tv Reel America Uncle Sam Watching the Mexican Border - 1916 CSPAN March 16, 2019 10:00pm-10:46pm EDT
back and forth between fcc commissioner. i think the public overwhelmingly supports net neutrality rules, and wants to see some certainty and permanence to this issue. >> watch the communicators monday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span two. c-span3's american history tv with a continuation of our weekly reel america series. we look at archival films that puts events of today into context. we will look at a silent film that was produced in 1916 titled "uncle sam watching the mexican border." here joining us is julie prieto. she is the author of the mexican expedition: 1916-1917. put together by the u.s. army center of military. put this into context of what was happening and it's
importance today. julie: the mexican expedition and the border needs to be understood in the context of this mexican revolution. that begins in 1910 with the dictator of mexico. he is ousted by a man named francisco. after he is killed, several revolutionary factors emerge from that. one of the faction that emerges is called the constitutionalist. one of the people aligned with it is french a scope -- francisco. 1914, if they had become successful. they managed to control a large part of the country. at this point of success, he breaks with the constitutionalist. him, successful against but during 1915 he has a series
of military reverses against the currency or government. he goes from having an army that is 30-50,000 people operating in mexico to having about 500 to 1000 troops under his command. it is sort of this low point in his military career. attacking to start americans at the border. he does is for a couple of different reasons. in theto stay relevant fight, in the revolution. the other is that woodrow wilson mexico is thet rightful government. believes this is due to a corrupt government. that he has given woodrow wilson secret claims to minimal -- mineral rights in northern mexico in exchange for being recognized by the government.
arranza to buyara arms from the united states. train, then leading to loss of life of americans. on march 9, 1916, his forces attacked the town of columbus, new mexico in the middle of the night. one column attacks the town and largely burns down the downtown. and one at tax and army garrison right -- attacks and army garrison right outside of town. in order to better understand the border and what it was like back then. it is in the headlines with the debate over the wall, but what was it like in 1916? usig would find a remarkably safe border, considering there was a large war going on on the other side. much of the mexican revolution and battles take place in northern mexico.
many of the revolutionary leaders and that being from sonora, which is in the north. the north of mexico is a dangerous place. there aren't many refugees coming to escape the fighting in northern mexico. on the u.s. side there are not that many attacks, considering the danger and the long-standing conflict that happens very close by to american soil. there is the mexico raid. 10 civilians are killed and eight soldiers before the mexican expedition goes into mexico to try to capture and kill pancho villa in retro be a -- retribution for the loss of columbus. there is a retribution that happens in may, in 1916, and a smaller town close by to columbus. there are not a lot of other raids that happen around that time. there are some shots that make it into the u.s., but it is
actually shockingly safe considering the conflicts. >> deal find it ironic that a different type of conflict is happening a century later, but still the same issues. julie: it is definitely interesting. the border is a different place. time, there was no border fence. there was no border wall. the border was relatively open. you could just walk across. there are places in el paso where they had bars straddling the border. you could walk into the bar on one side and drink on the other side of the border. it was really open to back and forth travel between the two countries. the silent film. if you're in the audience, what do you think the theatergoers would have thought about this? what would have gone through their minds? julie: i think they would have thought it was a grand adventure. the mexican expedition is a
unique and interesting transitional point for the u.s. army. the last major army operation had horse cavalry. you had horses camping for months at a time, really independently as opposed to world war i. it was large major operations in trenches. it does not have that romantic frontier feel that the mexican expedition had. the mexican expedition, as you'll see, because it is the first time that the army uses trucks and airplanes in the field, i think people would have been interested in this adventure that it in bodies. >> all of this is chronicled in your book. the cover of your book, do you know where it was taken? julie: i don't know. it is marked 1916 in northern mexico. it would have been somewhere in chihuahua. group of menmilar
