William A. Chanler



                                   William A. Chanler

In the life of the hero of our article, the threads of the most diverse subjects have intricately intertwined, which continue to exert a significant influence on the world: the ascent of the American empire, the export of the revolution, and the connection between the US foreign policy services and the Islamist militant organizations. But beyond that, the life of William Astor Chanler is imbued with that special spirit of an international mystery man, now preserved only in romantic spy movies.
William Astor Chanler was born June 11, 1867, in the city of Newport, in the state of Rhode Island - a seaside resort for very wealthy Americans. By birth, Chandler belonged to the family as aristocratic as it is generally possible in the United States: along the line of his father, John Winthrop Chanler, his family (Dudley-Winthrop) ascended to the colonial governors of Massachusetts of the seventeenth century, on the maternal line he belonged to the Astor family, international financiers And also not the last people in American politics. Difficult kinship ties Chandler was connected with almost the entire American establishment of his time.
The early death of the parents left William and his nine brothers and sisters with a more than comfortable content for those times of $ 20,000 per year throughout his life.

As befits a decent family man, Chandler entered Harvard University, where he was elected a member of the Porcellian Club, the closest student organization of Harvard (a popular joke states that if a member of the club does not earn a million by the age of forty, the club will give it to him).
However, the university quickly got tired of our hero, and, having finished his year, William left him, taking up a much more attractive nature of his activity - the study of the interior regions of Africa. In two expeditions to Mount Kilimanjaro, Chandler discovered several species of butterflies and one species of crocodile, left his name on the map of Africa in the form of the Chandler waterfall, and also in the zoological dictionary - in honor of it, the species of the antelope was named.
He learned to speak Swahili fluently, came into contact with the previously unknown white tribes of the Kenyan mountains, acquired combat experience in the skirmishes with the aggressively-minded natives, and became acquainted with the Austrian naval officer and the great African explorer Ludwig von Hönel. Their last joint expedition to Mount Kenya nearly cost the lives of both - Chandler carried severe malaria, and von Hönel was seriously injured by an angry rhinoceros.

On his return to the US, Chandler, who was not even 27 years old, devoted himself to a political career, being elected in 1898 to the State Assembly in New York from the Democratic Party. The deputy's work quickly bored him, and in the same year he took leave in the assembly and began the military-foreign policy stage of his life.

By 1898 in Cuba for the third year, the third and last war for independence was raging against the decaying Spanish Empire. The American public demanded immediate intervention in the war on the side of the insurgents. Newspaper tycoon William Hurst launched an unprecedented propaganda campaign, publishing countless articles about fictional or to the extremely exaggerated atrocities of Spanish punishers on the island.

Do not stay away and Chandler. Before the decision to join the US in the war against Spain was made (it was led to a strange and mysterious incident with the Main cruiser that exploded in the harbor of Havana, officially on a Spanish mine, but opinions existed, and there are very different), Chandler already collected Cargo of weapons and ammunition, which he planned to take to Cuba. Whatever it was, before the shipment was sent, the US declared war on Spain.

In April 1898, Chandler tried to collect and arm his volunteer regiment for the US Army (the future president, Theodore Roosevelt, was supposed to be in charge of it), but the New York state governor, in very impolite terms, explained to Chanler that the US Armed Forces do not need services Private armies. Chandler did not get confused and entered the service in the newly formed Cuban army, immediately in the rank of colonel, and began to collect volunteers and mercenaries in Florida to send to Cuba. The military authorities of the United States revised their views on William's local activity and offered him the title of captain and the post of special mission officer at the headquarters of the Cavalry Division of the Fifth Army Corps. In 1898, he took part in four battles with the Spaniards in Cuba, received a medal for showing courage and was dismissed with honor.

Returning to New York as a hero, Chandler quickly elected to Congress in 1899. As Congressman, he was remembered by aggressive expansionist rhetoric, calling for the annexation of Cuba and Hawaii; He also supported the project of the Panama Canal.
In 1900, he abandoned the prospect of re-election to Congress and, slightly improving his financial condition (grateful Cuba kindly allowed him to purchase iron and copper mines on his territory, he, in turn, was kind enough to lend the Cuban government 35 million dollars), found a new adventure.
Here we are a little distracted from the events in the US and move to the opposite side of the Caribbean Sea, to Venezuela. In 1892, another military coup occurred in Venezuela. There was nothing unusual about this, of course, but among the exiled supporters of the old regime was the governor of the high and oil-bearing state of Tachira, Cipriano Castro. In exile in Colombia, Castro made a fortune in the trade of livestock, which he spent not on yachts and storage tanks, but on private armies, led by him and entered the Venezuelan capital of Caracas in October 1899, after which he established a strict dictatorship in the country.
An essential element of Castro's policy was the desire to close Venezuela from foreign influence, and in 1902 he refused to pay the debts of previous regimes, leading to the so-called Venezuelan crisis of 1902-1903, when creditor countries Britain, Germany and Italy sent their navies to the coast of Venezuela And established a naval blockade.
The attitude towards this in the United States was mixed - on the one hand, Americans also had nothing to love Castro (yes, this tradition is somewhat older than 1959), he did not pay any debts to them, on the other - there was an invasion of European powers into the affairs of the country, In accordance with the doctrine of Monroe, lying in the sphere of exclusively American influence. It was US intervention that did not allow the crisis to develop into an open war - in exchange for a modest 30% of customs duties per year (and since the Venezuelan economy was entirely raw, it is easy to understand that import and export duties constituted the main revenue item of the country's budget), the participating states The blockades agreed not to escalate the conflict.

