United States occupation of Veracruz: Wikis

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Battle of Veracruz
Part of the United States Occupation of Veracruz
Mexican Revolution
American Marines raising the US flag over Veracruz
Sergeant Major John H. Quick, US Marines, raises the U.S. flag over Veracruz.
Date April 21, 1914
Location Veracruz, Veracruz
Result U.S. victory
Belligerents
US flag 48 stars.svg United States Mexico Mexico
Commanders
US Naval Jack 45 stars.svg Frank Friday Fletcher Gustavo Mass
Manuel Azueta
Strength
Land:
~2,300
marines,
sailors
Sea:
unknown warships
unknown
infantry,
sailors,
militia
Casualties and losses
22 killed,
70 wounded
152–172 killed,
195–250 wounded

The United States occupation of Veracruz, which began with the Battle of Veracruz, lasted for six months in 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, related to the ongoing Mexican Revolution.

Contents

Background

American ships at Veracruz.

In response to the Tampico Affair, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the U.S. Navy to prepare for the occupation of the port of Veracruz. While waiting for authorization of Congress to carry out such action, Wilson was alerted to a German delivery of weapons for Victoriano Huerta due to arrive to the port on April 21. As a result, Wilson issued an immediate order to seize the port's customs office and confiscate the weaponry. Huerta had taken over the Mexican government with the assistance of the American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson during a coup d'état in early 1913 known as La decena trágica. The Wilson administration's answer to this was to declare Huerta a usurper of the legitimate government, embargo arms shipments to Huerta, and support the Constitutional Army of Venustiano Carranza.

The arms shipment to Mexico, in fact, originated from the Remington Arms company in the United States. The arms and ammunition were to be shipped via Hamburg, Germany, to Mexico allowing Remington Arms a means of skirting the American arms embargo.[1]

Initial landing

On the morning of April 21, 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. By 11:30 a.m., with whaleboats swung over the side, 502 U.S. Marines from the 2nd Advanced Base Regiment, 285 armed Navy sailors, known as "Bluejackets," from the battleship USS Florida (BB-30) and a provisional battalion composed of the Marine detachments of the Florida and her sister ship USS Utah (BB-31) began landing operations. Plowing through the surf in whaleboats toward pier 4, Veracruz's main wharf, a large crowd of Mexican and American citizens gathered to watch the spectacle. The invaders encountered no resistance as they exited the whaleboats, formed ranks into a Marine and a seaman regiment, and began marching toward their objectives. This initial show of force was enough to prompt the retreat of the Mexican forces led by General Gustavo Mass. In the face of this, Mexican Commodore Manuel Azueta encouraged cadets of the Veracruz Naval Academy to take up the defense of the port for themselves. Also, about 50 line soldiers of the Mexican Army remained behind to fight the invaders along with the citizens of Veracruz.

The battle

History of Mexico
Coat of Arms of Mexico
This article is part of a series
Pre-Columbian Mexico
Spanish conquest
Colonial period
War of Independence
First Empire
First Republic
War with Texas
Pastry War
Mexican–American War
The Reform
Reform War
French intervention
Second Empire
Restored Republic
Porfiriato
Revolution
La decena trágica
Plan of Guadalupe
Tampico Affair
Occupation of Veracruz
Maximato
Petroleum Nationalization
Mexican miracle
Mexico 68
La Década Perdida
1982 economic crisis
Zapatista Insurgency
1994 economic crisis
The end of PRI's hegemony

Mexico Portal
 v • d • e 
Damaged entryway to a high school adjacent to the Veracruz Naval Academy.

The bluejackets 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 powerplant. Soon arms were being distributed to the population, who were largely untrained in the use of Mausers and had trouble finding 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 feared San Juan de Ulúa prison. Although the landing had been nearly unopposed, as U.S. forces marched into the city, Veracruz was quickly becoming a battleground. Just after noon, fighting began with the 2nd Advance Base Regiment under Colonel Wendell C. Neville becoming heavily involved in a firefight in the rail yards. While the forces ashore slowly fought their way forward, Admiral Fletcher landed the USS Utah's 384 man bluejacket battalion, the only other unit at his disposal. By mid afternoon, the Americans had occupied all of their objectives and Admiral Fletcher called a general halt to the advance, initially hoping that a cease fire could be arranged. That hope however, rapidly faded as he could find no one to bargain with and all troops in the city were instructed to remain on the defensive pending the arrival of reinforcements.

The senior officers of the 1st Marine Brigade photographed at Veracruz in 1914. Front row, left to right: Lt. Col. Wendell C. Neville; Col. John A. Lejeune; Col. Littleton W. T. Waller, Commanding; and Maj. Smedley Butler.

On the night of the 21st, Fletcher decided that he had no choice but to expand the initial operation to include the entire city, not just the waterfront.[2] Five additional U.S. battleships and two cruisers had reached Veracruz during the hours of darkness and they carried with them Major Smedley Butler and his Marine Battalion which had been rushed from Panama. The battleship's seaman battalions were quickly organized into a regiment 1,200 men strong, supported by the ship's Marine detachments providing an additional 300 man battalion. These newly arrived forces went ashore around midnight to await the morning's advance.

At 7:45 a.m. 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 Mexican Naval Academy in parade ground formation, making his men easy targets for the cadets barricaded inside. This attack was repulsed with casualties, and the advance was only saved when three warships in the harbor, the USS Prairie (1890), San Francisco (C-5), and Chester (CL-1), pounded the Academy with their long guns for a few minutes, silencing all resistance and killing 15 of the cadets inside.

That afternoon, the First Advanced Base Regiment, originally bound for Tampico, Tamaulipas, came ashore under the command of Colonel John A. Lejeune and by 5 p.m., U.S. troops had secured the town square and were in complete control of Veracruz. Some pockets of resistance continued to occur around the port, mostly in the form of hit-and-run guerrilla tactics, but by April 24 all fighting had ceased. A third provisional regiment of Marines, assembled at Philadelphia, arrived on May 1st 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 23rd.

Aftermath

José Azueta is considered a Mexican hero for his actions during the battle

The son of Commodore Azueta, Lieutenant José Azueta, was wounded during the defense of the Naval Academy building. A cadet himself, José Azueta was manning a machine gun placed outside the building, facing the incoming American troops on his own and causing a number of casualties. José Azueta was rescued from the battlefield after sustaining two bullet wounds and taken to his home. After the battle, Admiral Fletcher heard of Azueta's actions in battle and sent his personal doctor to take care of him. However, Azueta refused medical services offered by the occupation army and only allowed local Dr. Rafael Cuervo Xicoy to examine him. Dr. Xicoy lacked medical supplies to assist Azueta properly. Azueta died of his wounds on May 10, México's Mother's Day. During his funeral hundreds of citizens marched holding his coffin on their shoulders to the city's cemetery in open defiance of directives from the occupation army forbidding the right of assembly.

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 US-Mexican relations for many years. The ABC Powers conference was convened in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, on May 20, 1914, to avoid an all-out war over this incident. American troops remained in Veracruz until November 23, 1914.

After the fighting ended, 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.[3][4] 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"[citation needed] and claiming he had done nothing heroic. The Department of the Navy told him to not only keep it, but wear it.

In popular culture

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 they will return to Veracruz, destiny has changed their life and in Veracruz they shall die.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Sweetman
  2. ^ "The Savage Wars of Peace" by Max Boot, p. 152
  3. ^ Gallery, p. 118
  4. ^ Medal of Honor Recipients Veracruz 1914

External references

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