American Forces Occupy Veracruz, Mexico, 21 April 1914

USS PRAIRIE (AD-5) at the Battle of Veracruz, Mexico, 21 April 1914.

Source: John B. Green Collection #380.1.a
Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo
Description: This early combat photograph taken by an American sailor shows the first of approximately 2,300 sailors and marines from the South Atlantic Fleet and the 2nd Advanced Base Regiment landing at Veracruz, Mexico in the predawn hours of 21 April 1914. Two other marine regiments eventually arrived to support the attack. The American goal was to take possession of the port and to prevent a shipment of weapons from reaching Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta. The weapons were due to arrive that morning from Germany. The crisis had begun several weeks previously when the Mexican government had arrested 9 American sailors for entering an off-limit area in Tampico, Tamaulipas. American President Woodrow Wilson, who had earlier helped Huerta seize power, broke with him over the incident and had shifted his support to Huerta’s rival Venustiano Carranza. The caption on the photograph indicates that this particular group of Americans was from the troopship USS PRAIRIE (AD-5). The PRAIRIE, originally the Morgan Steamship Line passenger ship SS EL SOL, had been built in 1890 by William Cramp and Sons, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The United States Navy purchased her on 6 April 1898 from the Southern Pacific Company, and commissioned her as the auxiliary cruiser USS PRAIRIE. The Navy later converted her to a training ship and by 1914 she was serving as a troop transport. The initial landings went smoothly but by afternoon of the 21st sharp fighting had broken out and losses mounted on both sides. Supported by heavy fire from the ships of the Atlantic Fleet, however, the Americans quickly silenced the outnumbered and outgunned Mexicans. American losses were 22 killed and 70 wounded out of a total force of 2,300 sailors and marines; the Mexicans were almost totally annihilated. The Mexicans lost between 150 and 170 killed and between 195 and 250 wounded from a force that amounted to only about 200 soldiers. An unknown number of Mexicans civilians spontaneously volunteered to defend the town and also became casualties. The American occupation of Veracruz continued until 23 November 1914, when a coalition of South American countries – Argentina, Brazil, and Chile (the ABC Powers) — negotiated an end to the dispute. After the occupation ended, the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, the well-known publisher of the Raleigh News and Observer and a future Ambassador to Mexico, ordered that 56 Congressional Medals of Honor be awarded to Americans who served in the action, the most Congressional Medals of Honor ever to be awarded in a single battle. Ironically, the weapons the Americans had been sent to prevent the Germans from landing, were originally from the Remington Arms Company, an American firm.

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