Thursday, May 19, 2016

America's First Battle of the World War

US Soldiers going into Mexico after Pancho Villa and his raiders attacked Columbus, NM

The Allies, France, Britain and Russia fought the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria. Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, various rebel leaders fought a bloody battle for control of Mexico.

The Germans, under the rule of Kaiser Wilhelm II, sought an ally (Mexico) in North America to threaten the Southwest United States. This would prevent the United States from joining the Allies on the Western Front. German secret agents approached the exiled General Victoriano Huerta who agreed to help Germany if they would aid him in overthrowing Venustiano Carranza, the de facto leader of Mexico. Mexico would end up allied with Germany against US. Huerta traveled from his meeting with the Germans in Spain to the U.S.; he was arrested and incarcerated in a Texas prison, where he died in January 1916.

The Germans now sought an alliance with Pancho Villa who, with German weapons, attacked Columbus, New Mexico in March 1916, prompting the U.S. military to enter Mexico to search for Villa. Then the final attempt. On January 16, 1917, the Foreign Secretary of Imperial Germany, Arthur Zimmermann, sent a telegram to the German ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, to seek a rapprochement with the government of Carranza. 

US Solders with Benet-Mercie machineguns used to repel Villa's raiders.

In the famous Zimmerman Telegram, the German government asked its ambassador to speak with Carranza to convince Mexico to go to war with the U.S., and in return, Germany would inject funds into the Mexican economy and would return to Mexico the states of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, lost in the war of 1847. When Venustiano Carranza learned of the German offer, he organized a special commission to investigate the matter and make a decision. 
Villista raider firing a cut down Mauser rifle during the Columbus Raid.

Regaining lost territory would have been a good opportunity for the country, but that would mean war with the United States at a time when Mexico still faced internal division, so Carranza refused. The United States declared war on the Central Powers and sent troops and material to the Western Front, which enabled the Allied victory. The Great War ended on November 11th , 1918 at 11am. In Mexico, Carranza ruled with a new constitution.