Army

March 8, 2013

Military Intelligence — this week in history: March 8, 2013

Tags:
Ruth Quinn, Staff Historian
USAICoE Command History Office

American military aviation takes off with 1st Aero Squadron

Men and machines of the 1st Aero Squadron on duty in Mexico during the 1916 Punitive Expedition.

On March 9, 1916, Mexican Revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa and his followers known as “Villistas,” raided the town of Columbus, N.M., triggering a chain of events that nearly caused a war between the United States and Mexico. During the raid, 18 Americans, mostly civilians, were killed, and about 70 Villistas lay dead. Pancho Villa escaped back into Mexico.

The American response was to send Brig. Gen. John Pershing on a Punitive Expedition deep into Mexico to find and capture Villa. Six days after the raid, Pershing and his troops, including the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers from Fort Huachuca, crossed the international border in pursuit, beginning a long, frustrating and ultimately unproductive quest for justice.

Among the units to join the expedition was the 1st Aero Squadron, under the command of Capt. Benjamin Foulois. Consequently, the 1st Aero Squadron claims the distinction of the first American aviation unit to engage in combat operations in U.S. history.

However, the squadron’s initial contributions to Pershing’s hunt for Pancho Villa had little to do with flying. Pershing faced a monumental task in providing logistics for his expedition over harsh and extensive terrain with inadequate roads and no access to the railroad. He decided to use another new invention — the truck — to complement his mounted cavalry units.

The Army unit that had the most experience with these new-fangled machines was, ironically, the 1st Aero Squadron. Therefore, it was the aero squadron that was called upon to manage the logistical nightmare of hauling supplies such as field wire, food for soldiers and horses, tools, ammunition, etc., deep into Mexico.

When Foulois arrived in Columbus, N.M. on March 15, 1916 to join the expedition, he arrived with eight wood, wire and fabric Curtiss JN-3 biplanes, 10 four-wheel drive motor trucks, and six motorcycles.

Lieutenant Benjamin Foulois was the Army Signal Corps’ official observer in the passenger seat of the Wright Flyer when Orville Wright passed the all-important speed trial on July 30, 1909.

The aviators of the 1st Aero Squadron received the order to join the force on Sunday, March 19. They jumped into their airplanes and headed south, loaded with a single pilot, enough fuel for four hours of flying and weighed down with a variety of equipment. This included field glasses, extra goggles, a mess kit, emergency rations, a sleeping bag, army blankets, an emergency tool kit, an extra battery, engine and propeller covers, tie-down bands, and personal arms and ammunition.

The men were completely unprepared for night-time flight and would not reach their destinations in daylight hours. The terrain, altitude and weather conditions in Mexico beat up the fragile airplanes, and there were numerous crashes and missed opportunities. By the time the expedition ended less than a year later, the Army had effectively transitioned from a horse-powered to a gasoline-driven force.

The Punitive Expedition turned out to be a critical training ground for aviators and aviation in combat. Pershing was frustrated with their problems, but realized it was primarily a situation of old, underpowered equipment.

Meanwhile, in Europe a world war was raging, and airplanes were being designed specifically for observation and reconnaissance, leading to the development of smaller, faster pursuit airplanes and airborne bombers.

American military aviation was woefully behind, but when Pershing went to France as commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, only two months after the long march out of Mexico, he did so with valuable experience regarding the importance of this new technology and its combat effectiveness for the future.

To read more about the 1st Aero Squadron, check out the Air Force History and Museums Program booklet, “A Preliminary to War: The 1st Aero Squadron and the Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916” (2003) by Roger G. Miller, available online.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
TRADOC

‘Start Strong:’ Every Army career starts with TRADOC

FORT EUSTIS, Va. — Through U.S. Army Recruiting Command, U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training and U.S. Army Cadet Command, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command serves as the foundation for the “Start Strong” ...
 
 

Honoring Gold Star Mothers

As part of our commitment to never forget those Soldiers who gave all, the Army joins the Nation on Sunday in remembering the strength and sacrifice of its Gold Star Mothers. Since 1936, Congress has set aside the last Sunday in September to recognize the mothers of Service members who have died while defending our...
 
 

Remember Gold Star Mothers, Families

The term Gold Star Family is a modern reference that comes from the Service Flag. These flags/banners were first flown by Families during World War I. The flag included a blue star for every immediate Family member serving in the armed forces of the United States, during any period of war or hostilities in which...
 

 

New NCOER expected to more accurately assess Soldiers’ performance

WASHINGTON — On Aug. 1, the secretary of the Army approved the new Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation Report. Implementation will be in September 2015. “The new NCOER will come out in five phases: inform, educate, train, roll-out and after-action review. Human Resources Command is beginning to build the NCOER into the Evaluation System now,” said Command...
 
 
Flooding1_20140918_S.Vasey

Water, water everywhere

Photos by Scott Vasey The remnants of Hurricane Odile brought significant rainfall to Fort Huachuca last week as shown in photos of Huachuca Creek Sept. 18. The storm made landfall as the strongest storm on record to hit Mexico...
 
 
_DSC9936

ISEC gains new senior enlisted leader

Timothy Toms Command Sgt. Maj. Ulysses Rayford, (center) U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command, accepts the sword of responsibility from Col. Patrick Kerr, ISEC commander (left), and Master Sgt. Christopher Paluzzi,...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin