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The Hunt for Pancho Villa: How World War One Averted Conflict Between America and Mexico


Between January and March of 1916, a Mexican revolutionary named Pancho Villa was responsible for the deaths of 33 Americans. On March 15, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered U.S. Brigadier General John J. Pershing to launch an expedition into Mexico to capture or kill Villa. For 11 months, Pershing and 10,000 American troops, including a young George S. Patton hunted him. It was the first time a U.S. military operation involved the use of automobiles and airplanes. Mexico’s government was furious that American forces continued to push further and further into their country in pursuit of Villa. On June 21, 1916, Mexican government troops attacked a detachment of the 10th U.S. Cavalry. In the ensuing firefight, the Americans sustained 22 casualties and more than 30 Mexicans were killed. Had it not been for World War One in Europe at the time, the United States and Mexico would have gone to war against each other. This is the story of strained relations between these two countries in 1916 and the war that could have been.

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