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July 6, 2024 30 mins

This 2018 episode covers a 1918 conflict between two cities, both named Nogales, one on each side of the U.S.-Mexico border. 

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Speaker 1 (00:02):
Happy Saturday. This week we had an episode that was
focused on the Buffalo Soldiers, and we've chosen today's Saturday
Classic because the Buffalo Soldiers were part of it as well.
It's the Battle of Ambos Nogales, which took place in
nineteen eighteen and led to the construction of the first
permanent wall along the US Mexico border. We mentioned a

punitive expedition into Mexico in Passing in this episode, and
the Buffalo Soldiers tenth Cavalry was part of that as well. Also,
please excuse how we pronounced Gadsden Purchase. I typed it wrong,
not once, but twice, and our mouths just trusted that
I knew what I was doing. This originally came out

August twenty second, twenty eighteen, So enjoy. Welcome to Stuff
You Missed in History Class, a production of iHeartRadio. Hello,
and welcome to the podcast. I'm Tracy V. Wilson and

I'm Holly Frye. At this point, I think most of
our listeners have probably heard that we launched a new
podcast in July. I called This Day in History Class.
One of the side effects of starting a show that
is daily and talks about something that happened on that
day in history is that as you're figuring out what
to talk about, you find episodes that are also going

to be good on Stuffy miss in History Class. And
that's how today's episode came to be. August twenty seventh,
twenty eighteen, is the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle
of Ambos Nogiles, and that was an international incident at
the US Mexico border in Arizona on the United States
side and in Sonora on the Mexican side. So now
you know what I'm going to talk about on the

August twenty seventh episode of this Day in History Class.
But we are going to cover it in way more
detail here because that show is only five minutes long. Also,
I know we have lots of teachers listening with their
students and parents listening with maybe younger kids. There is
one bit of strong language that comes up in this
episode and some quoted material. I don't really consider it
to be a swear, but I know other people would

have the opposite opinion, like maybe my mom, so, yeah,
like we spelled out the word but butt when we
were children because that was a bad really yeah, so, uh,
if you think that might apply to you, maybe give
this one an advanced listen to just make sure that
that one particular thing is not going to be an issue.

But it is not the word but to be it
is not. But so we walked through some very basic
history of the American Southwest recently when we talked about
the zoot Suit riots. But we know not everyone listens
to every episode, So we're going to give you a
quick recap. After Europeans arrived in North America, what is

now the southwestern United States was claimed by Spain. New
Spain declared its independence in eighteen ten, which kicked off
a war that lasted until eighteen twenty. The war ended
when Spain finally recognized Mexico as an independent nation. The
Mexican state of Sonora was formally established in eighteen twenty four.

Then the Mexican American War began in eighteen forty six
and it ended in eighteen forty eight. After that, Mexico
seeded a large stretch of land to the United States.
This included a lot of what would become the Southwestern States,
but it did not include the southernmost parts of Arizona
or New Mexico. The United States bought that territory in
the Glasden Purchase, which was finalized in eighteen fifty four,

and Arizona became a state in nineteen twelve. So obviously
a super quick recap that is, hundreds of years of
history in two paragraphs and not even including anything about
the indigenous people who were already living there. So two cities,
both named Nogalis, were established, one on each side of
the border after the Glasden purchase, but before Arizona's statehood.

The name Nogalis is derived from the Spanish word for walnut,
and collectively the two cities are called Ambos Nogals or
both Nogalas. These cities were established after a railroad was
planned that would connect Mexico and the United States, running
from Tucson almost due south to Guimus on the Gulf
of California. On the US side, Jacob and Isaac Isaacson

established a trading post at the border along the proposed
train route in eighteen eighty At first they called it Isaacson,
but they changed the name to Nogals on June fourth,
eighteen eighty three. On the Mexican side, the Mexican government
authorized the establishment of a customs office at the border
along the same train route on August second of eighteen
eighty That train line was finished in eighteen eighty two.

Soon Ambos Nogalis was the most important border crossing between
Arizona and Sonora. Its population grew quickly, and by the
late nineteen teens there were nearly four thousand people living
on the Sonora side and a little more than five
thousand people living in Arizona. These two cities were divided
only by a broad boulevard that was called International Street.

