19
Mar
09

On This Day, March 19: U.S. Invades Mexico

March 19, 1916

First U.S. air combat mission begins

Eight Curtiss “Jenny” planes of the First Aero Squadron take off from Columbus, New Mexico, in the first combat air mission in U.S. history. The First Aero Squadron, organized in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, was on a support mission for the 7,000 U.S. troops who invaded Mexico to capture Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

On March 9, 1916, Villa, who opposed American support for Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, led a band of several hundred guerrillas across the border on a raid of the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 17 Americans. On March 15, under orders from President Woodrow Wilson, U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing launched a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa. Four days later, the First Aero Squadron was sent into Mexico to scout and relay messages for General Pershing.

Despite numerous mechanical and navigational problems, the American fliers flew hundreds of missions for Pershing and gained important experience that would later be used by the pilots over the battlefields of Europe. However, during the 11-month mission, U.S. forces failed to capture the elusive revolutionary, and Mexican resentment over U.S. intrusion into their territory led to a diplomatic crisis. In late January 1917, with President Wilson under pressure from the Mexican government and more concerned with the war overseas than with bringing Villa to justice, the Americans were ordered home.

“First U.S. air combat mission begins.” 2009. The History Channel website. 19 Mar 2009, 10:13 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4846.

On This Day

1628 – The Massachusetts colony was founded by Englishmen.

1687 – French explorer La Salle was murdered by his own men while searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, in the Gulf of Mexico.

1748 – The English Naturalization Act passed granting Jews right to colonize in the U.S.

1903 – The U.S. Senate ratified the Cuban treaty, gaining naval bases in Guantanamo and Bahia Honda.

1918 – The U.S. Congress approved Daylight-Saving Time.

1918 – A German seaplane was shot down for the first time by an American pilot.

1931 – The state of Nevada legalized gambling.

1945 – About 800 people were killed as Japanese kamikaze planes attacked the U.S. carrier Franklin off Japan.

1945 – Adolf Hitler issued his “Nero Decree” which ordered the destruction of German facilities that could fall into Allied hands as German forces were retreating.

1947 – Chiang Kai-Shek’s government forces took control of Yenan, the former headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party.

1949 – The Soviet People’s Council signed the constitution of the German Democratic Republic, and declared that the North Atlantic Treaty was merely a war weapon.

1965 – Indonesia nationalized all foreign oil companies.

1985 – The U.S. Senate voted to authorize production of the MX missile.

2003 – U.S. President George W. Bush announced that U.S. forces had launched a strike against “targets of military opportunity” in Iraq. The attack, using cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs, were aimed at Iraqi leaders thought to be near Baghdad.

March 19, 1865

Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina

Confederate General Joseph Johnston makes a desperate attempt to stop Union General William T. Sherman’s drive through the Carolinas in the war’s last days, but Johnston’s motley army cannot stop the advance of Sherman’s mighty army.

Following his famous March to the Sea in late 1864, Sherman paused for a month at Savannah, Georgia. He then turned north into the Carolinas, destroying all that lay in his path in an effort to demoralize the South and hasten the end of the war. Sherman left Savannah with 60,000 men divided into two wings. He captured Columbia, South Carolina, in February and continued towards Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he planned to meet up with another army coming from the coast. Sherman intended to march to Petersburg, Virginia, where he would join General Ulysses S. Grant and crush the army of Robert E. Lee, the largest remaining Confederate force.

Sherman assumed that Rebel forces in the Carolinas were too widely dispersed to offer any significant resistance, but Johnston assembled 17,000 troops and attacked one of Sherman’s wings at Bentonville on March 19. The Confederates initially surprised the Yankees, driving them back before a Union counterattack halted the advance and darkness halted the fighting. The next day, Johnston established a strong defensive position and hoped for a Yankee assault. More Union troops arrived and gave Sherman a nearly three to one advantage over Johnston. When a Union force threatened to cut off the Rebel’s only line of retreat on March 21, Johnston withdrew his army northward.

The Union lost 194 men killed, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing, while the Confederates lost 240 killed, 1,700 wounded, and 1,500 missing. About Sherman, Johnston wrote to Lee that, “I can do no more than annoy him.” A month later, Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman.

“Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina.” 2009. The History Channel website. 19 Mar 2009, 10:18 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2140.

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