The list of these powers lacked the Netherlands, whose bankers suffered from default, no less. The consortium of Dutch investors asked William Chanler to form an expeditionary corps, to land in Venezuela and force the Castro government to pay debts. Having collected all kinds of mercenaries and adventurers, Chandler landed on the coast of Venezuela and, without encountering any first resistance, began to advance into the center of the country. As a result, Castro agreed to the conditions of the Dutch consortium. This does not end the history of Dutch-Venezuelan friction (in 1908 there will be a small naval war), but the participation in them of our hero ends.
Then begins the most mysterious part of the life of Chandler - he travels the world on the yacht "Sanibel" acquired in 1904 and takes guests there. What was specifically discussed behind the cocktail on the deck is covered with the darkness of the unknown, but among the guests, there were people like Sun Yat-sen, leader of the revolution in the Qing Empire and the future president of China, or leaders of the Young Turk movement in the Ottoman Empire.

Finally, in 1910, the most interesting in the light of today's events begins the life of William Chandler - working with Muslim rebels. Outraged by Italy's attempt to tear Libya from dying Turkey, Chandler arrives there and establishes a relationship with the Senussites. It 's hard enough to describe what is the Senussi - it is both a religious movement, tribe, and the main genus in this tribe. Founded at the beginning of the 19th century by the Algerian preacher Muhammad al-Senussi as the Sufi order, the movement quickly spread throughout North Africa, most firmly entrenched in Libya and Sudan. More than once the Senussites came into conflict with the European powers, whether the British in Sudan, the French in Chad and now the Italians in Libya.
It is known that Chandler supplied the Senussites with weapons from Austria-Hungary, through the mediation of his old friend in Africa von Hönel's research. It is known that he disguised as a local travel through the deserts of Libya, indignant before the neutral nomadic tribes of the Sahara for a holy war against the Italian Gentiles. At least once, he drove to attack the Arab riders equipped at his expense to the Italian positions. In 1911, he left Libya after experiencing an attempt at poisoning. Who and why he tried to poison him is unknown.

But this is not his last adventure in Africa and not the last contact of a strange American billionaire with radical Islamic movements - already in 1912 he arrives in Somalia and quickly becomes a trusted adviser to Muhammad Abdullah Hasan, the ruler of the theocratic "state of dervishes" who went down in history as " The Mad Mullah, although, according to the British officers who fought with him, he was not a mullah and certainly was not insane.
The Dervishes waged a long and bloody war against Britain colonizing Somalia, against Italy, colonizing the other part of Somalia, and at the same time against Ethiopia, whose emperors considered Somalia to be the legal part of their possessions, as well as Somali tribes and photo states that did not want to support it in the holy war. It was during Chandler's presence in Somalia that the dervishes received in considerable quantities modern rifles (captured before them) and machine guns. It can not be said that the dervishes did a bad job before him - the insurrection had been going on since 1896, but it was during his days that the Islamists took and plundered Berber, the administrative center of British Somaliland. Although Chandler left Somalia in 1913, the Dervishes continued to cause trouble for the British for a long time - the end of the war was not until 1920, after a series of raids by the British Air Force on the Dervish capital of Tales.

In December 1913 there was an event that put an end to the overseas adventures of William Chanler. Like much in his life, it is not entirely clear - it is known that that winter in Paris something happened that led to the amputation of the leg. There are different versions, from a typical car crash to a romantic story about a pistol duel with an American boxer and actor Frank Moran. But those who knew the truth took her with them to the grave.
The rest of active life Chandler dedicated to business enterprises - in particular, he built "Waldorf-Astoria", which is still the most luxurious hotel in New York. Most of Chandler's assets belonged to the real sector - real estate and mining companies around the world, which somewhat softened the impact of the Great Depression.
Nevertheless, the stock market crash and the opiate dependence that arose after the amputation did not have a better impact on his health - in his Parisian home (he left the US forever in the 1920s) he began collecting many gold coins and items.
Subsequently, he also acquired strange anti-Semitic-conspiratological views, for example, being entirely convinced of the veracity of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (the British government is captured by the Jews and leads Britain to Bolshevism), writing letters to the then governor of New York, the future President Franklin Roosevelt is confused about the Jewish conspiracy against the United States and has created a whole network of agents whose task was to follow the Jews in US public policy.
In 1934, at the age of 66, William Chanler died in the French resort town of Menton.


  1. Fascinating story, although the gravestone depicted at the end is not Chanler's--the name is spelled differently and the dates don't match.

    William Chanler was involved in another adventure which is not described here: he assisted in the rescue of Alfred Dreyfus, the French artillery officer wrongfully accused of treason and condemned to life imprisonment on Devil's Island. Chanler agreed to pilot his yacht to the remote island prison so that his colleague Johnny O'Brien could go ashore at night and, with the aid of a platoon of Cuban mercenaries, take Dreyfus off the island. The story is told in detail in "The Escape of Alfred Dreyfus" by Robie Macauley, who met Chanler in 1934. Macauley later uncovered the story in O'Brien's autobiography, "A Captain Unafraid." An odd irony is that late in life, Chanler became a fervent anti-Semite. See http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33268399-the-escape-of-alfred-dreyfus


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