around the campfire in the film. >> the film begins with the march to one of those in cap's -- encampments. what are we looking at? infantry and mountain artillery. i think we will see calvary first. in terms of the adventure that the mexican expedition would have held for people, because, inse calvary had been used the southwest of new -- of the u.s. from the u.s. from 1880's to about this time. this is the last major army operation that uses them. althoughee that units, this looks like a lot of people, having 100 to 200 people together in a horse calvary is a lot smaller than what would have been used in world war i. it was a small number of men on horses on the trail. >> arriving from where? are probably not
recruits, these are probably regular u.s. army. these are career people who would have been coming from probably elsewhere in the southwest at first. initially you have 4800 troops. by the end you have about 10,000 come down. some of them might have come from somewhere else besides southwest. at least initially that is where they are coming from. the army is much smaller than it is during world war i. there are only about 25,000 troops in the continental u.s. at this time. the whole army is around 120, 100 30,000 people compared to the millions fighting in france, which is a small force. >> i ask you this in terms of context as we see men arriving. the civil war ended in 1865, world war i was hovering in europe in 1913, 1914, what was
the u.s. military like? how prepared were we? julie: it is small. a lot of the army's from remote places. a lot of them were in the philippines are in the panama canal zone. you had these very small units and small camps in the united states, often times in the west. you had small garrisons. in the southwest they are really focused on capturing indian tribes. in the 1880's they were crossing the border back and forth between the u.s. and mexico trying to catch the last of the apaches. >> this appears to be a training mission, is that correct? julie: this does look like training. before you could see the signal copr. they seem to be setting up
a portable telegraph machine. now you see calvary training. unit.s a relatively small probably training and practicing how to move together in the field. probably outside of, either on camporder or at the main ,hat general pershing set up which is their main headquarters through most of the mexican expedition. they sigh it back in 1916 in movie houses, correct? julie: that is a good question. it might have been seen in movie houses or as part of the newsreel. it was filmed by the signal corp. toy did cut this together show the material that the u.s. army used during the mexican expedition, and the material they needed going forward in
world war i. part of the point would have been to show some of the deficiencies in armaments and materials, and to make a case for receiving more funding. >> do you have any insight into how they train the horses that carry the arsenal and personnel? howe: i really don't know they trained the horses. they used horses extensively. they also used mules. now you don't see them. you do see a lot of packed meals -- pack mules. there was a lot of animal power that went into the old animal army. even though mules were used extensively in the expedition, they were pretty problematic in terms of what they could do. they could carry large amounts of material down from the border to the advanced headquarters for erging.
a because it was so dry, the mules had to carry their own fodder so they cannot carry as much material. that is why they result to using trucks for the first time as part of the expedition, instead of just relying on animal power. even though trucks were untested. they called him blackjack. he was a significant player in the modern military. julie: yes. a very significant player. was governor in the philippines. this is the first time he is given a large army to command. for new material for the army but for john pershing himself. he is able to prove himself in the field and command large units. like i said, he tests new
material and he is able to show that he is an innovative leader and attract a large degree of talent to him, and loyalty from the soldiers. that is something that not every commander could do in the field. batsey have their morning and they are their own barber -- baths, and they have their own barber. they handled the horses and all that came with that. eds of theasic ne men in the military. julie: there is a huge amount of support staff. there is so many. they had to gear up so quickly that they had to hire civilians to do some jobs, which caused resentment. civilians do have to do things like drive trucks and they are paid more than the soldiers at first. does try to eliminate civilian labor as much as he can. quarters,re in close especially during the time of the year or there could have
been infestations of mosquitoes and hot temperatures along the u.s./mexico border. julie: there are extreme temperatures in trauma because it is a desert -- in chihuahua because it is a desert. the men experienced snow, cold weather, dust storms. they would have been an oculi did against typhoid -- inocula ted against typhoid fever. >> did others learn from that, did civilians learn from these vaccination programs? julie: yes, it was a testing ground for vaccinations and for aixa 50 -- 50 -- testing ground for vaccinations. there were only on the ground for three days. they went out with very little food, few supplies.
