Primary Documents - Newton Baker on Military Operations in Mexico, 18 June 1916

U.S. Secretary of War Newton Baker From March-June 1916 the United States mounted an armed expedition to Mexico to quell raids initiated by prominent Mexican leader Pancho Villa into the U.S.

Allegedly sponsored by the German government Villa launched a raid into the State of Chihuahua on 11 January 1916, capturing and killing 19 U.S. citizens.  This was followed on 9 March with a raid upon Columbus in New Mexico, killing 11 citizens.

Following U.S. protests Mexico's President Venustiano Carranza undertook to deal with Villa but insisted that the U.S. not interfere.  However with the U.S. rapidly losing patience with Carranza, General Frederick Funston - U.S. commander along the border - was ordered to despatch an armed U.S. column into Mexico in pursuit of Villa (to be taken dead or alive).  To that end Funston placed General John Pershing in command of the expedition.

Pershing led 4,000 U.S. troops into Mexico on 15 March 1916, remaining there until early 1917.  On 29 March 1916 a U.S. force of 400 men defeated a larger number of Villa's followers.  Nevertheless U.S. troops remained to mop up the remnants of Villa's supporters; these troops increasingly came into contact - and armed conflict - with official Mexican troops sent by President Carranza to deal with Villa, the first of which took place on 12 April 1916.

Increasing clashes led to a very real threat of war between the U.S. and Mexico; on 18 June 1916 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson called out the National Guard to deal with the Mexican problem.  As these were gathering along the Mexican border President Carranza backed down, releasing a group of captured U.S. troops and despatching a note of apology on 4 July 1916, in which he suggested convening a conference to prevent future issues.

Reproduced below is U.S. Secretary of War Newton Baker's statement on the calling up of the National Guard on 18 June 1916.

Click here to read General Funston's official report regarding operations in Mexico; click here to read General Pershing's official report.  Click here to read Mexican President Carranza's formal letter of complaint to the U.S. government.  Click here to read the U.S. government's response.

Proclamation of June 18th, the Calling of the National Guard by Newton Baker

In view of the disturbed conditions on the Mexican border, and in order to assure complete protection for all Americans, the President has called out substantially all the State militia, and will send them to the border wherever and as fully as General Funston determines them to be needed for the purpose stated.

If all are not needed an effort will be made to relieve those on duty there from time to time so as to distribute the duty.

This call for militia is wholly unrelated to General Pershing's expedition, and contemplates no additional entry into Mexico, except as may be necessary to pursue bandits who attempt outrages on American soil.

The militia are being called out so as to leave some troops in the several States.  They will be mobilized at their home stations, where necessary recruiting can be done.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

Flak was a term used to describe anti-aircraft fire.

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