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The Arms of the Ypiranga Author(s): Michael C. Meyer Source: The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 50, No. 3 (Aug., 1970), pp. 543-556 Published by: Duke University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2512197 Accessed: 02/09/2010 07:27 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=duke. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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The Arms of the Ypiranga MICHAEL C. MEYER*

on April 21, 1914, CaptainBonath of the S. Ypiranga, a German-registered vessel, was inchIAS. ing his ship toward the Veracruz harbor. The sounds of falling artillery shells and mortar fire reverberated across the water, but occasioned no great alarm on board. The captain and his deckhands knew that the Mexicans had been fighting other Mexicans in a violent fratricidal struggle for the last three and a half years. Veracruz lay well to the south of the principal recent conflicts; in all likelihood the loca] federal commander had ordered his troops out on maneuvers. But the crew of the Ypiranga soon learned that the sounds of war were genuine, for a few hours earlier the United States had invaded Veracruz. More surprising yet to the captain and his crew, the cargo carried by the Ypiranga had sparked the American attack. The events leading up to this peculiar set of circumstances had begun many months before the Ypiranga set sail from Europe. When Victoriano Huerta took over the Mexican presidency in February 1913, he set two immediate goals for his new administration: to pacify the country, which had been at war constantly for the last twenty months, and to secure the official recognition of foreign powers, especially the United States. He realized that the two goals were interdependent, for in some quarters, at least, recognition would depend on clear evidence of pacification. Accordingly, after considerable thought he decided to give the military problem precedence over the political. For months the federal government had been fighting Venustiano Carranza in the northeast, Pancho Villa in the north central, Alvaro Obregon ill the northwest, and Emiliano Zapata in the south. These campaigns had cost dearly in lives, energy, and money. Among the government's most pressing problems were the acquisition and replenishment of war supplies. Because Mexico did not manufacture arms and ammunition on any large scale most of the ordnance had to be obtained from the outside world. But the most logical source for A

BOUT MIDDAY

* The author is Professor of History at the University of Nebraska.


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these military supplies, the United States, was closed to Huerta. On March 14, 1912, during the Orozquista rebellion against President Francisco I. Madero, the United States Congress had passed a resolution which stipulated that wheneverthe President shall find that in any American country conditions of domestic violence exist which are promoted by the use of arms and munitionsof war from the United States, and shall make lawful proclamation thereof, it shall be unlawful to export, except under such limitations and exceptions that the President shall prescribe,the arms or munitions of war from any place in the United States to such country,until otherwiseordered by the President or by Congress.' The same day President William Howard Taft declared that "such conditions of domestic violence" existed in Mexico and prohibited all future shipment of arms. Although the national administration changed in both countries early in 1913, the revolutionary chaos in Mexico did not abate, and the American arms embargo remained in force throughout the year. Huerta demonstrated considerable initiative in obtaining his arms and ammunition elsewhere, sending agents to England and France to negotiate contracts and establish a steady flow of military supplies.2 Other governmental representatives placed an order for twenty million rifle ball cartridges in Germany with the Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabriken and a duplicate order with the National Arms Factory in Lie'ge, Belgium.3 The German manufacturers refused to fill the order because Huerta could not assure immediate payment,4 but the Belgian company accepted and delivered its shipment. Huerta also turned to Spain and concluded a deal for the delivery of forty thousand dilapidated rifles and carbines, originally manufactured in Germany, which Spanish troops had used in 1898 against the Americans.5 'United States, Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1912 (Washington, D.C., 1919), 745. 2 De Lama to See. de Relaciones Exteriores, March 18, 1914, Archivo de la Secretarfa de Relaciones Exteriores de Mexico, L-E 783, leg. 1 (hereafter cited as AREM with appropriate information). 3 Departamento de Artilleria to Sec. de Relaciones Exteriores, October 7, 1913, AREM 759, leg. 9. ' Conditions in Mexico from August 26 to September 2, 1913, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Mexico, 1910-1929, National Archives Microfilm Publications, Microcopy No. 274, 812.00/9845 (hereafter cited as RDS with appropriate information). 'Arms, Ammunition, and Equipment, Mexican Army, September 13, 1913, National Archives, War Department and General and Special Staff, Military Intelligence Division File 5761, Reports of Captain Burnside, Record Group 165 (hereafter cited as Burnside Reports with appropriate information).


