Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa
Collection of Dr. Lawrence D. Taylor

The Foreign Aviators of the Division of the North

The Mexican REVOLUTIONARY FIGHT from 1910 to 1920 constituted one of the first wars of this century in which the airplane was used as a battle weapon. The Italian Army was first in using the airship in war during its conquest of the Turkish territory of Cirenaica and Tripolitania between 1911 and 1912. They also used it against the belligerent forces that fought in the War of the Balkan Mountains from 1912 to 1913,1
     Almost immediately, these " Constitutionalist " rebels tried to smuggle an airplane across the border in an attempt to provide air support to their dispersed armed groups that fought in the north of Mexico. The airplane they acquired in this manner was a twin-engine Martin Pusher equipped with a Curtiss motor of 75 horsepower. It then comprised the entire airforce of the Army of the Northwest of Alvaro Obregón. With this airplane, piloted by the French Didier Masson and the Mexican Gustavo Salinas Camiña, several bombings were carried out in the summer of 1913 and the spring of 1914. As part of the rebel operations in the regions the northwest of Sinaloa and Nayarit, the airplane attacked several groups of naval forces and infantry. Three other Moisant military single-engine airplanes in tandem, designed by Harold Kantner for the Moisant Aviation School and Company, were dispatched to Chihuahua to be united with that portion of the Constitutionalist forces.
Other American aviators arrived as reinforcements for the squadron: J. Floyd Smith with his mechanic, W. E. "Billy" Gibson; Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, and William "Sailor Anthony" Lamkey. The Division of the North, with their forces remarkably diminished, was sent on Aguascalientes in a desperate attempt to delay the advance of Obregón. Equipped with new pilots and more powerful airplanes, the aerial flotilla of Villa was in better condition to perform missions of reconnaissance and bombing in support of the defense of this railway center of strategic importance. Pancho Villa supported airborne operations in the central region of Mexico from April to July, 1915
During the battle to conquer the city, Lamkey flew a Martín twin-engine plane Tractor TT, one of the more advanced models of the period, accompanied by Floyd E. Barlow as observer and bombardier, In spite of this technical improvement, their efforts and those with which they combined with the ground forces of the Division of the North, were not sufficient to prevent Obregón's forces from taking the town on July 10, 1915.
The Pancho Villa supporters also been had occupied reconstructing their old corp of aviation. Hipólito, the brother of Villa, solicitor of the Division of the North, had been made an impression with the demonstration of an airplane that the American pilot Eugene " Wild " Bill Heth had done for him in the Passage in February of 1915. Hipólito made the preliminary arrangements with John S. Berger, manager of the company, that had sponsored the aerial spectacle of Heth, for the purchase of three airplanes Wright Model B. He also acquired other airplanes, " Wright with fuselage ", Wright SS and a Christofferson. Nevertheless, most of the airplanes acquired by the Pancho Villa supporters in the United States were obsolete and were in poor condition.
Editor's Note:
The article excerpted above is a treasure of information on several of the Early Birds. It is written in Spanish and I have tried to translate the relevant portions as time permits. In the meantime, if you read Spanish, I highly recommend that you go to the original by clicking on the Title.

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