Did the Yale University secret society, Skull and Bones, steal Apache warrior Geronimo′s skull and bones? Was Prescott Bush behind the grave robbery? These questions were explored in last night′s episode of Brad Meltzer′s Lost History, aired on the History Channel H2. They also investigated the story of missing Cadillac once owned by Al Capone which was used to drive FDR to Congress on December 8, 1941. As always, we are also treated to one story with a happy ending, in this case the .38 caliber pistol used by Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. The pistol had been stolen twice but is back at TR′s museum.
A letter written by a ′Bonesman′ in 1918 claims that members of the Yale secret society, Skull and Bones, stole the skull, bones and riding tack of the Apache warrior chief, Geronimo. The alleged theft involved six men and was led by a young Prescott Bush, or so the story goes. Our story begins in the late 19th Century when Geronimo goes from being a medicine man to a warrior chief after the Mexican army kills many of his family. He goes on the warpath, attacking both Mexico and the United States. But, in 1886, Geronimo surrenders to the U.S. Army and is held as a prisoner at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Or is he a prisoner? Geronimo is so famous and in demand that the Army allows him to travel, appearing in Wild West shows and even once having lunch at the White House with Teddy Roosevelt.
Not long after Geronimo dies, America enters World War One. Fort Sill becomes a major training base for new recruits as the United States prepares for war. In 1986, a researcher, Ned Anderson received a letter and photos concerning the legend that the Skull and Bones society had Geronimo′s remains on display at their Yale residence, named The Tomb. Lawyers from the society met with Anderson and he was shown the display case that allegedly contain Geronimo′s remains, but, the items were identified as belonging to a child. The society says that they never had Geronimo′s skull and bones. As it turns out, back in 1918, Geronimo′s grave was still unmarked. The Apache graveyard itself was not on the Fort Sill base proper, but about 4 miles away. So it does seem unlikely that any Bonesmen could have accessed his grave. Since the only way to prove that a theft had actually occurred would be by exhuming the body, which the Apache′s would never permit, the whole story may never be proven one way or the other.
On December 8, 1941, FDR was heading for Congress to deliver what may be his most important speech ever, to declare war on Japan. The Secret Service was nervous about security. One aspect of which was the president′s automobile. At the time, the law only allowed for a maximum of $750 to be spent for any car purchased by the U.S. government. But a safer car would cost well over that. What to do?
The head of the Secret Service at the time was none other than Frank Wilson. Years earlier, he made headlines as the Treasury agent who took down Al Capone for income tax evasion. Among the property seized by the IRS was Al Capone′s Cadillac, $20,000 worth of rolling armor plate and bullet-proof glass. In 1927, a murder attempt on Capone by a rival gang caused him to order a special car. Not only was the Cadillac a rolling fortress, it was also painted green and black, looking just like a Chicago police car. It may have been the first privately owned vehicle to sport a police scanner, too!
Wilson knew the government had the car and requested it. When FDR saw it, he asked where it had come from? When Wilson told FDR that it had once belonged to Capone, the President quipped, ″I′m sure he won′t mind if we use it then.″ But now, the car is missing. Where could it be? Was it stolen from the government? Unknowingly sold at an auction? Or perhaps its in a big crate in some warehouse resting next to the Ark of the Covenant? If you know where it is, submit a tip at history.com and you may earn up to $10,000.
The .38 caliber pistol used by Teddy Roosevelt when he was a Rough Rider in Cuba was stolen twice! Even before that, it lay on the bottom of Havana′s harbor when it was part of the collection of firearms aboard the battleship USS Maine. Divers, one of whom was TR′s brother-in-law, found the pistol as they searched the wreck of the Maine. The pistol was presented to TR when he quit his job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and formed his regiment to go to war. He used it in Cuba, even notching it once when he killed a Spanish soldier with it.
For many years, the pistol was on display at Sagamore Hill, TR′s home in New York state, now a museum. In 1963, a teenager visiting the museum removed the pistol from its display case and tossed it into a bush outside. The pistol was recovered, but 27 years later, it was missing again. Enter Andy Anderson, whom, in 2006, took on a new girlfriend, the wife of Anthony Tulino. She tells Anderson that her husband stole TR′s pistol in 1990 and keeps it in a box in on the closet floor. He checks it out and calls the FBI who bust Tulino. Since Tulino never tried to sell the famous gun, estimated to be worth $1 Million dollars, he gets off easy with probation, community service and a fine. The pistol was returned to the museum and Anderson got nothing for his tip in the way of a reward.