There were only two visible signs that International Street was
really an international border. One was Boundary Monument one twenty two.
This was an obelisk. It still stands today. It marks
the exact position of the border, and that replaced an
earlier marker that had fallen apart in eighteen ninety three.
The other clue was this wide expanse of empty territory

on either side of the line. Mexico had built Nogalles,
Sonora with buildings that were at least fifty feet or
fifteen meters away from the border. Buildings in Nogalles, Arizona
were initially built a lot closer, but in the eighteen nineties,
by presidential proclamation, everything that was within sixty feet or
eighteen meters of the line was torn down. This was

an attempt to curb smuggling, basically, with the idea that
without a bunch of buildings to hide in between, it
would be harder to smuggle. Did not actually do much
to deter smuggling. For the first decades of the city's histories,
it was really easy to cross from one Nogalles to another.
You just walked across the street. That wide expanse of
empty land was also a popular place for both Mexican

and American children to play. Even though these were two cities,
one in the US and the other in Mexico, they
functioned more like one binational community that happened to straddle
an international border. Citizens of one country often had families, jobs,
or property on the other. This pretty much open border
in Ambos Nogalles became increasingly guarded starting around nineteen ten,

at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. The Mexican Revolution
was a long and extremely complicated conflict that involved numerous
revolutionary factions. It led to millions of deaths. Violence associated
with the revolution also threatened American cities all along the
border with Mexico, including Nogallas, Arizona. Mexican border cities like

Nogalas Sonora also became particularly important during the revolution because
controlling them made it easier for revolutionaries to cross into
the United States to purchase weapons and supplies. In nineteen thirteen,
Constitutionalist forces lay siege to Nogals Sonora, which meant that
the Mexican Revolution was being fought literally across the street

from an American city. After several days of fighting, in
which several American soldiers and civilians were wounded by stray gunfire,
the federal forces in Nogalles Sonora crossed the border and
surrendered to the Americans. The violence continued in the area
into nineteen fifteen during Panchovia's campaign in northern Mexico, and
this led to troops from the United States Army being

deployed all over the border to try to protect Americans
against the possible spillover of violence from Mexico. During VIA's campaign,
the governor of Sonora also put up a barbed wire
fence through Nogles to act as a deterrent, but that
was taken down after just a few months. Although Panchovia's
men didn't ultimately invade Nogalles, Arizona, there was a lot

of tension between Mexicans and Americans as his campaign was
going on. There were understandable fears and frustrations stemming from
being right across the border from an ongoing revolution for
five solid years, but these tensions were also fueled by racism.
This erupted into a riot in August of nineteen fifteen

when a white mob in Arizona tried to force Mexicans
across the border into Sonora, and then on March ninth,
nineteen sixteen, Ponchovia attacked Columbus, New Mexico. Although Ambos Noogailis
wasn't directly involved in this, the attack nearly took the
United States and Mexico to war, and it made things
even more tense and numerous American cities near the border.

This was one of the factors in the Bisbee deportation,
which we talked about earlier this year. After the attack
on Columbus, the United States mounted what was known as
the Punitive Expedition to try to hunt down Panchovia. The
National Guard units were sent to cities all over the border,
including Nogalas, to guard them from potential attack. Meanwhile, World

War One started in nineteen fourteen, and in early nineteen seventeen,
a telegram from German Foreign Secretary Arthur's Zimmermann was intercepted
and decoded. In this telegram, Germany pledged to return Arizona,
New Mexico, and Texas to Mexico. Mexico joined the war
and fought against the United States. So after nearly a

decade of ongoing threats stemming from the Mexican Revolution, Americans
were now also afraid that Mexico was going to go
from being neutral in the war to actively fighting against
the United States, even though the fact that there was
still a revolution going on and it had been going
on for years made that pretty unlikely. The Zimmerman Telegram
was a major factor in the United States decision to

finally enter World War One in April of nineteen seventeen,
and when that happened, the National Guard troops that had
been stationed along the US Mexico border were called up
to federal service, placing them in Nogalis, where the U.
S Army's thirty fifth Infantry and tenth Cavalry Regiments. The
tenth Cavalry was an all black unit under the command

