LTC Andrew Rowan was the inspiration for the internationally best selling book "A Message to Garcia". In the 21st Century this graduate is no longer a household name, but in the early 20th century he was one of the most famous people in the world. His military mission as a young Lieutenant fresh out of West Point in the beginning of the Spanish American War was made into a book that sold 40 million copies and was translated into 37 languages. The story of Lieutenant Rowan delivering a message to an insurgent leader named General Garcia on behalf of the American President was an inspiration around the world and became a slang expression to articulate a difficult challenge: "send a message to Garcia".
The Spanish American War started in 1898 when the United States went to war with Spain fighting over ownership of Cuba. The US needed information immediately about the status of Spanish forces on the island of Cuba. At a time when there were no cell phones or land lines, sending communications to far off wars and getting the information back was challenging at best, and often impossible at a time to achieve any material impact on the outcome on the ground. At the outbreak of war an insurgent group led by a man named General Garcia was fighting the Spanish in Cuba and were a natural ally for the US to support. President McKinley personally wanted to send a message to the insurgent leader to rally him to the side of American and to gain his support and information. A young West Point graduate named Lieutenant Rowan was chosen to send the message. After meeting with President McKinley he was given the commander's orders to take a message to Garcia in Cuba. That was it.
Lieutenant Rowan left the President's office with no more information that that order. This was at a time when the military did not have computers, cell phones, a travel agency or any finance group to support an international trip. Rowan had no support and no transport. He left the White House and set out on his mission going by horseback, rail, boat and traversing for three weeks alone through the jungle of Cuba to find Garcia to send him the President's message- and he did accomplish his mission. The story that resulted from his successful mission was made into a book and eventually two movies in the early stages of Hollywood.
The book was the second best selling book around the world in the early 1900's- second only to the Bible. After most of the world had heard the story of "message to Garcia" it became a household term and was intended to be synonymous with "accomplish the mission" and was taught to military and civilian students as a way to convey the meaning of the commander's/boss's intent. The last two paragraphs of the book "A message to Garcia" summed up the sentiment for simply following orders and accomplishing the mission: "I attended a meeting of the cabinet a day or so after my return, in company with General Miles, and at the close I received President McKinley's congratulations and thanks for the manner in which I had communicated his wishes to General Garcia and for the value of the work. "You have performed a very brave deed!" were his last words to me, and this was the first time it had occurred to me that I had done more than my simple duty, the duty of a soldier who: "Is not to reason why," but to obey his orders. I had carried my message to Garcia."