Monday, April 16, 2018

Pancho Villa State Park

(Clicking on the pictures will open them larger in a new window.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

We had thought about doing two things on Friday going back to the Visitor Center at the Park to hear more about the displays there and then going for a late lunch at the Pink Store. We had a second coupon for free margaritas. Friday morning brought cooler temperatures and a second day of wind. The gusts, when we checked, were 50 mph so we decided to only go back to the Visitor Center. The walk in was very quick as we were being shoved along by the wind; the challenge came when we were walking against the wind back to the Jeep.

Pancho Villa State Park (Visitor Center)

We visited here on two separate occasions, Monday when we arrived and then Friday. the main reason we went back was to have the gentleman pictured below continue his explanation of the events that took place here back in 1916-1917. He actually spends time speaking with Military students from various academies and schools that come here to learn about General Pershing's tactics and what the Army learned during this time. He gave us the short version but it was still very informative. The Punitive Expedition may have been a failure in the sense that they never did capture Pancho Villa but in the end what they learned during this time changed how the Army did their "job" going forward.

I asked him if I could take his picture in front of his favorite exhibit and he said the Jenny. What they have hanging from the ceiling is a full size replica of a JN-3, Jenny, the first airplane to be used by the United States Military in a military situation. The First Aero Squadron joined General John "Blackjack" Pershing's Punitive Expedition into Mexico in March of 1916. They had eight (90 h.p.) aircraft and by April of 1916, within the first month of the Punitive Expedition, all eight JN-3's (Jennies) were out of commission from crashes or weather related damage such as strong winds, rain storms, sand storms, snow, hail, and even dust devils. The JN-3's were under-powered and lacked durability in the harsh conditions of Mexico.

Four new Curtiss N-8 airplanes (90 h.p.) replaced the Jennies but also proved to be too slow and under-powered for the the rough conditions and the high Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. They were disassembled and shipped to San Diego for use as trainers. The next aircraft to arrive in Columbus were twelve Curtiss R-2's with 160 h.p. engines, a larger more powerful aircraft. The R-2's were used until the end of the Punitive Expedition in February 1917. The First Aero Squadron made a total of 540 flights over a distance of 19,553 miles. (above information from handout at the exhibit)

He told us a couple of interesting things about the Jennies. For one thing they could only make left turns, a right turn took that wing off.
They did make a successful bomb run with the Jenny. The pilot dropped gasoline from the plane then flew in a left arc back over and let go of a flare and the gasoline vapor exploded but because the plane did not have enough power to escape the explosion it also took off the planes tail.
There are two seats in the Jenny but the pilot always sat in the back because the debris and oil that came off of the engine would land in the front seat, basically hitting the pilot.
Pilots who flew these first planes were self taught. He told us that one of the pilots actually contacted the Wright brothers and asked for instructions on how to fly the aircraft. So he learned to fly by mail. The men who flew these planes volunteered to do so and he said without a doubt, if he had been in the Army back then, he would have raised his hand and volunteered in a second. 

This airfield is still out in the desert east of NM-11
and is still considered an emergency back up landing field.

Enlarge and read these instructions
they are funny.

This was the first time motorized  troop transports were used.

Fifty-four one and half ton trucks were purchased in the Great Lakes Region
and in 48 hours were in Columbus. They headed into Mexico that night.

The same type of car used by General Pershing.
Shortly after he started using this vehicle he ordered his
senior staff to do the same. This was the beginning of the
end of the US Cavalry.
The steering wheel in this car actually tilts up.

This car is the actual one used by the Frost family to escape
to Deming on the night of the raid.
You can see bullet holes in the body of the car.

This was one of the tents sent down for the men to live in
at Camp Furlong. It was found in a box unused.

This is a 1915 Jeffrey Quad Armored Car NO. 1
parked outside of Visitor Center.
I read that it was not actually used during the Punitive Expedition itself.

It was used in 1919, when soldiers crossed into
Mexico to chase Pancho Villa during the Battle of Ciudad Juárez.

Interesting fact the gentleman shared with us:
General Pershing and Pancho Villa were actually friends.
Both teetotalers they spent many hours together
in El Paso  discussing  war tactics over chocolate ice cream.

