Rafael de Nogales Méndez

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Rafael de Nogales Mendéz in an Ottoman military uniform of WWI

Rafael Inchauspe Méndez, known as Rafael de Nogales Méndez (San Cristóbal, Táchira, October 14, 1879 – Panama City, July 10, 1936) was a Venezuelan soldier, adventurer and writer who served for the Ottoman Empire during the Great War (1914–18). He travelled extensively and fought in many of the wars of his age.

Education and first conflicts[edit]

When a young man his father sent him to study in Europe and he attended Universities in Germany, Belgium and Spain, and spoke several languages fluently. Despite his education, Nogales felt more attracted to the military profession and he began to travel where the news of war took him. He took part in several conflicts in the last part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th: he fought for the Spanish against the Americans in the Spanish–American War. In 1902 with the support of president Zelaya of Nicaragua, Nogales participated in a failed attempt to overthrow Venezuelan dictator Cipriano Castro involving an expedition aboard the schooner La Libertad. The forces landed in La Guajira peninsula but were defeated by general Antonio Davila in Carazua as part of Revolución Libertadora of Venezuela. In 1904 participated in the Russo-Japanese War as double agent. Additionally, he spent time in Alaska during the time of the gold rush there. In California he fought with the forces of Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magón and also worked as a cowboy in Arizona. He returned to Venezuela in 1908, after the military coup of Juan Vicente Gómez that overthrew his enemy Cipriano Castro. Nogales was appointed by General Gómez as president of Apure State, however, he went into exile after making himself an enemy of the new president.

World War I[edit]

When World War I began, after unsuccessfully attempting to join a number of other European armies, he enlisted in the Ottoman Army and was assigned to the Caucasus Front, where he reached the rank of major. He led gendarmerie troops during the siege of Van, but asked to be relieved due to what he believed were "unjustified massacres of Christians".[1] He believed that the massacres were committed by Khahil Bey, the Commander and Chief of the Expeditionary Army he volunteered to serve.[1] He later wrote a book describing his experiences with the Ottoman Army in World War I.

In his book, De Nogales recounts the massacres of the Armenian population in Van during the Armenian Genocide and wrote:[2]

At dawn I was awakened by the noise of shots and volleys. The Armenians had attacked the town. Immediately I mounted my horse and, followed by some armed men, went to see what was happening. Judge of my amazement to discover that the aggressors had not been the Armenians, after all, but the civil authorities themselves! Supported by the Kurds and the rabble of the vicinity, they were attacking and sacking the Armenian quarter, I succeeded at last, without serious accident, in approaching the Beledie reis of the town, who was directing the orgy; whereupon I ordered him to stop the massacre. He astounded me by replying that he was doing nothing more than carry out an unequivocal order emanating from the Governor-General of the province to exterminate all Armenian males of twelve years of age and over.

Nogales Méndez reported that the civil authorities found it preferable to murder at night with the help of local Kurds.[2] When visiting Aghtamar, an island in Lake Van where the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross is located, he notes that he uncovered the corpses of many priests.[3]

Nogales Méndez visited Diyarbakir on June 26, 1915 and spoke with Mehmet Reşid, who was the governor of the province.[4] During his time in Diyarbakir, he witnessed the massacres of the local Christian population of the province.[5][6] According to his conversation with Reşid, the orders to massacre were sent from Interior Minister Talat Pasha.[6] Nogales Méndez recounts in his memoirs that Reşid mentioned to him that he received a telegram directly from Talat Pasha ordering him to "Burn-Destroy-Kill".[6][7]

After being transferred from the Caucasus, he saw action in the Sinai and Palestine Front. He fought in the Turkish lines during the entire war, and was awarded the Iron Cross by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

On one occasion during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, he came face-to-face with Colonel T. E. Lawrence on the frontier. He and Lawrence looked at each other, then without speaking he and Lawrence parted with nothing to say.[citation needed] He was compared with T. E. Lawrence due to their works in Arabia despite their different uniforms.


After the war ended, he worked with the Nicaraguan revolutionary Augusto César Sandino. In London, Nogales wrote some books about his adventures around the world. In Venezuela he was appointed by General Gómez to study the Panamanian army, but later he died in Panama City in 1936.

He wrote several books about his experiences: Memorias del general Rafael de Nogales Méndez, Cuatro años bajo la Media Luna, about his experiences as an officer of the Ottoman Empire, and El saqueo de Nicaragua. His commentaries about the atrocities committed against the Armenian people by the Turkish officials are in the book Cuatro años bajo la Media Luna.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mann, Michael (2005). The Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. Cambridge University Press. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-52183130-7. I was thoroughly disgusted and disheartened by the numerous and utterly unjustified massacres of the Christians, committed, if not at the direct instance, at least through the complaisance of the Commander-in-Chief of our Expeditionary Army, Khalil Bey.
  2. ^ a b Lee, Rafael de Nogales ; translated from the Spanish by Muna (2003). Four years beneath the crescent. London: Sterndale Classics. ISBN 1903656192.
  3. ^ Herrera, Hayden (2003). Arshile Gorky : his life and work (1st ed.). New Yorh: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 63–4. ISBN 0374529728.
  4. ^ Anderson, Perry (2011). The new old world (pbk. ed.). London: Verso. p. 459. ISBN 978-1-84467-721-4. Resit Bey, the butcher of Diyarbakir
  5. ^ Akçam, Taner (2007). A shameful act: the Armenian genocide and the question of Turkish responsibility (1st Holt pbk. ed.). New York, NY: Metropolitan Books/Holt. p. 165. ISBN 080508665X.
  6. ^ a b c Gaunt, David (2006). Massacres, resistance, protectors: muslim-christian relations in Eastern Anatolia during world war I (1st Gorgias Press ed.). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias. p. 157. ISBN 1593333013.
  7. ^ Üngör, Ugur Ümit. The making of modern Turkey: nation and state in Eastern Anatolia, 1913–1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-965522-7.


  • De Nogales, Rafael. Four Years Beneath The Crescent. London: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926. Most recently republished as: Four Years Under the Crescent (Sterndale Classics (Gomidas Institute)) ISBN 1-903656-19-2
  • De Nogales, Rafael. Memoirs of a soldier of Fortune. New York: Garden City Publishing Company, Inc., 1932. Recently republished in paperback.
  • McQuaid, Kim, The Real and Assumed Personalities of Famous Men: Rafael De Nogales, T.E. Lawrence. and the Birth of the Modern Era, 1914–1937, London. Gomidas Institute, 2010, ISBN 978-1-903656-97-6

External links[edit]