of white officers, and was better known as part of
the Buffalo Soldiers. As in other cities on the border,
a rifle club was also established in Nogalis, which was
meant to act as a civilian fighting force if one
was needed. On January eighteenth, nineteen eighteen, a German agent
named Lotharvitske was apprehended in Nogalis, Sonora. He had an

encrypted letter on his person that was addressed to the
German ambassador in Mexico City. It read, in part quote
strictly secret. The bearer of this is a subject of
the German Empire who travels as a Russian under the
name of Pablo Veberski. He is a German secret agent.
Please furnish him on request protection and assistance. Also advance

him on demand up to one thousand pesos of Mexican gold,
and send his code telegrams to this embassy as official
consular dispatches. It was signed von Eckhart. That was Heinrich
von Eckhart, German foreign minister, who was also the recipient
of the Zimmerman telegram. Vitzka was tried in August of

nineteen eighteen and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted
to life in prison after the end of the war,
and he was later pardoned. All of this led to
increasingly higher border security in Nogalles, which we will talk
about after a quick sponsor break. Starting in the summer

of nineteen eighteen, authorities, especially American authorities, started putting a
lot heavier restrictions on what could happen at the Ambos
noo Galles border. For example, suddenly there were a lot
of new rules about how much and what kind of
food people could take from the United States into Mexico.
In the summer of nineteen eighteen, authorities in the US
threatened to close the border in entirely if authorities in

Mexico didn't put an end to what was described as
food running, and the border itself became more controlled. No
longer was it a situation where you could simply cross
the street or where children could play across the borderline.
Two official crossing points were established when residents on both
sides balked at suddenly having only two places to cross

when they had previously been completely free to come and go.
No Gallus Sonora Mayor Felix B. Penaloza ordered a barbed
wire fence to be placed along the Mexican side. This
was a gesture of goodwill on the mayor's part. He
framed it as a way to make it easier for
American border agents to do their jobs. He suggested to
his counterparts in Arizona that they do the same on

their side of the border to contribute to the overall security.
In August of nineteen eighteen, the US State Department started
restricting how Mexicans could enter the United States through no galles.
Mexican laborers with a passport were allowed two entries per
day and that was it. Non workers were allowed only
one entry per week. People really bristled at this idea,

especially Mexican workers who had jobs in Arizona and people
who had families on the other side of the line.
There was also an immediate economic impact on businessmen in
Arizona who relied on customers from Sonora and vice versa.
I mean, when your town had been pretty much an
entire international community where we came and went freely, people

were economically really connected to each other. Duties collected at
the customs houses were also a major source of revenue,
particularly in Sonora, and that was greatly affected by the
reduction in traffic across the border as well. And as
tensions continued to escalate, Mexicans reported increasing incidents of mistreatment

at the hands of US border officials. It was everything
from just general rudeness to physically being shoved out of
border agent's offices. It was enough for Mexican Consul Jose
Garza Zertucci to write up a report to the Mexican
Secretariat of Foreign Affairs detailing a range of insults and injustices. Then,

on August twenty seventh, nineteen eighteen, a Mexican carpenter named
Zepfarino gil Lamdrid was returning home after doing a job
in Arizona. He was a well known person in Ambos Noogailes,
and he was carrying a bulky package. He had already
stepped onto the Mexican side of the border when a
US customs agent named Arthur Barber told him to turn

around and come back and have that package inspected. Guards
on the Mexican side of the crossing told gil Lamdrid
to ignore Barber. He was already in Mexico and he
did not need to turn around, gil Lamdrid was not
sure what to do. Any froze, and then Private William
Clint from the US thirty fifth Infantry pointed his rifle

at gil Lamdrid to encourage him to come back to
the US side and have the package inspected. Somebody, it
is not clear if it was Clint or someone else,
fired a shot. Gil Lamadrid dropped to the ground. Apart
from it being totally reasonable to hit the deck when
you hear a gunshot in your vicinity while somebody had
been pointing a weapon at you, at least two Mexicans

had also been shot and killed at the border in
Nogalis while trying to cross over the prior twelve months.
The guards on the Mexican side of the border believed
that gil Lamadrid had been killed. In response, one guard
named Francisco Gallegos shot at the Americans, hitting Clint in
the face and wounding him. Agent Barber returned fire, killing

both Galagos and another Mexican guard. At that point, Gilamdrad
got up and ran. There was a Mexican Federal Army
garrison nearby, but most of the men stationed there were
away from the area fighting rebels. When this happened, so
Mexican civilians went home and grabbed their personal rifles and
began trying to defend Nogalles, Sonora from the US Army.