when they are not and camp they are responsible for supplying themselves. they are responsible for finding cattle and slaughtering them and cooking them in the field, or purchasing whatever they can. sometimes they can purchase things with hard currencies. sometimes they have to issue for, which makes it hard mexicans to receive compensation. >> was is a form of hazing back in 1916? julie: that is a good question. it looks fun. even though a lot of these regulars that participated were career army soldiers, you do have a lot of national guardsmen who are coming into the national guard for the first time. lotsof college students, of young men looking to have a good time. >> and some down, including playing with the mascot. julie: the army has dogs. -- aavy seems to adapt dock animals on the trail. adopt animals on the
trail. >> what did they do on their downtime? julie: they spend most of their time training, especially after june. from march to june they are actively searching for pancho villa. after that they spent a great deal of their time in camp training. for the national guardsmen, that is true the nine-month they are there. they do not see action, but they do spend every day hiking, doing 6-7 miles a day. and that kind of thing. as we look at the modern air force and modern pilots today, this is only 100 years ago. look how far we have come. julie: this is interesting because this is the commander of
the first aero squadron in the mexican expedition. this plane was not on the expedition. it looks like a wright brothers model a. the planes were called jenny's from the curtis company. even those planes that they took were really quite an adequate for military use at the time. this is an even older plane. this is a plane that is about six or seven years old. -- six or seven years older than that. 3ven the jn came in with eight to begin with. they are in service for a month of a -- a month and a half. six of them crashed. they do not do well in the field. part of the recent for that is that they go into spin very easily. they cannot climb past 10,000 feet.
trauma -- into are about 10,000 feet. at this screen in these gentlemen sitting outside their camp, explained his office and what they represent. there the two men sitting , one of them is in command of the department of texas for a time. he retired right after this. as you can see he is quite aged already. south istment of the commanded by frederick. he is not in here. he would have been the superior to hoyte. move thery to equipment from one part of the country to the front lines. wagons thatyou have
are drawn by horses. wagons are used in the early part of the expedition. les, wagons can only carry a certain amount of material over time. they really cannot carry a lot of material up steep areas. that is why he turns to trucks instead of wagons. >> how common were these trains used by the military? julie: train are commonly used in north of the border. they are not allowed to use the mexican railways after march 18. a week into the expedition they are prevented of doing so by carranza. they actually do have to use animals. that to therom doughboys. many would associate with the troops in world war i, but also
associated with the troops along the u.s./mexico border. they have an explanation for where the term came from. it is unclear what the term is. it seems to be older than the civil war. it is used to refer to american expeditionary forces in world war i. there are a lot of stories of how they got that name. sometimes people say that it is because of the dirt that soldiers got on their uniforms so it looked like flour. some people say it is because of the fried dough they ate. it is not entirely clear where that comes from. >> generally speaking, with a well taken care of. were there complaints or did soldiers faifeel they had what they needed? julie: they do have problems early on with supplying troops. troops did not have proper uniforms going into mexico. they had summer uniforms, they would fight in the deserts of
the army does not supply them woolthankings like blankets. they do have some deficiencies later on. -- early on. later on they get large amounts of material to supply the troops. havey or so they really more than enough of what they need. they become much more comfortable. they have a lot of what they need in camp -- a lot of what they don't need is supplied by locals. locals who set up small businesses around the camp selling things like alcohol. placeot of training took in southern texas. that is really most of what they did is try to get these people up to shape. getting them up to military speed. these are people who had no military experience before they came to the border. often times they are brand-new recruits.
they come through having a lot of military experience. they spend nine months on the border drilling, training, going out on hikes for days, weeks at a time and patrolling the border. area back and forth there of the border making sure nothing is going on. it ends up being purely a training exercise. julie: this is the artillery. calvary and the ninth calvary is a unit of buffalo soldiers. that means african-american enlisted men who are commanded by white officers. there is one black officer who comes with the expedition, and he is only the third person -- third african-american person to graduate from west point.
