Beginning in 1910 Mexico experienced a revolution and struggled to find a leader who could maintain peace and order. Many Americans living and working in Mexico lost their homes, property, jobs, and even their lives due to the conflict. When the president of Mexico was assassinated and Victoriano Huerta set up his own government, the United States (and President Woodrow Wilson) refused to recognize it as a true government. This created tension between the U.S. and Mexico. From 1914 until 1920 many rival armed factions fought for control of Mexico while U.S. troops occupied it. Venustiano Carranza and Francisco (Pancho) Villa took control of the capitol, but eventually became
rivals causing a new conflict to break out. Americans along the border were caught in the crossfire of the two rival forces. Venustiano Carranza temporarily gained control and in an effort to help restore order, was considered by the U.S. to be the de facto government leader. This outraged Pancho Villa and his rival faction. On March 9, 1916 Poncho Villa crossed the international border and attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico. After this attack General Pershing got permission from President Wilson to cross the border and pursue Pancho Villa. Accompanying General Pershing was the 1st Aero Squadron and the 10th Cavalry out of Fort Huachuca.
Pancho Villa was never captured and after an 11 month excursion U.S. troops were eventually ordered to go home. The Punitive Expedition was the first excursion for the 1st Aero Squadron to use the JN-3 biplane, an earlier version of the JN-4D biplane pictured here. They turned out to be unsuccessful because they could not hold up in the harsh desert environment, the engines were hard to keep clean, and the variation in temperature and humidity warped and cracked the wood. The Punitive Expedition turned out to be a critical training ground for aviators and aviation in combat. By the time the expedition ended less than a year later, the Army had effectively transitioned from a horse-powered to a gasoline-driven force with the first use of airplanes and