Replica of Pancho Villa's Death Mask.
He was assassinated on July 20, 1923

Another of the many interesting facts he shared with us was concerning the "Red Ball Express". We hear about this truck convoy system that supplied General Patton's Third Army and the First Army during World War II but what we do not hear was when it was used the first time. It was during the Punitive Expedition into Mexico and it was put in place by General Pershing. Interestingly George Patton was a 2nd Lieutenant under Pershing during the expedition. (Side note: With fifteen men and three Dodge touring cars, Patton led America's first motorized military action. He was out looking to buy some corn when he came across the ranch of Julio Cardenas, an important leader in the Villista military organization. Cardenas and two other men were killed in this action. Information found on internet.) 

Pancho Villa State Park (Camp Furlong Sites)

This was one of the first things we saw when we pulled in to
the Pancho Villa State Park and we wondered what it was.

We later learned it was a water storage area. 

As we continued down the entrance road 
the next thing we saw was simply listed as a ramp. 

Judge Advocates Office

Grease Rack

Headquarters Building

This sign

points here.
The only thing I could see was the white rectangle in the back left.

Walking over  it was a bench just below Cootes Hill.

This faces NM-11
The Customs House.

Also taken from NM-11
Recreation Hall

No green little leaves but beautiful bright orange blossoms.
Goodbye Ocotillo for this adventure.

Prickly Pear or Barbary Fig
I kept thinking these looked like Prickly Pears but the leaf was elongated. 
Not the shape we usually see. 
Looking it up I found that it was a Prickly Pear.

Close up of  its leaf or  nopales. 

Saturday morning before we left we walked up Cootes Hill.

The view from atop the hill is amazing.
Looking southeast towards Mexico.




The Stinger "B" is waiting patiently for us to come back down.

Looking towards the Northeast.
The arrows left to right:  Visitor Center, Customs House,
The Depot Museum, and the Recreation Hall.

This is an interesting area to visit and the park itself is well cared for. It was a very peaceful and quiet place to spend time. I can certainly see us coming back this way again.

One of things we questioned was the name of the park itself, Pancho Villa State Park. Why was this name chosen? The man and his troops invaded our country and killed US citizens in the process. This is the only State Park named after an invader. We are not the first to question this and there are people in Columbus that do not agree with the name.  The only answer we received was that it was a goodwill gesture between the US and Mexico. Doing a little research I found out, strangely enough, the name was suggested by Jack Breen who was the deputy sheriff in Columbus and there the night of the raid. Online the only thing I could find was the same thing we were told, that it was a goodwill gesture.
Side note: The general consensus seems to be that Pancho Villa  never actually came into Columbus the night of the raid but stayed in Mexico.

The question as to why Pancho Villa raided the town of Columbus, NM does not seem to have a clear answer. (The following information is a very brief summary of the information we were given at the Visitor Center by the gentleman we talked to there.) Some think it was about a gun deal gone wrong and they were looking for Sam Ravel, who was gone at the time, who had taken money for guns and ammunition but had not delivered them. A store he owned with his brother was burned during the raid along with several other stores and a hotel.
Interesting side note: we were told at the time just about everyone, except for the local priest though he knew about it, sold guns to the Villistas. In fact, it was also mentioned that even now there are gun deals going on in the area.

Another reason we were given was that Pancho Villa needed guns, supplies, and money and thought Columbus would be an easy target to get these things. He did not feel the US Military Encampment there would be much of an determent. What he did not count on was the four machine guns they had  and that three would be quickly, strategically dispersed, and set up by a Lt. John Lucas. These did turn the tide of the battle.

Yet another thought was that the raid was in retaliation for the US pulling their support of Pancho Villa's quest for leadership in Mexico and giving it to Venustiano Curranza his rival and recognizing his regime. Washington even authorized the movement of Curranza's troops by train on US soil.

Then there was the fact that many of the Villistas were using 1910 German Mauser Carbines that were being supplied to them by Germany. The theory being if the United States was busy in Mexico it would not be able to come and fight in Europe during World War I. That pretty much backfired. The Punitive Expedition proved to be the best training ground for the soldiers that did in fact head to Europe after they returned to the US when the expedition into Mexico ended.

