By Roger G. Miller
On March 15, 1916, the first Aero Squadron arrived at Columbus, New Mexico, its educate steaming into the crowded, chaotic city at 9:15 within the morning. Led by way of Capt. Benjamin D. Foulois, a lantern-jawed, bantam-weight former enlisted guy, the squadron integrated 11 officials, eighty-two enlisted males, and one civilian technician. less than Foulois's course, the lads unloaded an motor vehicle, six bikes, and twelve motor vans, automobiles infrequent in 1916 New Mexico or even rarer in a military nonetheless wedded to the pony and mule. those have been through wood crates containing 8 wooden, cord, and upholstery Curtiss JN--3 biplanes, each aircraft owned via the U.S. military, keep these assigned to its aviation university at San Diego, California. The squadron used to be in Columbus to affix an day trip commanded via Brig. Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. President Woodrow Wilson had ordered Pershing's strength into Mexico in keeping with a March nine assault at the tiny border city through the Mexican desperado, Francisco "Pancho" Villa. the development used to be auspicious. For the 1st time, the U.S. Army's complete air force---the 1st Aero Squadron---had deployed for an energetic crusade. the first Aero Squadron performed an important position within the Punitive day trip, yet, in dramatic distinction to how an air strength features at the present time, it served as a method of communique and remark, now not as a combatant arm. a few experiments with bombs and desktop weapons were performed, and the warfare in Europe used to be fast turning the aircraft right into a severe weapon of struggle. however, U.S. military leaders estimated aviation's fundamental challenge to be the receipt and transmission of knowledge for tactical commanders and long-distance scouting as an accessory to the cavalry. hence, through the cellular section of the Punitive day trip, the first Aero Squadron enabled Pershing to find and speak along with his commonly dispersed, fast-moving columns and carried dispatches among Pershing's major and complex bases. The squadron additionally scouted for adversarial forces and saved an eye fixed for threats to Pershing's line of communications. As may be obvious, those efforts have been made in a few of the worst climate and poorest stipulations that you can imagine, and via the top of April, all 8 airplanes have been destroyed. through the static part of the Punitive day trip, the first Aero Squadron remained at Columbus, the place Foulois and his males operated a try and review software for a wide selection of airplanes and aviation apparatus. in the course of either levels of the crusade, the officials and males of the first Aero Squadron discovered classes approximately airplanes, apparatus, and operations within the box that might be utilized in France below a 12 months later.
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Additional resources for A Preliminary to War: The 1st Aero Squadron and the Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916
On March 27, the 1st Aero Squadron began to transfer its base from Colonia Dublán to El Valle. C. Nos. 42 and 53 began the move by flying reconnaissance missions that ended at the new base site. C. No. 43. C. Nos. 45 and 30 At field headquarters near Casa Grandes, Mexico, April 1916, Lts. 43. 52 left for Columbus, the former for a new OXX engine, the latter to replace the lower wing damaged at Ojo Federico. C. No. 44 to Colonia Dublán, where squadron mechanics began a complete overhaul. Half of Foulois’s force was thus unavailable.
His small force lost two men dead and six wounded during the action. Short of rations, water, and ammunition, and without machine guns, Tompkins sent three troopers for reinforcements. These located a squadron of the 10th Cavalry under Maj. Charles Young, whose arrival enabled Tompkins to hold his position. S. C. No. C. No. 53 completed the flight to San Andres begun on the previous day. C. No. S. Consul General, the first time an airplane had returned to the scene of the trouble on April 7. Originally, Carberry and Foulois planned to make this flight by way of San Antonio de los Arenales, but the underpowered JN–3 was incapable of the task.
He certainly understood the problems the squadron had been experiencing with its inadequate equipment, and it was no skin off his nose if the Signal Corps took a bit of heat. In the final analysis, although there is no evidence that anyone in the army was thinking this way, a public airing of the squadron’s problems had the potential to put pressure where it was required: on a Congress that controlled the nation’s purse strings. And so it proved. 94 The first week of April found the Punitive Expedition deep in Mexico at the end of an ever-lengthening line of communications, moving south in several separate columns through some of the worst terrain in the state of Chihuahua.