Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Local Sailors Engaged at the Battle of Vera Cruz, 1914

As the diplomatic crisis with Mexican military government continued to deteriorate, President Woodrow Wilson decided to act. Each of the battleships off of Vera Cruz was to assemble a landing team of armed Sailors and Marine detachments. Reinforced by land-based Marines, the force landed with orders to seize the city's custom house and secure the city. The landing itself went on without much issue. But shortly after the landing, local Mexican forces opened fire on the Americans. Here are some of the images we have of sailors from locally-based ships preparing for action or already in the middle of it.

You can see other images in our collection of the Vera Cruz intervention here here, and here. For an excellent political and military overview of the expedition, we encourage you to read naval historian Jack Sweetman's Naval History magazine article or his book The Landing at Veracruz: 1914.

Sailors from USS Michigan's (BB-27) Fifth Division make final preparations to go ashore at Vera Cruz.  While most sailors went into combat wearing either their summer whites or winter blues, Michigan's sailors felt their uniform needed to be more suitable for possible urban combat.  They decided on a khaki-colored uniform.  As this was not standard issue, the sailors soaked their uniforms in the battleship's large coffee vats and boiled them in hot coffee.  During anti-sniper sweeps, one Michigan sailor was credited with taking out an enemy sniper from 100 yards away at night with one shot from his Colt revolver.   
Signalmen from the USS Florida (BB-30) detachment prepare to go ashore.  During the fighting, these men exposed themselves to enemy fire to keep American flag officers informed on the progress of the battle. 

USS Louisiana's (BB-19) company of Sailors and Marines prepare to land at a moment's notice (note that the ship is underway).  While Michigan's and Louisiana's companies arrived too late for the April 21-22 street fight, American flag officers welcomed their arrival and used them to help secure the city and the outlying areas.

USS Utah (BB-31) sailors in action during the heavy fighting with Mexican forces on April 21.  The Mexican forces consisted of Mexican Federal soldiers, local militiamen, and Mexican Naval cadets.

Sailors and Marines, possibly from Florida's company, take up anti-sniper positions.  Once the heavy fighting stopped on April 22, Mexican soldiers constantly harassed American forces with snipers. 

The Newport News-built and locally based USS Montana (ACR-13) gets underway for New York City, carrying twenty-two American Sailors and Marines killed in the fighting.  The fallen were given a public funeral in New York City. 

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