From what I read Pancho Villa said he would explain why he raided Columbus but was assassinated before he told anyone the exact reason. After listening to what we were told and doing a little reading on the internet, which was pretty much what we were told, I wonder if it was not for all the reasons listed. Since, Pancho Villa died before sharing the reason we will never really know and historians can only speculate.

This brings me to a statue we were told about when we stopped at the Depot Museum. It seems the Mexican Government and a national journalists' association in Mexico tried to make a gift of a statue of Pancho Villa to Columbus, NM. The woman at the depot, who told us about it, said a group of woman in the town stated at the time if it was erected in Columbus they would blow it up.

I read almost the exact same information on the internet. The article I read stated:  Richard Dean, president of the historical society in Columbus, NM said that the town balked at installing a Pancho Villa statue in the park that was a gift from a group of Mexican journalists. "There were a few little old ladies who survived the raid who said if the statue was put up in the park they would blow it up," Dean said. "I know they would have done it, too."

Instead, the 14-foot-tall, five-ton bronze statue of Villa riding a horse was presented to the city of Tucson in Arizona. It sits in a downtown park where it remains today. It was accepted by Gov. Bruce El Babbit with about 1,000 supporters in attendance. The then Mayor of Tucson, Lew Murphy, refused to attend the dedication. The statue survived two lawsuits that attempted to stop it from being erected. A Phoenix area town of Guadalupe also rejected it before Tucson accepted it.

Taken from the internet.

This area is rich in history and colorful characters. Plus, it is the Cradle of  The Modern American
Military. I have only touched on a very small percentage of the information we received and I have read. If you like history Columbus is certainly worth the stop. If you would just like to sit, enjoy the park, and its quiet vibe you will enjoy your time here. I know we did.

Lastly I would like to share this interesting tidbit about General "Black Jack" Pershing:

Over the course of his military career, General Pershing commanded several famous Americans, including fellow Missourian and future President Harry S. Truman, General George S. Patton, General and later U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, and General Douglas MacArthur, making General Pershing one of America’s most influential military leaders.

If you would like to leave a comment, we would enjoy hearing from you.
If not, we are still glad you stopped by to visit.


  1. Loved that state park and the visitor centre, glad you had a good time there and enjoyed the peace and quiet there.

    1. We definitely enjoyed the time we spent there and would definitely go back at some point.

  2. Left hand turns only, right hand turn the wing fell off, that is too funny. I love the mail order flight instruction as well. Looks like you are truly enjoying our time there. No need to hurry north, still cold, wet and some snow. Can you say Brrrrr.....LOL
    Stay safe and warm.

    1. right. It is like someone forgot to turn on spring. I am hoping things turn around soon as we will be up in the UP in 9 days. No choice family stuff we need to be back for.
      P.S. The wheels on the Jenny were held on by rope.

  3. Wow Deb what a great post! Very very interesting! We haven't been there but said we need to get his n the bucket list! Beautiful pictures too! Glad you enjoyed the time there and at the park.

    1. Thank you, Shirley. It was a fun visit and we lucked out with the volunteer at the Visitor Center being so knowledgeable and entertaining at the same time. Plus, the volunteers at the depot were very nice. Then add in free margaritas at the Pink Store and it is worth the

  4. Interesting that they spent that much time, money and people for a punitive mission.

    1. It is interesting. I think there were a lot of "politics" involved just like today. Information was not as readily available back then, hidden better I guess you could say, so we will never know all the truth of what took place and why.

  5. This is a very interesting post Deb. Well documented. I love the story about the Jenny's. They could only turn left? Wow. Not sure I would have volunteered but if it hadn't been for those that did the advancement of aviation would have been slower.
    You did such a good job telling us about Pancho Villa and the Punitive Mission I may not have to visit that area. :-)

    1. Thank you, Dave.
      Reading your blog about the museums you and Cheryl visit I am sure you would easily find out about a lot of stuff I missed...:)

      Like I mentioned to Shirley above, we lucked out with the volunteers we met. Even though both exhibits are actually small the gentleman at the Visitor Center, especially, was a wealth of information. The exhibit is nice but he brought it to life.