In the days of Tangier, International Zone, the Legation was guarded by a contingent of US Marines, and by the Tabor or Moroccan gendarme force of the Zone. But the photo at right might surprise those who don't know the geography of the American Legation in Tangier. The guards are on the street, a pedestrian street that runs through – and under – the Legation.
Thanks to Legation friend Franklin Koppel for getting us this precious photo.
Older Tangier residents recall the days of Marines-in-the-street, and we love the story told by the father of one of our staff. As a boy, he would gather up his courage and lung power and race by the Marine every time he had to pass by on Zankat Amrika – America Street, where the Legation is Number 8. It wasn't just the Marines; he was also afraid of the jinn or spirits who were said to inhabit the place. Talk about intangible security measures…
So after all these years sans Marines (we assume they moved over to the new US Consulate General Tangier, when it opened in 1961), Zankat Amrika again has Dress Blues. We even have resurrected a Detex® Watchclock station. Above and below, the latest addition to our museum's exhibit on the history of Moroccan-American relations, "Corporal TALIM." Cover (to civilians, the Marine's cap) provided by Staff Sergeant Adam Peerey, Detachment Commander of the new Consulate General Casablanca Marine detachment.
Wikipedia has a very helpful entry on Marine Corps uniforms, and notes that some variants of Dress Blues "because they are considered formal wear, are rarely seen… except on Marine Recruiters and Marine Security Guards." The gift of the Dress Blues was from Dr. Amin Tarzi (photo at left), director of Middle East Studies at Marine Corps University.
We are particularly happy with Dr. Tarzi's gift, since it includes some of his own history – his belt from his service as a member of the Marine Corps Reserve. Dr. Tarzi hails from a distinguished Afghan family, and is an internationally-known expert on the Middle East and South Asia.
The Marine Embassy Guard Association – MEGA – is a repository of much of the history and lore of MSGs over the years, and serves as a clearing house for old friends trying to get back in touch. On MEGA's well-constructed website, we learn that in 1949, at the very outset of the new Marine Security Guard program at US diplomatic missions, "the first fifteen Marines departed Washington on their assignments, 9 of whom went to the Tangier American Legation." Another first for the Legation.
Tangier had actually seen Marines much earlier; in 1904, during the Perdicaris Affair, US Marines accompanied the Atlantic Fleet for a show of force – in those days, TR's "Big Stick" approach, literally gunboat diplomacy.
These days, Marines are much in demand: security tensions have led to an expansion in the number of MSG detachments. The American Consulate General in Casablanca has been the recipient of one of those new detachments, and we hope that the Marines in Rabat and Casa – as well as serving and former Marines elsewhere – will stop by and see more about their history in one of the most unique locations for a MSG detachment.
Gerald Loftus, text; photos: Mohammed Jadidi