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Tampico Affair
DateApril 9, 1914
LocationTampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico
Result United States occupation of Veracruz
 United States Mexico Mexico
9 sailors ~10 infantry

The Tampico Affair started off as a minor incident involving U.S. sailors and Mexican land forces loyal to General Victoriano Huerta during the guerra de las facciones phase of the Mexican Revolution. The misunderstanding occurred on April 9, 1914, but would fully develop into the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and the occupation of the port city of Veracruz for over six months.

In the midst of the Mexican Revolution, de facto head of state Victoriano Huerta struggled to hold his power and territory intact against the challenges of Emiliano Zapata in the south and the fast advance of the opposition Constitutionalists of Venustiano Carranza in the north. By March 26, 1914, Carranza's forces were 10 mi (16 km) from the prosperous oil town of Tampico, Tamaulipas. There was a considerable concentration of U.S. citizens in the area due to the immense investment of American firms in the local oil industry. Several American warships commanded by Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo were posted in the area with the stated purpose of protecting American citizens and property.

The incident

By the spring of 1914, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Mexico were strained. President Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize the presidency of Mexican General Victoriano Huerta who had been installed as president the previous year after Huerta and the conservative rebel, General Félix Díaz signed the Pact of the Embassy with the approval of the American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, and who had since been removed by President Wilson.[1] The instability caused by the ongoing Mexican Revolution threatened American lives and economic interests in Mexico.

As Tampico was besieged by Constitutionalist forces, relations between U.S. forces and Huerta's federal garrison remained amicable. The American naval force — with only the gunboat Dolphin, due to the navigational constraints of the shallow harbor entrance — presented a 21-gun salute to the Mexican flag three times on April 2, 1914, to pay tribute to the celebrated occupation of Puebla in 1867 by Mexican General Porfirio Díaz in the last phases of the French intervention in Mexico.

U.S. battleships steaming toward Veracruz following the Tampico Affair.
Inset: Appearing in the photograph (left to right): Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander of U.S. forces during the Tampico Affair; Rear Admiral Frank F. Fletcher, who commanded the landing to seize Veracruz; Vice Admiral Charles J. Badger, Commander of U.S. Atlantic Fleet in 1914.

The situation between the U.S. and Huerta further worsened on April 9, when Mexican authorities mistakenly arrested eight U.S. sailors at Tampico, Mexico in what came to be known as the Tampico Affair. The commander of the Dolphin arranged for a pickup of oil from a warehouse near a tense defensive position at Iturbide Bridge. The defenders of the bridge anticipated an attack, based on the two consecutive days of skirmishes that had immediately preceded. Nine U.S. sailors on a whaleboat flying the U.S. flag were dispatched to the warehouse along a canal. Based on the sailors' account, seven of them moved the cans of fuel to the boat while two remained on the vessel. Mexican federal soldiers were alerted to the activity and confronted the American sailors. Neither side was able to speak the other's language, which left the sailors immobile in the face of commands from the soldiers. The Mexicans raised rifles against the Americans, including the sailors still on the boat, and ushered the men to the nearby Mexican regimental headquarters.

The commander of U.S. naval forces in the area, Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo, demanded a 21-gun salute and formal apology from Huerta's government. General Huerta, the President of Mexico, ordered the release of the sailors within 24 hours and gave a written apology. However, he refused for Mexico to raise the U.S. flag on its soil to provide a 21-gun salute. As a result, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for permission for an armed invasion of the area. Although this request was granted two days later, the United States occupation of Veracruz had already begun.

USS Truxton and Whipple at Mazatlan, April 26, 1914, keeping watch on Mexican gunboat Morales (two-funnel ship in background)

President Wilson backed Mayo and ordered an increase in U.S. forces in Mexican waters. On April 18, Iris, Lieutenant Reed, commanding, USS Cheyenne, tender for the Pacific Fleet Second Torpedo Flotilla and submarines USS H-1 and USS H-2 departed San Pedro, California for San Diego.[2] On April 22, Iris and five torpedo boats USS Whipple (DD-15), USS Paul Jones (DD-10), USS Perry (DD-11), USS Stewart (DD-13) and USS Truxton (DD-14), of the Pacific Fleet First Torpedo Flotilla, Lieutenant Commander E. H. Dodd, commanding, departed San Diego for Mazatlan.[3]

In Ensenada, Mexico, U.S. consul Claude E. Guyant and 250 American citizens were forced to seek safety in the American consulate building as Mexican authorities were powerless to control anti-American demonstrations that had erupted on April 23. Guyant cabled Washington, "Have taken refuge in consulate. Situation critical. Send warship immediately."[4][5] Cheyenne, Lieutenant Kenneth Heron, commanding, arrived at Ensenada with orders to protect American lives at any cost, including capturing the port if necessary. Iris en route to Mazatlan, diverted course to Ensenada to assist Cheyenne [6][7]

While the situation had calmed somewhat by April 25, Cheyenne sortied to evacuate Consul Guyant and other Americans from Ensenada to San Diego in late April 1914.[8] Ultimately the U.S. army transport Bisbee sailed from San Francisco in early May and made stops at numerous ports on the west coast of Mexico to pick up American refugees.[9]

By May 4, 1914, 71 navy ships operated in Mexican waters.[10] Eventually, the U.S. turned to the ABC countries—Argentina, Brazil, and Chile—to help mediate the dispute.

See also


External links

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