SpeedyI mean Villaand his men were so cocky after jumping the 13th Cav that they took a rest stop at the town of Columbus, N.M.. It was quite a visit: they whooped it up on horseback shouting, "Kill da Gringos!" and burned the whole place to the ground, shot a couple dozen troopers and another dozen civvies, and made off with some chump change and all the whiskey their saddlebags could hold.
President Wilson was not happy. He called up the National Guard for border duty, just like Dubya just did, only Wilson actually meant itas shown by the fact that he called up 15,000 men to patrol the New Mexico sector of the borderlater he upped the number to 75,000whereas George wants us to believe that 6,000 men are going to cover the whole damn border.
Wilson also sent Black Jack Pershing into Mexico to get Villa. Now this was not a popular move among our southern neighbors, even the Villa-haters among them. You think PC warfare started in the Sixties? Nope; Wilson gave Pershing a whole book full of rules, like, "No using Mexican railways," that tied at least one of Pershing's hands behind his back.
Just like Nam, we had all the technical advantagesPershing had 5,000 men, including aircraft for recon and various early 20th-c. SUVs to drive through the desertbut the enemy was fighting on his home ground, with the locals on his side. So guess who won.
Yup: Villa made fools of the Gringos. Northern Mexico looks like Afghanistan, all gullies and ridges, perfect guerrilla country. Pershing's aircraft were hopeless failures; all six of them crashed within the first few months. Indian scouts led his men into blind gullies. Pershing was
so pissed off he cabled the President: "Villa is nowhere and everywhere."
The only guy who came out of it looking good was young George Patton, who realized intelligence was the key to fighting irregulars. On his own initiative, he tracked down one of Villa's top aides, then led a raid in civilian cars and clothes, blasting the aide's hacienda and bringing the guy's corpse back tied to the hood of Patton's Packard. Class will tell, like they say.
After months of frustration, Pershing's men did what conventional armies always do in these situations: started firing blind. In June 1916, they shot up a unit of the Mexican Army, which was supposed to be an ally in tracking down Villa, at a town called Carrizal. That didn't help much with winning the hearts and minds of the Mexicans. Besides, there was this little thing called WW I going on, and Wilson finally realized his troops would be more use on European battlefields than making fools of themselves in Mexico.
And Villa was making fools of them. In fact, Villa's men were so un-scared of the Yankee troops that all they did to disguise themselves was take off thei r trademark bandido ammunition belts. Once they did that, they were civvies again. Supposedly Villa's whole officer corps once attended a movie, incognito, with hundreds of 13th Cav troopers.
Now that, to me, is the whole point of the story: Gueros and Beaners, hunting and killing each other the way God intended, but in a spirit of fun.
I'm not saying all that crap about "Can't we all just get along?" I'm saying, "Can't we just do like los veteranos did and kick the shit out of each other with a smile, and take a break to watch a Tom Mix Western now and then?" I mean what's with this chickenshit stuff about heading out with a gun and picking off exhausted, desperate wetbacks as they cross the river? It's like those jerks who used to put firecrackers in cats' asses.
Somewhere out there in the desert skies, Pancho Villa and Black Jack Pershing are sharing a bottle of first-run brandy from Parral, looking down at us fretting over these little IHOP scuffles and laughing their battle-scarred faces off. If they could talk to us, they'd tell us what a black guy once said to me in a bar, when I was drunk and trying to act tough: "Aw, don't be so SERIOUS. I ain't SERIOUS. And if I was, you couldn't be SERIOUS enough for me."