that is major charles young. they do not show him in the film. it is ill-fated because they do see action in mexico. they were supposed to walk reconnaissance. they run into government forces. eight of them are killed, 23 or captured. so 23 of them spend about a week, weekend half as prisoners in chihuahua city before they are released. they were very well cheap -- well treated in chihuahua city. they are visited by the british consul and u.s. consul. >> it looks windy there with a lot of dust. julie: the weather is difficult and changeable in chihuahua. you can see the difficulty of the terrain because you have desert. the desert rises up from the central plane in this state.
you can see right here that there are not a lot of roads running through what is really a difficult place to get across. there is not a lot of infrastructure to speak of. railroads running through the state. there are a couple of major roads, but there really aren't a lot going south. want to get south of some of the major towns right along the border. it is really a very challenging landscape to get across. >> and limited munitions. julie: yes. they had limited munitions. they don't use that much artillery in the expedition itself, but they do have very little of it in the army in general. in that regard because they are not using artillery too much for the expedition. theyis one part or i think
are looking ahead towards world war i and the armies of europe and seeing that they are lacking in terms of some of the material being used commonly in france. >> as we look at this and setting up for some sort of battle, how do they know where to go. what type of takata since operation did they have? reconnaissance operation did they have? a poor intelligence system so they don't have a lot of intelligence on the ground to speak of. they don't have a lot of people that can give them accurate information and tell them where to go. to get ane trying idea of the land. many of their maps dated from the mexican, american war they go in with really -- war. they go in with really poor maps
of mexico. they go in with the wrong uniforms. they go in with summer uniforms. they have to deal with the mountain weather. iny have a lot of challenges the first three months of the expedition until it gets a little bit warmer. .n terms of intelligence they don't have a lot of intelligence on the ground, but pancho villa is a very savvy actor. he is very good at not telling people his plan. in march of the expedition and hides in a cave for next -- for the next five months. it is very difficult to find him. >> when did he pass away? julie: 1923. he makes it through the whole revolution. >> the screen says they are getting ready for a telegraph.
a very early type of information to get across from where they are. i assume back here to washington, d.c.? they would have wanted to communicate with washington, d.c.. but they also would have wanted to communicate with fort bliss and some of the areas around the border to see where materials are coming. because it is few so remote and underdeveloped and has seen so many years of war and distraction, there are very few telegraph poles running through that area of the country at the time of the expedition. soldiers did have to set up telegraph lines through part of northern mexico. doe through that -- they that through permanent stations which isr wire, unprotected copper wire that you put across the desert from point a to point b.
it is very affordable to destruction by whether or horses crossing over. it is temporary. >> this looks like an infirmary? julie: this is probably part of their training, which is part of the reason why they film it. you can see they don't yet have enough trucks to transport people who are injured on the so they arecks, still using wagons to transport people. probably over to the main peopleent where most spend their time in expedition. headquarters. it is close to a mormon village that was founded in the late 19th century. >> they had to do it all, including the construction of this bridge? julie: yes. this looks like a training
exercise. maybe even in fort bliss. here they are building pontoon bridges. here are these temporary bridges that use loading crafts, like a boat, and you put, you can see or ayou put planks platform on top of it as a temporary measure. you contrive over it or have people go over it. >> we are seeing a lot of training and drills taking place. not a lot of the actual conflict itself. why? it is very difficult to film the conflict itself. there are conflicts and there are clashes that happened throughout. they happen early on so the goesition starts, pershing in, they stop patrolling northern mexico in june.
