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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The 1914 US Invasion of Vera Cruz, Mexico

Last week, while walking around one of the local cemeteries in my area, I discovered by chance a tombstone marker of someone of historical significance who died just a week ago, 100 years ago (April 21, 1914)

It was a person I had never heard of before and an event in US history that admittedly I knew nothing about..

The marker read as follows:
So it seems 100 years ago in late April, US forces invaded and captured Vera Cruz while holding the city for many months, and Poinsett was the first US serviceman to be killed by the relatively small conflict in terms of blood loss.

Specifically, on April 21, 1914, 787 US marines and sailors went ashore to seize the customhouse and were fired upon by Mexican forces and by the next day, American troops had occupied the town. 

In two days of fighting, 17 Americans were killed and 61 wounded while an estimated 152-172 Mexicans were killed and 195-240 wounded. American forces would continue to occupy Vera Cruz until November 1914
~ photo of Poinsett's funeral

The reason we entered conflict with Mexico according to historical sources is that by 1914, the United States government had spent several years cautiously watching the Mexican Revolution and judging its possible impact on American citizens and business interests both in Mexico and along the border between the two countries. 

So to protect these interests, the United States stationed U.S. Navy warships at the Mexican ports of Tampico and Vera Cruz in early 1914.  
~ Another photo of Poinsett's funeral

At the same time, President Woodrow Wilson rescinded an arms embargo that had prevented the sale of arms to either General Victorio Huerta, who had seized power from the Mexican president in February 1913, or Governor Venustiano Carranza and Pancho Villa, supporters of the previous president who were attempting to wrest control of Mexico from Huerta. 

President Wilson offered to provide help to Carranza. When the US forces at Vera Cruz learned that German weapons would be arriving at Vera Cruz for Huerta, President Wilson ordered them to seize the town’s customhouse and capture the weapons.

Now there are many things interesting about what occurred in 1914
~ Flowers for Poinsett..

1)  It is a good an example as any to show how US foreign policy works.   

Even before we built up our global credentials as a military power after WWI & WWII, we basically bullied the rest of Spanish speaking continents of North and South America and manipulated their governments directly to put leadership into power favorable to US political and business interests

Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, etc..
~ US Troops at Vera Cruz, Mexico.. April 1914

2)  US - Mexico relations greatly deteriorated and to this day many Mexicans still hate the US for what they did 100 years ago (along with taking so much territory from Mexico after the 1848 end to the Mexican War)..

Back then, the U.S. occupation of Vera Cruz resulted in widespread anti-American sentiment among Mexican residents, and other U.S. warships were used to evacuate American citizens from both the Gulf Coast and the west coast of Mexico, taking them to refugee centers in San Diego, Texas, and New Orleans. 
Also as a result of anti-American sentiment, Mexico chose to maintain neutrality during World War I, refusing to support the U.S. in Europe, all the while continuing to do business with Germany. 

With the U.S. threatening to invade in 1918 to take control of Tampico oil fields, Mexican President Venustiano Carranza threatened to have them destroyed to prevent their falling under U.S. control.

3)  The incident is also a perfect example of how ultimately a human life taken in its flowering youth while fighting for country doesn't mean much to anyone; there is no such thing as a hero's death

George Poinsett was born in 1894 and on April 21, 1914 it was taken out with a bullet..
And whatever hopes and dreams and aspirations he may have had for his life was snuffed out with it..  The ultimate resting place being a quiet cemetery monument resting on a hillside that 99.9% of those who may pass by do not bother to notice or acknowledge.

And to the greater American public, his name means nothing to nobody.

It makes me think of those who serve this nation and die in conflicts that most Americans don't give a shit about because US forces won the conflict so quickly.. like the 19 American dead human beings at Grenada and the 146 killed in the 1991 Desert Storm operations.

We only remember the dead of those who lost their life in big battles of big wars..  
~ US troops marching down a Vera Cruz street

We honor those who died at D-Day (June 6, 1944) and have no thought or care for those who may have died 4 days after the landing while engaged with the enemy..

We remember the Civil War battle of Gettysburg, especially the infamous Pickett's Charge and how tragic it was..   God help the dead who wished to be remembered who may have died 30 miles north in Hanover Pa during cavalry skirmishes while the real battle took place southward.

But Poinsett did die along with 16 other Americans 100 years ago

All completely and totally forgotten to all including Father time.