Most of them took up sniper position in homes and
on roofs. In the words of Captain Roy V. Merlage
of the tenth Cavalry quote, I told the men to
follow me not far along before we got a lot
of fire. There was so much it was hard to
tell where it was coming from. Also, it seemed as
though everybody in Nogalis was shooting from the windows toward

the border. Became a massive gun battle. It was mainly
between the US Army troops and Mexican civilian snipers, although
that civilian rifle club that had been established in Nogallas,
Arizona was also involved. Eventually, the thirty fifth Infantry also
set up and employed a machine gun from a hill
on the Arizona side. Mayor Penelosa was in a meeting

at Nogalis, Sonora City Hall when all of this started.
He tied a handkerchief to his cane as an improvised
white flag, and he went out into the street to
try to stop the gunfire. He waved his flag and
he begged the civilians on the Mexican side to stop shooting.
He was shot from the Arizona side, although it is
not clear by whom, and he died within the hour.

The mayor's death made the residence of Nogalis, Sonora even angrier.
They already felt like they'd been facing months of mistreatment
and abuse from overbearing American border agents, and now they
were being shot at and their mayor was dead. More
civilians became involved in the fighting, and women on the
Sonora side painted red crosses on sheets and tried to

establish a field hospital. Jose Garzaz Sertucci got in touch
with the Lieutenant Colonel Frederick J. Herman of the tenth Cavalry,
who was the acting subdistrict commander. Sertucci proposed that both
sides raise a white flag and mutually agree to stop shooting.
Herman told Sertucci to go to Hell, saying later quote

American troops don't carry white flags and don't use them. Later,
Herman would confirm to a Senate committee that he had
told the Mexican consul to go to Hell. It's not
a very diplomatic response to that request, and herman told
their two that if Nogalisnora didn't raise their white flag
in the next ten minutes, that the US Army was

going to go across the border and burn the whole
city down. Acting Mayorjesu's Palma, who had assumed that role
after the death of Mayor Panaloza, ordered a white flag
to be raised over the No Galisonora customs house at
about seven forty five PM, although some scattered gunfire continued
after it was raised. The official report on this from
the Mexican Army listed the Mexican death toll at fifteen,

twelve of them civilians. The civilians included at least two
children and a woman who was hanging up her wash
when she was shot. Also killed on the Mexican side
were one soldier and two guards. Reports on the American
side listed seven dead, two officers, three enlisted men, and
two civilians, but the US authorities estimated that the death

toll and Sonora was actually much higher than the initial report,
with more than one hundred people killed and there were
many injuries on both sides. When the US War Department
heard what happened, they contacted Brigadier General de Rosy cable
at nearby Fort Wachuka to investigate. Mexican President Vinustanio Caranza

ordered the Sonorian governor Plutarco Ellis Caius to investigate as well.
The border was closed for almost twenty four hours, and
civilians in Nogalis, Sonora were ordered to turn in their weapons,
although not all of them did. Kabo and Kayas met
along with interpreters on August twenty eighth. Unlike the phone
call between Sertucci and Hermann, this seems to have been

an overall positive and productive meeting. Both sides expressed regret
for what had happened the day before and genuinely wanted
to prevent any further violence. But that night, Private Edward
Stiller was on guard near the thirty fifth Infantry's machine gun.
He and everybody else that was stationed there had been
ordered not to respond to any shots from the Mexican side,

but when somebody fired a shot from Nogalis, Sonora, the
soldiers manning the machine gun returned fire. More shots were fired,
and Stiller was hitting the leg and wounded. After he
learned about this incident, Cabol warned Caius that if shots
continued to be fired, from the Mexican side, the army
would have to cross the border to pursue the culprits.
But the next day, August twenty ninth, Private Stiller left

