The Mexican Lindbergh

Discussion in 'Between the wars 1918-1939' started by Njaco, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    The Story of Captain Emilio Carranza Rodriguez

    Feature - June 12, 1928: The Lindbergh of Mexico

    June 12, 1928: The Lindbergh of Mexico

    by Andy Stephens
    11th Wing Historian

    6/11/2007 - BOLLING AFB, D.C. -- In 1928, the airplane represented more than science and innovation; it represented hope for a greater era of peace and cooperation. The philosophy of pilots of the day was that a pilot in the sky couldn't see boundaries on the ground, only the clouds and the stars. Few stars shone brighter that year than Emilio Carranza Rodriguez, a captain in the Mexican air force, who visited Bolling Field June 12, 1928.

    Capt. Carranza was only 22 when he piloted the third ever longest nonstop solo flight (18.5 hours), from San Diego to Mexico City. Col. Charles Lindbergh held the records for the first and second longest nonstop flights for his earlier trips from New York to Paris and from New York to Mexico City.

    It had been Lindbergh's goodwill flight to Mexico that spurred the Mexican Association of Aeronautics to send a Mexican pilot from Mexico City to Washington, D.C., as a means of reciprocating that good will. Emilio Carranza was already well known in Mexico, a national hero whose face was reassembled with platinum screws following a crash while flying in defense of Mexican troops against revolutionaries. Soft-spoken but with a good sense of humor, he was the ideal candidate for the goodwill flight.

    The Mexican newspaper, Excelsior, agreed to bankroll the flight and fund the construction of an airplane that was almost identical to Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis." The design was ideal as, while Lindbergh had flown his "Spirit" across a level ocean, Carranza's airplane, "Mexico-Excelsior," had to fly over mountains. Preparations were made in January, but weather and runway constructions delayed the goodwill flight until June 12.

    At 8:08 a.m. that morning, Carranza took off, and telegraph lines across North America were abuzz with hourly updates on his progress and setbacks. As Carranza came closer and closer to Washington, people gathered at Bolling Field. At 5:15 p.m., Carranza arrived at Bolling Field.

    The first to greet him was Maj. Howard C. Davidson, Bolling's commanding officer, followed by the secretary of state, the Mexican ambassador and other officials. The next day, Carranza was invited to meet President Calvin Coolidge and placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington. The spirit of the day was such that by having two flyers cross beyond borders, the airplane had brought two nations closer together. The airplane had become a tool of diplomacy and the potential of aviation was explored in the district's newspaper columns.

    A week later, Carranza arrived in New York and was feted by state officials and military leaders, including the commandant of West Point. But, on July 12, when Carranza was ordered to return to Mexico City, bad weather loomed over Carranza's airplane as it was readied for takeoff at Roosevelt Field in Long Island. Carranza was concerned that the fuel-laden plane could pose a danger to the crowd that gathered to watch his departure, so he took off in secrecy between thunderstorms.

    Carranza's plane was struck by lightning 85 miles southwest of Roosevelt Field. The "Mexico-Excelsior" and its brave pilot were no more.

    Carranza laid in state in New York City, where thousands of Americans passed his coffin in somber reflection. At the Mexican government's request, Carranza's remains were taken by rail to Laredo, Texas, where a Mexican military mission waited to receive the coffin. As the train rolled through the American countryside, artillery regiments fired guns in honor of his bravery along its route.

    Captain Emilio Carranza was posthumously promoted to the rank of general by the Mexican air force. On July 24, 1928, Carranza was laid to rest in a special rotunda in the Dolores Cemetery of Mexico City. President Calvin Coolidge communicated the heartache of America to his Mexican counterpart.

    "All of those who had the honor and pleasure of meeting Captain Emilio Carranza on his recent visit to Washington on the conclusion of his valiant and successful flight from Mexico City were impressed by his daring, modesty, and common sense," Coolidge wrote. "His courageous achievements will serve not only as an inspiration to Mexican aviation but to that of the United States as well. It is my earnest hope that Captain Carranza's aim, that his coming to the United States would serve to bind our two nations even more closely, will be fulfilled."

    With Carranza's passing and the Great Depression of 1929, aviation between America and Mexico was again limited. There would never be another Emilio Carranza.

    Today, a 12-foot-tall monument depicting a falling eagle of Aztec design marks the crash site, now part of the Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, N. J. The monument was paid for with funds donated by Mexican schoolchildren. Every July on the Saturday nearest the anniversary of the crash, Carranza is honored at this monument by members of the American Legion Mount Holly Post 11 and an entourage from the Mexican consulates in New York City and Philadelphia.

