United States occupation of Veracruz
The United States occupation of Veracruz began with the Battle of Veracruz and lasted for seven months, as a response to the Tampico Affair of April 9, 1914. The incident came in the midst of poor diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States, and was related to the ongoing Mexican Revolution.
The Tampico Affair was set off when nine American sailors were arrested by the Mexican government for entering off-limit areas in Tampico, Tamaulipas. The unarmed sailors were arrested when they entered a fuel loading station. The sailors were released, but the U.S. naval commander demanded an apology and a 21-gun salute. The apology was provided, but not the salute. In the end, the response from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the U.S. Navy to prepare for the occupation of the port of Veracruz. While awaiting authorization from the U.S. Congress to carry out such action, Wilson was alerted to a delivery of weapons for Victoriano Huerta, who had taken control of Mexico the previous year after a bloody coup d'état (and was eventually deposed on July 15, 1914), due to arrive in the port on April 21 aboard the German-registered cargo steamer SS Ypiranga. As a result, Wilson issued an immediate order to seize the port's customs office and confiscate the weaponry. The weapons had actually been sourced by John Wesley De Kay, an American financier and businessman with large investments in Mexico, and a Russian arms dealer from Puebla, Leon Rasst, not the German government, as newspapers reported at the time. Huerta had usurped the presidency of Mexico with the assistance of the American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson during a coup d'état in February 1913 known as la decena trágica. The Wilson administration's answer to this was to declare Huerta a usurper of the legitimate government, to embargo arms shipments to Huerta, and to support the Constitutional Army of Venustiano Carranza.
Part of the arms shipment to Mexico originated from the Remington Arms company in the United States. The arms and ammunition were to be shipped to Mexico via Odessa and Hamburg to skirt the American arms embargo. In Hamburg, De Kay added to the shipment. The landing of the arms was blocked at Veracruz, but they were discharged a few weeks later in Puerto Mexico, a port controlled by Huerta at the time.
On the morning of 21 April 1914, warships of the United States Atlantic Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Frank Friday Fletcher, began preparations for the seizure of the Veracruz waterfront. Fletcher's orders were to "Seize custom house. Do not permit war supplies to be delivered to Huerta government or any other party." At 11:12 hrs, consul William Canada watched from the roof of the American Consulate as the first boatload of Marines left the auxiliary vessel USS Prairie. Whaleboats carrying 502 Marines from the 2nd Advanced Base Regiment, 285 armed Navy sailors, known as "Bluejackets," from the battleship USS Florida and a provisional battalion composed of the Marine detachments from Florida and her sister ship USS Utah also began landing operations. As planned earlier, American consul William W. Canada notified General Gustavo Maass that Americans were occupying the port and warned him to "cooperate with the naval forces in maintaining order." Maass however, was not permitted by Mexico City to surrender the port.
Maass ordered the Eighteenth Regiment, under the command of General Luis B. Becerril, to distribute rifles to the populace and to the prisoners in "La Galera" military prison, and then all to proceed to the dock area. Maass also ordered the Nineteenth Regiment, under the command of General Francisco A. Figueroa, to take up positions on Pier Number Four. Maass then radioed a dispatch to General Aurelio Blanquet, Minister of War in Mexico City, of the American invasion. Blanquet ordered Maass to not resist, but to retreat to Tejería. The landing party, under the command of William R. Rush reached Pier 4 at 11:20. A large crowd of Mexican and American citizens gathered to watch the spectacle. The American invaders, under the command of Marine Col. W.C. Neville, proceeded to their objectives without resistance. By 11:45, the rail terminal and cable station were occupied.
Battle of VeracruzEdit
Three Navy rifle companies were instructed to capture the customs house, post, and telegraph offices, while the Marines went for the railroad terminal, roundhouse, and yard, the cable office and the power plant.
Arms were distributed to the population, who were largely untrained in the use of Mausers and had trouble finding the correct ammunition. In short, the defense of the city by its populace was hindered by the lack of central organization and a lack of adequate supplies. The defense of the city also included the release of the prisoners held at the "La Galera" military prison, not those at San Juan de Ulúa (some of whom were political prisoners), who were later attended to by the U.S. Navy.