the hospital, walked back to the hill where the machine
gun was stationed, and started firing his gun across the
line into Mexico. He hit and wounded a Mexican soldier
who was standing guard, and Kabble had him arrested. During
the earlier meeting between cabl and Caius, Cobble had asked
Caius to stop this gun fire that kept sporadically happening

from the Mexican side. Caius had said that these shots
were being fired by irresponsible civilians and then it was
pretty much out of his control. But after Kabil had
Stiller arrested, he went back to Caius and said that
he was willing to discipline his soldiers when they broke
the orders not to fire, but that he also needed
assurances from Kayus that he was taking steps on the

Sonora side. Cayus agreed to try to apprehend the shooters
on the Mexican side, and although there were a few
more spray gunshots after this, that was the end of
most of the fighting. We're going to talk about the
investigations and the aftermath of all of this, but first
we're going to pause for a little sponsor break. After

the Battle of Ambosnogailes, authorities on both sides of the
border tried to pinpoint and address the issues that had
contributed to the incident in the first place. Kabal conducted
an investigation of the customs procedures on the Arizona side
of the border, and his ultimate conclusion was that the
root cause of this incident was resentment from the ongoing
mistreatment of Mexicans who were trying to cross the border.

As a result, one US border officer was fired for
improper conduct because of his ongoing mistreatment of Mexicans when
they were trying to The investigation cited quote frequent cases
of insolence and overbearing conduct. Then Lieutenant Colonel Hermann was
also demoted and transferred out of Nogalis. Authorities in both

Sonora and Arizona also changed how the border agents, the
guards other servicemen at the border were armed. They started
carrying side arms and sometimes clubs instead of rifles to
try to defuse some of the tension. The barbed wire
fence that had been placed along the border leading up
to this was intended to be temporary, and at this

point there were some other temporary fences along the border
as well. Most of them were put up because of
security fears due to the Mexican Revolution in World War One,
but in a couple of cases it was to try
to keep livestock from crossing the border. But after the
events of August twenty seventh, nineteen seventeen, Kaba recommended that
the fence in Nogalas be lengthened and made permanent, and

this became the first permanent barrier at the US Mexian border.
After the end of the war, Senator Albert Fall of
New Mexico called for Congressional hearings into various issues at
the US Mexico border. A number of businesses and political
leaders really wanted the United States to intervene in Mexico,
mostly to try to protect business and financial interests that

were being affected by the Mexican Revolution. In Fall's case,
this was interested in an oil company. The hearings were
meant to try to convince President Woodrow Wilson to invade Mexico.
The Battle of Ambos Nogallis was a big part of
these hearings, and while they didn't entice President Woodrow Wilson
to invade Mexico, they did influence how Americans understood what

it happened at Nogalas for decades. Fred Herman, now a captain,
gave testimony at these hearings that was at various points
dishonest and disingenuous, but which continued to be repeated as
fact for decades. He claimed that in the days leading
up to the Battle of Ambos Nogallas, he had received
intelligence reports of strange wealth supplied Mexicans and unfamiliar white

men in Sonora. He said that he believed, based on
these reports, that Nogalis Sonora had been infiltrated by German
agents and was preparing an attack. Hermann also claimed that
he had received an anonymous letter from someone claiming he
was a former major in Pancho Villa's army who had
grown disillusioned and disgusted with Villa and the brutalities of

his fighting force. The letter claimed that there would be
an attack on Nogallis, Arizona by a Mexican force with
German support around August twenty fifth, but it doesn't appear
that there's a copy of that intelligence report or the
letter anywhere. There was no mention of either of them
in Kabbel's investigation into the incident. And on top of that,