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More important than any of the European arms negotiations, the Huerta government also established new contacts in the Far East. In the summer of 1913 the president dispatched four representatives to Japan; these men placed several huge orders with the Mitsui company, then one of the largest ordnance manufacturers in the world. A Mexican order for 70,000 rifles on quick delivery was so large that the company had to secure temporary use of the Japanese government arsenal in Tokyo and set up extra work shifts in order to meet it.6 The Huerta government paid for the shipments as they arrived in late 1913 and early 1914.7 Even these varied sources proved unequal to the demand. As the tempo of the military campaigns accelerated in the summer and fall of 1913, Huerta's military machine used up the supplies far more rapidly than they could be obtained. At some time during the summer of 1913 Huerta decided to circumvent the American embargo restrictions if possible and engaged a team of secret agents to smuggle arms into Mexico from the north. Their enterprise began tentatively with a few insignificant purchases in the United States under bills of lading which designated Havana as the final destination. Mexican agents in Cuba had no problem in transshipping these small cargoes across the Gulf of Mexico to Tampico or Veracruz. By the third week in October many of these had arrived in Mexico City, via the railroad from Veracruz.8 In addition to shipping goods from New York City to Havana, Huerta used two other techniques. His agents signed a number of contracts with munitions merchants in New Orleans, who then purchased huge orders from manufacturers in the east such as the Winchester Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Colt Automatic Arms Company of Hartford. The dealers then sold the supplies in smaller amounts to Mexican agents, using non-Spanish aliases, who arranged with captains of private yachts for their transport. Some captains even redesigned their boats with false bottoms. After the arms, had been loaded at inconspicuous docks in the New I Thomas Summons, consul general, Yokohama, to William J. Bryan, November 10, 1913, RDS 812.00/9845; Guthery, minister, Tokyo, to Bryan, December 1, 1913, RDS 812.00/10129; Isidro Fabela (ed.), Documentos historicos de la Revoluci6n Mexicana (15 vols., Mexico, 1960-1969), I 146 (hereafter cited as DHRM with appropriate information). T. B. Hohler to Sir Edward Grey, March 11, 1914, Public Records Office, Foreign Office Records: Embassy and Consular Archives, America, File 115/1791, See also folios 256-258 (hereafter cited as FO with appropriate information). RaiUl Madero to S. G. Hopkins, February 14, 1914, AREM L-E 760, leg. 2. o Canada to Bryan, October 21, 1913, RDS 812.00/9308 and October 31, 1913, RDS 812.00/9494.


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Orleans area, the boats slipped out into the Gulf under the cover of night for the journey to Tampico or Veracruz.9 As a final supplementary measure the Mexican agents also moved into the southwest. Arms dealers all along the Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona borders sold illegally not only to the Constitutionalists, as is generally known, but also to Huerta's agents and their intermediaries. The long, unprotected boundary line between the two countries was ideal for contraband traffic, and although the arms then had to go through enemy lines, the Huerta government considered them so valuable that it was willing to risk losing an occasional shipment to the enemy.10 By the fall of 1913 Huerta realized that the United States embargo on arms to Mexico existed only/on paper. The munitions manufacturers in the United States, understandably displeased with the restrictive legislation, asked few questions. Because they were sending the goods to Cuba or New Orleans or to various dealers along the border rather than to Mexico, they were technically within the law. Huerta's initial ventures proved so promising that he decided to have his agents expand and systematize their efforts. In September 1913 Huerta embarked upon the scheme which would occasion United States intervention seven months later and precipitate his fall from power. His cohort in this enterprise was Leon Raast, the Russian vice-consul in Mexico City. Raast had lived in Mexico for many years and met Huerta shortly after the general assumed the presidency. Not averse to supplementing his meager consular pay in devious ways, Raast agreed in September to assume the burden of directing and coordinating Huerta 's traffic in contraband arms; and within two months all the details had been worked out. In November Raast, accompanied by his eighteenyear-old daughter, boarded the Ward Line Steamer Morro Castle at Veracruz. Because he was carrying about a million and a half pesos in Banco Nacional bills, Huerta sent two detectives with him-perhaps to guard him, but more likely to watch him. Although both Captain ' The smuggling in New Orleans and its immediate environs can be traced in F. C. Pendleton, special agent, Department of Justice to H. A. Thompson, November 8, 1913, RDS 812.00/9833; Neutrality Matters at New Orleans, October 12, 16, 17, 18, 31, and November 8 and 11, 1913, RDS 812.00/9457, RDS 812.00/9608, and RDS 812.00/9833. 0 Venustiano Carranza to Roberto V. Pesqueira, June 3, 1913, DHRM, I, 77; Knaebel to Bryan, Transmitting Reports of Department of Justice Agents, November 6, 7, and 17, 1913, RDS 812.00/9608, RDS 812.00/9633, and 812.00/9833; Adkins to Bryan Transmitting Reports of Department of Justice Agents, December 1 and 5, 1913, RDS 812.00/10025 and RDS 812.00/10072.