after june 21 they stop patrolling outside of that headquarter area. part of the reason for that is ashed withey have cl the government forces. wilson does not want to risk a larger conflict with mexico. that the u.s. is probably going to enter world war i and cannot spare the troops. >> where do these munitions come from. they are probably made mostly on the east coast. this might be fort bliss or somewhere else along the border. practice and demonstration of munitions again that are not necessarily appropriate like the mexican expedition. they come in february of 1917 and war is to close -- is in
1817. this is something they know is likely to happen as time goes on. woodrow wilson is really looking towards the start of world war i. really thinking about armaments and thinking about training in those terms. as a military historian, did this inspire young men to sign up? was that one of the motivations. motivation of the was, what is the adventure of it. the old the trail, army. this is sort of the new army, the new technology people were using in the field. were big artillery pieces you fired directly, you don't fire directly. menink a lot of the younger who volunteer actually to go it as athe border see chance to be in the army, which
is the new army. >> it looks like the technology was getting better. julie: artillery is getting better longer ranges. you do have the ability to fire greater distances, which allows you to fire not only things you can see, but things you cannot see. something that is very far away. that allows you to use airplanes theny and spot the enemy, you calculate were the enemy would be. for a lot of that young men who seemed very new and very strange. that was not the army they had known. that was the old army. the cavalry army that is passing away and passes away after the mexican exhibition. >> let's talk about your book. there are things in the book that are not in the silent film.
who were the buffalo soldiers? are men better part of segregated units. you have african-american soldiers who are commanded by white officers. mostly white officers in the field. there are some african-american officers. there is one on the mexican expedition. there are not a lot. mostly they are segregated. >> the apache scouts. hurrahthis is the last of the apache scouts. armynlisted into the essentially in the southwest. during the indian wars, they worked as trackers. they wanted to make sure the u.s. army could survive on the trail and that they would be a buddha find what they could find. they were going to the field
often times with a poor sense of the land and the topography. at the scouts in the land and the people very well. anew the land and the people very well and they soldiers.to guide the >> there was no draft in 1916, correct? >> correct. >> what changes took place with the national guard? >> the call up that wilson does originally in may is only of three states along the border. it texas, arizona and new mexico's guard but only about three thousand or 4000 soldiers show up, not enough to protect the length of the border. to border is very long and he needs more troops. so they actually extend the call up to the rest of the state. 49 states show up. the troops and up being about 110,000 on the border.
because of this, they need to vastly increase the amount of money that goes into the national guard and the amount of training. so the national security act of 1916 is passed and he brings a much-needed infusion of money and increases the number of training days and national guard has per year, and make sure that they receive materials on parity with the u.s. army. >> clearly, he was a military leader. we are still talking about general pershing today. why was he such a significant player? >> he is such a significant player for a few reasons. one of them is he really proves himself in the mexican expedition. there were very few large-scale actions that the u.s. army really engages in before world war i, in may we years before. he takes 10,000 regulars into the field.
for 11 months, and that makes him unique in the u.s. army. he is able to engender a great deal of loyalty from his troops. talent, to attract there are a lot of subordinates who he mentors who seem to really thrive under him. making the first obvious choice to lead the forces of world war i. but his rival, the commander of the southern department, dies right after the expedition. that clears away for general pershing to rise to become the commander of the aes. >> from your book, the establishment of what are described as "sanitary villages?" >> we saw ty ford and smallpox inoculation -- typhoid and smallpox inoculation.
there was a system of regulated prostitution in the expedition. pershing designated an officer what he called the sanitary village come an area where they set up huts for women and women were allowed to stay in the huts and stay in a clean place where they had access to medical care. schedule andwould make sure they were paid on time. they had relatively good working conditions while at the same time, the men were able to have a safe environment. >> it seems pretty incredible? >> yes, and some people are really angry with general pershing. to a, they were next mormon town. i think a lot of the mormon elders were not very happy about the system of a regulated prostitution. a lot of the medical officers were not very happy about it. but general pershing
stuck with it because it yielded results. going onwar i was throughout europe. after 1960,ered 1917, but how did all that play into what we were seeing on the u.s.-mexico border, the war in europe? >> there were always cognizant of the fact that there was a war going on. on the border they were looking for one person in a huge state that is vast, that required them to cover large distances in small amounts of time, and to really search large areas of territory. but they knew that very soon they probably are going to join world war i. it was increasingly clear throughout the expedition that it will be the next fight. a much more stationary fight, along the very stationary trenches along northern france.
