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USMC Virtual Campaign Library: Vera Cruz 1914


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Starting a new thread as a photographic depository of images for the Vera Cruz campaign. Please share yours...

 

VERACRUZ INCIDENT. When Victoriano Huerta seized the Mexican presidency in 1913, the United States refused to recognize him. Early in 1914, when Tampico was under martial law, some U.S. Marines were arrested there, but they were quickly released, with apologies. Admiral Henry T. Mayo insisted that Mexico fire a twenty-one gun salute to the American flag, and President Woodrow Wilson supported this demand. When Mexico refused to comply, Wilson ordered a fleet to Veracruz. Marines landed on 21 April 1914 and, aided by bombardment, took the city, with an American loss of seventeen killed and sixty-three wounded. American political pressure forced Huerta out in July; he fled to Jamaica.

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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.

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Pictured here is the USS Connecticut, after taking on stores in Philadelphia, Connecticut sailed for Mexico and arrived on the morning of 22 April; she was to patrol the waters near Tampico and Vera Cruz, protecting American citizens and interests during disturbances there.

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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.

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At 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After the fighting ended, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels ordered that 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. 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" and claiming he had done nothing heroic. The Department of the Navy told him to not only keep it, but wear it.

 

BUTLER, SMEDLEY DARLINGTON (First Award)

 

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 30 July 1881, West Chester, Pa. Appointed from: Pennsylvania. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Other Navy awards: Second Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Medal. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagement of Vera Cruz, 22 April 1914. Maj. Butler was eminent and conspicuous in command of his battalion. He exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through the action of the 22d and in the final occupation of the city.

 

BERKELEY, RANDOLPH CARTER

 

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 9 January 1875, Staunton, Va. Appointed from: Washington, D.C. G.O. No.: 177 4 December 1915. Other Navy awards: Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Maj. Berkeley was eminent and conspicuous in command of his battalion; was in the fighting of both days, and exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through action. His cool judgment and courage, and his skill in handling his men in encountering and overcoming the machinegun and rifle fire down Cinco de Mayo and parallel streets account for the small percentage of the losses of marines under his command.

 

CATLIN, ALBERTUS WRIGHT

 

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 1 December 1868, Gowanda, N.Y. Appointed from: Minnesota. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagement of Vera Cruz, 22 April 1914. Eminent and conspicuous in command of his battalion, Maj. Catlin exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through the action of the 22d and in the final occupation of the city.

 

DYER, JESSE FARLEY

 

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 2 December 1877, St. Paul, Minn. Appointed from: Minnesota. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914; was in both days fighting at the head of his company, and was eminent and conspicuous in his conduct, leading his men with skill and courage.

 

FRYER, ELI THOMPSON

 

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 22 August 1878, Hightstown, N.J. Appointed from: New Jersey. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. In both days' fighting at the head of his company, Captain Fryer was eminent and conspicuous in his conduct, leading his men with skill and courage.

 

HILL, WALTER NEWELL

 

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 29 September 1881, Haverhill, Mass. Appointed from: Massachusetts. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Capt. Hill was in both days' fighting at the head of his company, and was eminent and conspicuous in his conduct, leading his men with skill and courage.

 

HUGHES, JOHN ARTHUR

 

Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 2 November 1880, New York, N.Y. Accredited to: New York. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Other Navy award: Navy Cross. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Capt. Hughes was in both days' fighting at the head of his company, and was eminent and conspicuous in his conduct, leading his men with skill and courage.

 

NEVILLE, WENDELL CUSHING

 

Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 12 May 1870, Portsmouth, Va. Appointed from: Virginia. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Other Navy award: Distinguished Service Medal. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle engagements of Vera Cruz 21 and 22 April 1914. In command of the 2d Regiment Marines, Lt. Col. Neville was in both days' fighting and almost continually under fire from soon after landing, about noon on the 21st, until we were in possession of the city, about noon of the 22d. His duties required him to be at points of great danger in directing his officers and men, and he exhibited conspicuous courage, coolness, and skill in his conduct of the fighting. Upon his courage and skill depended, in great measure, success or failure. His responsibilities were great and he met them in a manner worthy of commendation.

 

REID, GEORGE CROGHAN

 

Rank and organization: Major, U.S. Marine Corps. Born: 9 December 1876, Lorain, Ohio. Appointed from: Ohio. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914; was eminent and conspicuous in command of his battalion; was in the righting of both days and exhibited courage and skill in leading his men through action. His cool judgment and courage and his skill in handling his men in encountering and overcoming the machinegun and rifle fire down Cinco de Mayo and parallel streets account for the small percentage of the losses of marines under his command.

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Of Note: Corporal Daniel Aloysius Haggerty, USMC was the first American killed, leading the initial landing party in the invasion of Vera Cruz, Mexico on 21 April 1914. Corporal Haggerty was in the initial landing party from the battleship, USS Florida. A first contingent of nearly 800 Marines and sailors landed at Vera Cruz on the afternoon of 21 April 1914. This

contingent had taken and occupied most of the city by the following afternoon. In total, 6000 Marines landed at Vera Cruz and held the city and surrounding area for 7 months until, on the orders of President Wilson, the U.S. force was withdrawn and the city was returned to Mexico. Seventeen United States Sailors and Marines were killed while an estimated 400 Mexicans were killed.

 

On 11 May 1914, there was a solemn shipboard procession into New York Harbor. The remains of United States servicemen were borne by the USS Montana into New York Harbor and to Pier A at the Battery in Manhattan, followed by a procession through Manhattan, over the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn, and a memorial ceremony at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The flag-covered remains of 13 sailors and 4 Marines killed in the invasion were borne by horse-drawn caissons in the solemn procession. The normally busy and noisy New York became still during this procession and ceremony. Multitudes of people paid their respects. President Wilson, Secretary of the Navy Daniels, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, the New York Governor, the New York City Mayor, and a host of other military and civic officials, family members, and the general public attended.

 

Following the memorial service, Corporal Haggerty’s body and the bodies of four of his comrades from New England were carried by the USS Montana to Boston. Daniel A. Haggerty lived at 16 Harding Street, Cambridge. In 1915, the newly built Haggerty School on Cushing Street was named to honor the courage and sacrifice of Corporal Daniel A. Haggerty, USMC. The original Haggerty School was demolished and the new Haggerty School was opened in 1995.

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Fantastic post! Thank you. Those were some great images that I've never seen before. I've always thought that Vera Cruz is an under appreciated event in US military history. Most people aren't aware that the Navy and Marine Corps suffered more casualties (KIA and WIA) at Vera Cruz than in the entire Spanish American War.

 

An excellent book on the subject is "The Landing and Vera Cruz: 1914" by OMSA member Jack Sweetman. (Published in 1968 by the United States Naval Institute.) At over 200 pages, it's the single best book that I've found about the the events leading up to the battle, the battle itself and the aftermath.

Highly recommended reading!

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