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Burnside, United States military attache at Mexico City, and Nelson O 'Shaughnessy, the charge d'affaires, reported Raast's departure to their superiors in Washington, neither knew the full significance of the trip.'1 Raast and his entourage checked in at New York's plush Park Avenue Hotel on November 28. His original instructions had specified that he should pay for and arrange at once to ship a cargo of arms purchased previously and stored in New York City by another Huertista agent, Abraham Ratner.'2 Before Raast could arrange for the shipment, however, he received a cipher telegram from Huerta urging him to increase the size of the original order.'3 On November 30 or 31 Raast and Ratner held a meeting with an official of Marquard and Company, Importers. For a handsome commission the company agreed to purchase twenty automatic machine guns and arrange for the transportation of these, with the arms and munitions already in storage, to a place designated by Huerta's representatives. The company began earning its commission on December 1, when it placed an order for the machine guns with Samuel M. Stone, general sales agent of the Colt Automatic Arms Company in Hartford and informed him that he might expect further orders in the near future. Two days later Stone shipped the machine guns to New York City via the Hartford and New York Transportation Company.'4 On the same day that the Marquard Company placed the order in Hartford, 'a company representative led Raast to the offices of the Gans Steamship Line and introduced him to Charles Gans, president of the company. Gans would not take the chance of shipping the arms and ammunition directly to Mexico, but he did agree to consign them to Raast in Odessa, Russia. At this point Raast intended to 10 0 'Shaughnessy reported that Raast had an unenviable past and would bear watching. Burnside did not know the name of Huerta's new partner, but had determined that someone was being sent to New York to purchase a shipment of arms and ammunition. O 'Shaughnessy to Bryan, November 23, 1913, RDS 812.00/9887; Burnside to War College Division, November 29, 1913, RDS 812.00/10249; Summary of Military Events, November 27 to December 3, 1913, Burnside Reports. The President and the State Department were informed of Raast 's activities shortly after he arrived by Max Korngold. M. Korugold to Woodrow Wilson, December 11, 1913, RDS 812.00/10235. 12 Ratner also of Russian origin, had been expelled from Mexico during the Madero administration for illegal traffic in arms. See Alfonso Taracena, La verdadera reivoluci6n mexicana, segunda etapa (1918-1914) (M6xico, 1960), 172. "3Report of A. G. Adams, agent, Department of Justice, December 13, 1913, RDS 812.00/10235. "4Report of Scully, agent, Department of Justice, December 17, 1913, RDS 812.00/10284.


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take a fast steamer to Odessa, so as to receive the 500-ton cargo there, and he contracted to pay the $12,000 freightage upon its arrival.15 On December 4 longshoremen loaded both the arms previously stored in a New York City warehouse and the recently obtained machine guns aboard the Gans Line Steamer S. S. Brinkburn, lying at Pier 3, East River. Three days later the ship sailed for Odessa, via Constantinople. The manifest obtained by the Justice Department a week and a half after the departure revealed a mammoth cargo of ordnance on board: 10,000 cases of 30 caliber (central fire) cartridges; 4,000 cases of seven millimeter cartridges; 250 cases of 44 caliber cartridges; 500 cases of carbines (50 in each case) ; 1,000 cases of 14/30 carbines; and 20 rapid fire machine guns.16 The Gans Line listed the total value of the 15,770 cases at $607,000.17 Soon after the shipment was underway Raast and his daughter left New York City, not for Odessa as he had promised Charles Gans, but for Veracruz. Apparently at some point during the complicated negotiations for the purchase and shipment of the arms a misappropriation of funds occurred, and Huerta recalled Raast to ask for a personal accounting. When he disembarked at Veracruz, Mexican port officials immediately arrested him, charging him with theft, and provided him with an armed escort to Mexico City.18 For obvious reasons the regime chose to conceal the final disposition of the case.19 Shortly before New Year's Day 1914 the captain of the S. S. Brink1L burn edged his ship into the Odessa docks. Because neither Raast nor anyone else was there to pay the freightage, the captain, on orders from Charles Gans, refused to give permission to unload the cargo. Two weeks later, with the arms still in the Brinkburn's hold, a patrol of Russian soldiers boarded the ship and informed the captain that thev had orders to impound the entire cargo. The Czarist zovAttorney General to Bryan, May 5, 1914, RDS 812.00/ 16 Wallace, Assistant 11847. Jack Sweetman 's 16 Report of Scully, December 17, 1913, RDS 812.00/10284. contention that the cargo consisted of only 1,333 crates is incorrect. The Landing at Veracruz: 1914 (Annapolis, 1968), 77. 17 Report of Scully, December 17, 1913, RDS 812.00/10284. 18 Wallace to Bryan, May 5, 1914, RDS 812.00/11848. 19 Raast should have had a sizable sum of money left over. The million and a half pesos ($750,000) which he carried was more than sufficient to pay for the $607,500 order, the $12,000 freightage, an array of commissions and bribes, plus his own expenses and a generous salary. Given all of these exigencies, it is possible that there was a shortage of some $100,000. Raast 's Russian contact in New York City, Abraham Ratner, later claimed that $40,000 had been given the Marquard Company as an advance for future business and, in April, when unable to obtain the money upon demand, he sued the company. See New York Times, April 14, 1914.