so they know that even though they are doing -- they are essentially engaging in want of a war, very quickly they will have to transition to a different kind of war. which is why you see so much artillery in the film, so much emphasis on it, even though they don't use it in mexico too much, they know that that is why they are headed. two things that are much more stationary. artillery pieces are big and heavy. you can't really drag them around the trail in mexico, but they are useful in france where you have stationary trenches. so there is that. there are also things like -- in a couple of places you could see machine guns. those were going to be much more useful in france than them a they are in the -- ben: the mexican -- they were going to be much more useful in france than in the mexican expedition.
your earlierrscore point, this provided a training ground for the troops who fought in europe. julie: even though they are fighting a different type of war in mexico, they are able to do things like hike for several miles a day, which brings have their stamina, there it would to drill and shoot, and do all sorts of practice on these new materials they are getting. they are able to drive trucks. there aren't that many trucks in the us army when the expedition starts and not many truck drivers. so they need to train people to do things like drive trucks and fix them to become mechanics. to fix these materials, they also need to train pilots. they need to find airplanes that are better and any people to fix those airplanes. they're able to do that because ofy are spending 11 months
the regulars, nine months in case of the national guard on the border, training people to do these jobs that we hadn't existed in the army up until that time. host: and of course one of the reasons to look at this film is to add context where we are today. in your book, you say -- wilson's invasion of the mexican territory in the mexican revolution created an environment of distrust that took decades to repair and caused a general decline in relations between the united states and latin american republics. can you elaborate? julie: it causes a decline in u.s.-mexican relations. i would it takes decades to repair, it may not ever really have been repaired. 's government, when he decides to intervene in mexico to go and find bunch of panchoo go and find
villa, he doesn't really notify .arranza he doesn't tell him that he is going in and he does it without the approval of the carranza government. carranza and pancho villa don't exactly get along. but because wilson goes without the permission of mexico, it causes a rift between the u.s. and mexican government. there is already a rift, but it deepens the problems that exist in thepens the problems government of mexico for the next three years. continues with the government of mexico, but also in northern mexico, punch of the veryo villa isly
popular himself and this causes a lot of strife on the mexican border, because they are trying who forre or kill a man them is a local hero, someone who they look up to and someone who ought to be admired. in fact they show him in the film, they call him "the bandit." but one person's bandit is another person's freedom fighter. host: to that point, what a tribute the most about pancho villa? the book, picture in it looks like he is ready for any type of military operation. julie: i was intrigued by how good he was operating in the again, a how this was, low point in his career, a time in which he had a very small number of troops under his disposal, 500-1000. he had 30,000-50,000 before. but he is still able to operate
very effectively in the field. still able to drum up support. isis very charismatic so he able to go into towns and give speeches and rally people and get records. he is very effective at doing that. he does have to go into towns sometimes and impress people at a time when he never had to do that before. but he takes people into service forcefully, also, to fill out his ranks. it is remarkable how he remained por popular and remained such figure itng also a figure that engendered so much support in the population. of the a time when much time doing the expedition, he is injured. it was possible he was going to die. he could have died from his injuries, but instead he is able to be held his army to a that she is aree
will to rebuild his army to a remarkable degree. prieto, u.s. army historian, thank you so much for being with us. julie: thank you. announcer: american history tv, historian linda gordon talks about her book -- the second coming of the klan of theklux 1920's and the american political tradition. she describes a resurgence of and itsp in the 1920's influence on politics, government, religion and american culture. this event runs one hour and 15 minutes. ati teach history here denver university. on behalf of the entire history department, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to attend this lecture. a little b