Although most of the regular troops retreated with Maass to Tejería, the liberated prisoners under the command of Lt. Col. Manuel Contreras, and some civilians, opposed the Americans as they made their way to the custom house. At 11:57, the Mexicans fired upon the Americans as they reached the intersection of Independencia and Emparán. The navy signalman on top of the Terminal Hotel, Capt. Rush's headquarters, was the first American casualty, and by the end of the day, 4 Americans were dead and 20 wounded.:94–96
At 1:30 PM, the Ypiranga was intercepted, and detained, before it could off load its cargo of weapons and ammunition.:98
On the night of April 21, Fletcher decided that he had no choice but to expand the initial operation to include the entire city, not just the waterfront. At 8:00 AM the next day, he gave orders to take control of the entire city.:100
At 8:35 PM, Capt. C.T. Vogelsang's San Francisco entered the harbor next to the Prairie and off loaded a landing party. At 3 AM, Commander William A. Moffett's Chester offloaded 2 companies of marines and a company of seamen. These were followed by men from the Minnesota and Hancock of Admiral Charles J. Badger's Atlantic Fleet, bringing the total American men ashore to more than 3000.:99–100
At 07:45 April 22, the advance began. The leathernecks adapted to street fighting, which was a novelty to them. The sailors were less adroit at this style of fighting. A regiment led by Navy Captain E. A. Anderson advanced on the Naval Academy in parade-ground formation, making his men easy targets for the partisans barricaded inside (the cadets had left Veracruz the night before, after suffering a few casualties ). This attack was initially repulsed; soon, the attack was renewed, with artillery support from three warships in the harbor, Prairie, San Francisco, and Chester, that pounded the academy with their long guns for a few minutes, silencing all resistance.:101–102
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The city was secured by 11:00 AM, and by evening more than 6000 troops were ashore.:102
A small naval aviation detachment arrived aboard USS Mississippi on April 24th under the command of Henry C. Mustin. Two early aircraft assembled by Glenn Curtiss prior to formation of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company conducted aerial reconnaissance around Veracruz. This was the first operational use of naval aircraft and the first time U.S. aviators of any service were the target of ground fire.
A third provisional regiment of Marines, assembled at Philadelphia, arrived on May 1 under the command of Colonel Littleton W. T. Waller, who assumed overall command of the brigade, by that time numbering some 3,141 officers and men. By then, the sailors and Marines of the Fleet had returned to their ships and an Army brigade had landed. Marines and soldiers continued to garrison the city until the U.S. withdrawal on November 23, which occurred after Argentina, Brazil, and Chile (the three ABC powers, the most powerful and wealthy countries in South America) were able to settle the issues between the two nations at the Niagara Falls peace conference.
U.S. Army Brigadier General Frederick Funston was placed in control of the administration of the port. Assigned to his staff as an intelligence officer was a young Captain Douglas MacArthur. While Huerta and Carranza officially objected to the occupation, neither was able to oppose it effectively, being more preoccupied by events of the Mexican Revolution. Huerta was eventually overthrown and Carranza's faction took power. The occupation, however, brought the two countries to the brink of war and worsened U.S.-Mexican relations for many years. The ABC Powers held the Niagara Falls peace conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, on May 20 to avoid an all-out war over this incident. A plan was formed in June for the US troops to withdraw from Veracruz after General Huerta surrendered the reins of his government to a new regime and Mexico assured the United States that it would receive no indemnity for its losses in the recent chaotic events. Huerta soon afterwards left office and gave his government to Carranza. Carranza, who was still quite unhappy with US troops occupying Veracruz, rejected the rest of the agreement. In November 1914, after the Convention of Aguascalientes ended and Carranza failed to resolve his differences with revolutionary generals Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, Carranza left office for a short period and handed control to Eulalio Gutiérrez Ortiz.