    Emilio Carranza - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    A 12 ft (3.6 m) monument in the Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, New Jersey marks the site of his crash. The site is in a sandy parking lot dominated by a huge pine and a pockmarked monument of Chiluca limestone. Built in the early 1930s, it is 12 feet high and was paid for with pesos collected by Mexican schoolchildren. An Aztec falling eagle stands out in relief on one side of the monument and Spanish words spill down another. There always seem to be pennies on the base, left by pilgrims.

    Every July on the Saturday nearest the anniversary of his crash (second Saturday in July) at 1:00 p.m. he is honored at the monument site by members of the American Legion Mount Holly Post 11 accompanied by an entourage from the Mexican consulates in New York City and Philadelphia.

    The vow was first made by the members of the American Legion Mount Holly Post 11 who recovered Carranza's broken body from the woods in 1928.

    Every year since that day, without fail, Post 11 has held a Carranza memorial service. World war did not interfere, nor did Hurricane Bertha in 1996. There have been as few as two people at the service and as many as 2,000.

    "This is who we are and what we do," said Heller, at 60, the baby of the pair. "These days, life is so hectic that few things last. But our commitment to Emilio Carranza, that will last."

    Flight of Excelsior - Welcome


    Remembering the Night the 'Mexican Lindbergh' Went Down - New York Times
    The members of Post 11 hold a ceremony to honor Capt. Emilio Carranza, the ''Mexican Lindbergh,'' who was killed the night of July 12, 1928, as he tried to fly nonstop from Long Island to Mexico City, a distance surpassed only by Lindbergh himself. Taking off from Long Island, Captain Carranza's Ryan monoplane (the same type of plane Charles Lindbergh used to cross the Atlantic) crashed over the Pine Barrens during a violent thunderstorm.

    The next day, berry pickers found his body. His right hand still clutched a flashlight. Members of Post 11 were called in to hack a trail to take the body out. Mr. Gladfelter, 59, has been at every one since 1979.

    Q. Why does Post 11 keep holding the ceremony?

    A. We made a commitment in 1928 that some way, somehow, there would be a ceremony every year and the members who have come since have honored that commitment. It's still good for Mexican-American relations. It's a real solidifier of the relationship between Mexico and the United States, even though we're one small post with only 119 members.

    Q. Ever doubt it would happen?

    A. We never thought it wasn't going to happen. We've had a weak turnout -- about 100 people. Last year we had a full driving thunderstorm like the one Captain Carranza went down in and we had about 200 people. We got quite soaked.

    Q. Who attends?

    A. Sometimes the Mexican government provides a consulate or deputy consulate. We have Mexican-American groups who come from New York or Philadelphia. We've had a couple of his second cousins come.

    Q. What happens at the ceremony?

    A. The actual ceremony, which never lasts more than an hour, consists of a remembrance of Captain Carranza's flight and crash. The Mexican and American flags are honored and retired properly. The Pemberton Legion post provides a free picnic where all our guests are invited. We have Mexican-American groups that provide music and dancing.

    Q. Who put up the obelisk?

    A. In 1930, the children of Mexico gathered their pennies together to have the obelisk sculpted. It was sent in pieces to Sandy Hill where it was assembled.

    Q. Are there any other ceremonies honoring Carranza?

    A. This is not strictly a local thing. There's a service held simultaneously at the Air Force academy in Mexico City. We've had members of our post attend that ceremony.

    Q. Is this ceremony still relevant?

    A. That a man such as Emilio Carranza would put his life on the line for no other purpose than to bring goodwill from his nation to our nation. We are still remembering his goodwill and extend our own goodwill to the nation of Mexico. Those are values that are tough to grasp in 1997.

    Q. Is this part of the code of honor among veterans?

    A. We're for God and country and I think Emilio Carranza fit well into the God and country mode. He was every bit a warrior as any warrior who fought battles and if you don't believe that you can get one of these little planes in the air with a flashlight and see where you end up. I think heroes are few and far between these days -- men like Emilio Carranza. TOM BRADY
     

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  2. Velius

    Velius Member

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    Interesting find Njaco. I've always wondered if there were Mexican aviators (Herritage reasons 8) )
     
  3. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    This place is only about 20 miles from me. I've been there once...a long time ago.
     
  4. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Great read!
     
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