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When I was a very young medical interne, I had the surprising chance to hear Bill Stroud say a surprising thing. It was to the effect of being called to Sagamore Hill, on consultation about Teddy Roosevelt's being found with a blood pressure of 300/200. 'This man won't live a month,' sez I. 'Well, he lived fifteen years.' Bill was telling me not to be so sure of my predictions. But what I heard was: with Teddy, you never know.
This little anecdote came back to me when I read that Roosevelt and fifteen thousand Rough Riders (mostly volunteers from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) had easily defeated two hundred thousand Cuban soldiers at San Juan Hill, themselves sustaining only a handful of casualties. The story was further complicated to hear from my Uncle that the same American troops had to invent the .45 caliber service revolver, because the .32 caliber service revolver wouldn,t stop the Philipinos from advancing. We have all sorts of tales of wild men Philipino troops in those conflicts, and the outcome certainly points in the direction of fierce fighting. Furthermore, the Bay of Pigs calamity many decades later under President John Kennedy seems to show that somebody in the CIA was counting on a repeat performance of Teddy's experience, and got the Philippino one. In short, there seems to have been a large dose of "fake news" in the whole thing. At this distance, it's hard to believe the whole story, except to say that something must have happened.
Originally published: Monday, September 23, 2019; most-recently modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2019