During this brief absence from power, however, Carranza still controlled Veracruz and Tamaulipas. After leaving Mexico City, Carranza fled to the state of Veracruz, made the city of Cordoba the capital of his regime and agreed to accept the rest of the terms of Niagara Falls peace plan. The US troops officially departed on November 23. Despite their previous spat, diplomatic ties between the US and the Carranza regime greatly extended, following the departure of US troops from Veracruz,.
After the fighting ended, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels ordered that fifty-six Medals of Honor be awarded to participants in this action, the most for any single action before or since. This amount was half as many as had been awarded for the Spanish–American War, and close to half the number that would be awarded during World War I and the Korean War. A critic claimed that the excess medals were awarded by lot. Major Smedley Butler, a recipient of one of the nine Medals of Honor awarded to Marines, later tried to return it, being incensed at this "unutterable foul perversion of Our Country's greatest gift" and claiming he had done nothing heroic. The Department of the Navy told him to not only keep it, but wear it.
The controversy surrounding the Vera Cruz Medals of Honor led to stricter standards for the award of the Medal of Honor and the establishment of lower ranking medals to recognize a wider range of accomplishments.
Mexico's Naval Lt. Azueta and a Naval Military School cadet, Cadet Midshipman Virgilio Uribe, who died during the fighting, are now part of the roll call of honor read by all branches of the Mexican Armed Forces in all military occasions, alongside the six Niños Héroes of the Military College (nowadays the Heroic Military Academy) who died in defense of the nation during the Battle of Chapultepec on September 13, 1847. As a result of the brave defense put up by the Naval School cadets and faculty, it has now become the Heroic Naval Military School of Mexico in their honor by virtue of a congressional resolution in 1949.
As an immediate reaction to the military invasion of Veracruz several anti-American revolts broke out in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Uruguay. US citizens were expelled from Mexican territory and they had to be accommodated in refugee campuses at New Orleans, Texas City, and San Diego. Even the British government was privately irritated, because they had previously agreed with Woodrow Wilson that the United States would not invade Mexico without prior warning. The military invasion of Veracruz was also a decisive factor in favor of keeping Mexico neutral in World War I. Mexico refused to participate with the United States in its military excursion in Europe and granted full-guarantees to the German companies for keeping their operations open, especially in Mexico City.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson considered another military invasion of Veracruz and Tampico in 1917–1918, so as to take control of Tehuantepec Isthmus and Tampico oil fields, but this time the new Mexican President Venustiano Carranza gave the order to destroy the oil fields in case the Marines tried to land there. As a scholar once wrote: "Carranza may not have fulfilled the social goals of the revolution, but he kept the gringos out of Mexico City".
In popular cultureEdit
- Warren Zevon's album Excitable Boy features a track called "Veracruz" named after this event. It depicts the battle and chaos for what one may presume was the point of view of a resident of Veracruz. The last verse, written in Spanish, is the character saying he will return to Veracruz, destiny has changed his life and in Veracruz he shall die.
- The villain in Alan Moore's seminal comic book, Miracleman, Dr. Gargunza, was born in the city and the chapter relating his origin is titled I Heard Woodrow Wilson's Guns, the opening line from the Zevon song.
- 1914 Veracruz is also the setting for The Hot Country, a 2012 novel by Robert Olen Butler.
- Jack London wrote a short adventure story about American citizens in Mexico, with the background of Veracruz occupation by the Bluejackets. His essay "The Red Game of War" is from the perspective of a jaded former war correspondent who, rather than celebrating the incursion by military forces as anticipated by his editors, indicts the concept of war.
- Botte, M. Louis. Magazine L'Illustration, artícle "Les Américains au Mexique", 13 Juin 1914. (See Wikisource)
- Eisenhower, John S.D. (1995), "Intervention! The United States and the Mexican Revolution, 1913-1917", New York: W.W. Norton & Company
- O'Shaughnessy, Edith, (1916), "A Diplomat's Wife in Mexico", Harper & Brothers Publishers
- Quirk, Robert E. (1967). An Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz, W. W. Norton & Company.
- Sweetman, Jack (1968). The Landing at Veracruz: 1914. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press.
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