GENERAL PERSHING PURSUES PANCHO VILLA
Colonia Dublan, Mexico (JFK+50) One hundred years ago today, March 15, 1916, General John J. Pershing led an expeditionary force of 6600 soldiers of the United States Army into Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa*.
Since June 1915, there were thirty-eight raids across the border of the United States resulting in thirty-seven American casualties. The most recent had been Villa's attack on Columbus, New Mexico. The town was burned to the ground and ten civilians and eight American soldiers of the 13th Cavalry regiment were killed.
President Woodrow Wilson issued this statement following the attack...
"An adequate force will be sent at once in pursuit of Villa with the single object of capturing him and putting a stop to his forays. This can and will be done in entirely friendly aid to the constitutional authorities in Mexico and with scrupulous respect for the sovereignty of that Republic."
It is believed that Villa attacked Columbus to capture military equipment and supplies to carry on his fight against Venustiano Carranza, the first chief of the Constitutionalist Army of Mexico.
Although Pershing's army was able to locate and defeat Villa's army, Villa himself escaped and was never captured. The army remained in Mexico for almost a year to encourage Carranza's government to pursue Villa and stop the raids across the border.
With U.S. entry into World War I on the horizon, General Pershing was recalled, and despite his failure to capture Villa, he publicly declared his expedition to be a success. Privately, however, he complained that President Wilson's restrictions on his actions in Mexico were to blame.
By the time of Pershing's recall, more than 10,000 American soldiers had been involved in the expedition in Mexico. Pershing's force had included four regiments of cavalry, and two infantry regiments. He also utilized reconnaissance support by the 1st Aero Squadron.
*Francisco Pancho Villa (1878-1923) was born in La Coyotada, Mexico. After evading capture by American forces, he retired from his military activities, but then involved himself in the presidential election of 1923 which resulted in his assassination.
Uncle Sam says...