Herman also described what happened on August twenty seventh in
a way that was variously just not right. He said
that most of the people who were fighting in Sonora
were soldiers, when most of them were really civilians. He
also said that the mayor who had been shot literally
while waving a white flag and had a rifle in
his hands at the time. When I say that, these

things are still repeated as fact, like when I was
doing research for this podcast, I had a lot of
them written down as fact in my notes as I
was reading articles about them, And then I was like,
but whatever happened with that, the whole German thing like that,
why didn't that ever come up in any of this
resolution part? And it's because it doesn't appear that anybody

said anything about that until these congressional hearings that were
way after the fact. So there's suspicion that like none
of that ever even really happened. In terms of getting
a letter and these intelligence reports. The fence that was
erected in nineteen eighteen was made of barbed wire. It
was later replaced with chain link and then with large

pieces of corrugated steel. The current barrier was placed in
twenty eleven and it cost nearly twelve million dollars. It's
between eighteen and thirty feet tall, that's between five point
five and nine meters, and it's made of steel tubes
reinforced with concrete with four inch or ten centimeter gaps
in between. This design was meant to allow law enforcement

and border patrol to see what was happening on the
other side of the wall, but it also had the
side effect of allowing family members and friends who lived
on opposite sides of the wall to see and talk
to one another. In addition to places for people to
cross the border, the wall also has a port for livestock,
especially on the Sonora side. There's a lot of artwork
along the wall, some of its formerly sanctioned art installations

and some of its graffiti. A lot of it is
expressing objection to the wall into the policies that led
it to still be there. There is still a lot
of traffic between Sonora and Arizona, although that has waned
as the border has become increasingly militarized, a process that
started in the nineteen eighties and nineties, but the two
cities still have a lot of overlap, with many residents

having friends and family on the other side of the border.
No Gallus, Arizona is much smaller. It's about twenty thousand
people compared to Nogalis Sonora's two hundred and fifty thousand. Interestingly,
both cities have the same surface and groundwater sources, and
the wastewater for both is treated at the Nogalis International
Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rio Rico, Arizona. The Battle of

Ambos Noogallas is commemorated more on the Sonora side than
on the Arizona side, including a ballad that was written
at the time and is still sung today. There's also
a memorial to the defenders of Nogallis Sonora in the
Mexican customs house there, which lists the names of the
confirmed dead. So the permanent wall through Ambos Nogalles was

erected after a violent cross border conflict, with the intent
that it would prevent something similar in the future, and
officials have increasingly relied on it as a physical barrier
to stop illegal border crossings by everyone from immigrants to
drug and weapons smugglers, but it hasn't really stopped any
of that. In spite of having been designed to deter

her climbing, people still climb over it daily, sometimes carrying
all kinds of contraband. Yeah, every article that you read
about this wall today is like and there are still
people climbing over it all the time. Also, on October tenth,
twenty twelve, unarmed sixteen year old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez
was shot ten times in the back four blocks from

his home in Nogalis, Sonora, by US Border Patrol agent
Lonnie Schwartz. Schwartz fired sixteen times from the United States
into Mexico, and he said that he was acting in
self defense. Agents were in the middle of pursuing two
people who were climbing over the fence with bundles of marijuana,
and agents reported that Rodriguez and other people on the

Mexican side were throwing rocks at them to try to
distract them in their pursuit. There is some security footage
though that raises doubts about that accusation and Rodriguez's family
has maintained that he was not the type of kid
to throw rocks at a border patrol officer. Schwartz was
indicted years later, and he was found not guilty of
second degree murder in April of twenty eighteen. The jury

was not able to reach a verdict and to lesser
manslaughter charges in the case. As a final note, Ambos
Nogallas is not the only binational community in the immediate
vicinity about sixty miles it's about ninety seven kilometers to
the west is tahonah o Odom Nation. The tribal headquarters
is in Cells, Arizona, but about two thousand tribal members

live in Sonora. This has its own complexities, but the
border through the tohonah Oodom Nation has at least for
the past century, been much more open than the border
through Ambos Nogals. Obviously, the nation is working to change that,
the nation being the United States, not the tohono Odem Nation.

Thanks so much for joining us on this Saturday. Since
this episode is out of the archive, if you heard
an email address or a Facebook URL or something similar
over the course of the show, that could be obsolete
now Now our current email address is history podcast at
iHeartRadio dot com. You can find us all over social
media at missed Inhistory, and you can subscribe to our

show on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, the iHeartRadio app, and
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