Taku to send an armed force for the protection of the legation. The following day Myers set out for that city as commander of a force of 48 Marines and three sailors from the Oregon and Brooklyn. Along with detachments of British, Russian, French, Italian and Japanese Marines, they reached Peking at 11 o'clock on the night of 31 May just before the city was encircled.
On 24 June serious fighting broke out on the walls of the legations as hordes of Boxers, armed with swords, spears, clubs, stones, noise-makers and several three-inch field pieces, attempted to overwhelm the handful of foreign troops. A German detachment repulsed the first attack and the Marines hurled back a second, causing heavy losses amongst the boxers. After that the Chinese changed their tactics and began building a tower on the ancient wall above the American Legation, only about 25 feet from the Marines' position. Since this would have allowed the Boxers to fire at will on the troops and civilians below, Minister Conger reported this danger to the British Minister, Sir Claude M. MacDonald, who had been picked by common consent as commander of the international defense. He agreed to the American's suggestion that an attack should be made on the tower and the Chinese barricade behind it.
Myers was picked to head the attacking force, composed of himself and 14 other American Marines, 16 Russian and 25 British Marines. His plan was to have the Russians hit the barricade from the North, while the American and British Marines were to assault the tower, then fight their way to the barricade, along a sort of trench which ran from it to the tower. At a signal from Myers, the attack began about three o'clock on the morning of 3 July.
The Anglo-American force, with Myers in the lead, found the tower empty when they reached it, then proceeded along the trench, where they ran into bitter, hand-to-hand fighting. Myers was badly wounded by a spear during the action in the trench, but the attack continued until the barricade was in friendly hands. In addition to Myers, the allied losses included two U.S. Marines and one Russian killed and two Russian and three British Marines severely wounded. Estimates of enemy losses ran as high as 50 dead. The British Minister called this action" one of the most successful operations of the siege, as it rendered our position on the wall, which had been precarious, comparatively strong." Largely because of it, the disheartened Boxers agreed to an uneasy truce on 16 July.
Myers was brevetted major and advanced four numbers in rank for his bravery, and in President McKinley's message to Congress in February 1901, he mentioned the captain by name. British appreciation was demonstrated a few years afterward, when a monument to the Royal Marines was erected outside the Admiralty in London, facing Buckingham Palace. One of the bas-reliefs on that memorial shows Myers leading the British Marines in the attack on the Boxers.
A relief column finally reached Peking on 14 August and the following month General Myers, convalescing from typhoid fever and the spear wound in his leg, was ordered to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Yokohama, Japan. From there he was a transferred to the Naval Hospital at Mare Island, where he was under treatment until March 1901. After that, except for a short time on Samoa as judge advocate of a general court martial, he remained at Mare Island until December 1902, when he took command of the Marine Barracks at Bremerton, Washington.
The general left Bremerton in May 1903, arriving on the East Coast the following month to take command of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Brooklyn. He held that command until April 1905, then served at the Naval War College in Newport, until he took command of the School for Non-Commissioned Officers at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., in October of the same year. In May 1906, he took command of the barracks detachment there, serving in that assignment until he left Washington that July. The following month he returned to the Philippines, commanding the 1st Marine Regiment there until January 1907, when he was assigned to the USS West Virginia as commander of its detachment and Fleet Marine Officer of the Asiatic Fleet.
In May 1909, General Myers was transferred from the West Virginia to the USS Tennessee for duty as Fleet Marine Officer, Pacific Fleet, but the following month, because of a serious intestinal infection, he was ordered once more to the Naval Hospital at Mare Island. He was hospitalized or on sick leave until January, 1911, when he entered the Army Field Officers Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Completing that course in March 1911, the general was stationed briefly at the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and on recruiting duty in Boston before he entered the Army War College in Washington that August. Graduating in July 1912, he took command of the Marine Barracks at the Washington Navy Yard the following month. His service there was interrupted by expeditionary duty as a battalion commander with the 2nd Provisional Marine Regiment off Santo Domingo in 1912 and with the 2nd Regiment, 2nd Provisional Marine Brigade at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the following year. He left Washington in April 1913, to serve for the next year as commander of the Marine Barracks, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii.
In April, 1914, General Myers returned from that assignment to take command of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, at Mare Island, sailing with that unit for the west coast of Mexico later the same month. The regiment remained aboard the battleship South Dakota in Mexican waters during a period of strained relations between the United States and that country, but did not land. It returned to this country in July and General Myers, still commanding its 1st Battalion, was stationed with it at San Diego, California, until February 1915, when that unit was assigned duty at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California. The battalion was ordered to sea duty with the Pacific Fleet in November 1915, and in February of the following year, after service on the USS San Diego and USS Buffalo, it returned to San Diego.
The general (by then a lieutenant colonel) was detached from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, in June 1916, when he was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet as Fleet Marine Officer and counter-intelligence officer on the staff of its commander. Serving in those capacities for most of World War I, he was stationed aboard the USS Wyoming until October 1916, and on the USS Pennsylvania from then until August 1918, when he took command of the Marine Barracks at Parris Island, South Carolina. He remained there until the war ended that November.
In January 1919, after a short time at Quantico, Virginia, General Myers assumed command of the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed until August 1921.
He was then named Adjutant and Inspector of the Department of the Pacific, with headquarters at San Francisco, California, serving in that assignment until May 1924. After that, he commanded the Marine Corps Base at San Diego from June of that year to November 1925 when he sailed for Haiti to take command of the 1st Marine Brigade.
The general returned from that tour of expeditionary duty in January 1928, and the following month, reported to Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington. There, after serving on various boards, he was named Assistant to the Major General Commandant in April 1930, serving in that capacity until February 1933. A month later he returned to San Francisco, where he was Commanding General, Department of the Pacific and Western Recruiting Area, until he was placed on the retired list, 1 February 1935, at the statutory retirement age of 64. A major general when he retired, he was promoted to lieutenant general on the retired list in 1942, when the law was passed authorizing such promotions for officers who had been specially commended in combat.
General Myers' medals and decorations included the Marine Corps Brevet Meal, Purple Heart, Spanish Campaign Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, China Campaign Medal; Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, Mexican Service Medal and the World War I Victory Medal with Armed Guard clasp.
The general was survived by his wife, the former Alice G. Cutts, of Mare Island, whom he married in 1898. They had no children. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery."
Who's Who in Marine Corps History
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