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Miller, Roger - The 1st Aero Squadron and the Mexican punitive expedition of 1916

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A preliminary to war

The 1st Aero Squadron and the Mexican punitive expedition of 1916

Roger G. Miller

Air Force History and Museums program

Washington DC, 2003

On March 15, 1916, the 1st Aero Squadron arrived at Columbus, New Mexico, its train steaming into the crowded, chaotic town at 9:15 in the morn- ing. Led by Capt. Benjamin D. Foulois, a lantern-jawed, bantam-weight former enlisted man, the squadron included eleven officers, eighty-two enlisted men, and one civilian technician. Under Foulois’s direction, the men unloaded an automobile, six motorcycles, and twelve motor trucks, vehicles rare in 1916 New Mexico and even rarer in an army still wedded to the horse and mule. These were followed by wooden crates containing eight wood, wire, and fabric Curtiss JN–3 biplanes, every airplane owned by the U.S. Army, save those assigned to its aviation school at San Diego, California. The squadron was in Columbus to join an expedition commanded by Brig. Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. President Woodrow Wilson had ordered Pershing’s force into Mexico in response to a March 9 attack on the tiny border town by the Mexican desperado, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. The event was auspicious. For the first time, the U.S. Army’s entire air force—the 1st Aero Squadron—had deployed for an active campaign.

65 pages – in english