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ernment, fearing that the huge shipment might somehow be destined for the Armenian revolutionists, had ordered the Odessa Collector of Customs to take legal custody of the arms.20 Two additional weeks passed before Gans could get Russian diplomatic and consular officials in the United States to intervene and secure the release of the cargo. On February 5 the arms were placed aboard the steamer Pernau consigned to Hamburg, Germany.2' The United States government, more than casually interested in the large shipment, had asked consular agents throughout the world to keep the Department of State apprised of any new developments. By the end of the month American consular agents in Malta and Algiers had reported that after brief calls at each of these ports the Pernau had lifted anchor for Hamburg. The consul in Algiers added that the arms on board had Mexico as their final destination.22 The Pernau arrived in Hamburg during the first week of March; the ordnance shipment was loaded onto the dock; and a Huertista agent paid the long overdue freightage.23 A few days later the S. S. Ypiranga, a steamer of the Hamburg-American line which had seen service in Mexican waters many times in the past, cast anchor at the Hamburg docks and began taking the huge cargo into her hold.24 Huerta 's emissary added a shipment of nonmilitary supplies to the New York purchase. As positive news filtered into the State Department proving beyond a doubt that Huerta had made a mockery of the American embargo regulations, the entire arms policy fell under close scrutiny. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan and William Bayard Hale, one of Woodrow Wilson 's special representatives in Mexico, had been urging the president for months to reconsider the embargo.25 Both the president and the Secretary of State were well aware that the Constitutionalists, controlling large sections of northern Mexico, could smuggle arms across the border almost at will. For a time they justified keeping the embargo on the books, with the assumption that 20 Grout, consul, Odessa, to Bryan, January 18, 1914, RDS 812.00/0010584; Wilson, minister, St. Petersburg, to Bryan, March 20, 1914, RDS 812.00/10613. 21 Grout to Bryan, February 7, 1914, RDS 812.00/10821. 22 Mason, consul, Algiers, to Bryan, February 26, 1914, RDS 812.00/10978; Mason to Bryan, February 26, 1914, RDS 812.00/11173. 28 L. L. Richards to E. H. Duff, April 21, 1914, National Archives, Records at the Department of Justice, Record Group 60, File 157013A. 24 Three years earlier, in May 1911, the Ypiranga had carried the deposed President Porfirio Diaz to his European exile. Archives, Correspondence of 26 Bryan to Wilson, August 13, 1913, National Secretary of State Bryan with President Wilson, 1913-1915; Hale to Bryan, November 12, 1913, RDS 812.00/9685.


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Huerta would be unable to do the same. But the State Department, through reports by Department of Justice agents, was also aware that Huertistas were almost as active along the border as the Constitutionalists, and that they were using the ports of New Orleans and New York for contraband traffic as well. In effect, the embargo hurt President Wilson's adopted friends in northern Mexico more than it hindered his enemies in the Mexican capital.26 Venustiano Carranza, the First Chief of the Constitutionalist Army, implored Wilson to repeal the embargo, even though Huerta would be given the right of importation as well.27 Wilson, however, demurred until the first week of February. Probably the news that Huerta had acquired over $600,000 worth of United States arms in a single shipment-and practically under the noses of Department of Justice agents-finally convinced the president of what he had refused to believe previously. Given any concerted effort, the American government could not enforce the embargo. On February 3, 1914, the United States announced that Taft's proclamation was revoked. Almost imnmediately the Constitutionalist forces in northern Mexico were flooded with offers of more arms and ammunition than they could profitably use or possibly pay for.28 The news of the repeal did not occasion any indignant outburst in Mexico City. Without resorting to a general mobilization, Huerta simply decreed an immediate increase in the size of his regular army from 150,000 to 200,000 men.29 The arms of the Ypiranga had already travelled over 12,000 miles on two different ships when they began the 6,500 mile trip from Hamburg to Veracruz in the early spring of 1914. The ship made the Atlantic crossing without incident during April and stopped in Havana long enough to take on some 80 tons of additional arms which the Huerta government had purchased in Herstal, Belgium, and shipped to Cuba on the S. S. Savoi.30 This order, which was added to the original New York purchase and the nonmilitary supplies ob20 The repeal of the arms embargo is commonly misunderstood, as it is generally held that only the Constitutionalists succeeded in circumventing its provisions. The only explanation that can be offered for its repeal is that Woodrow Wilson wanted to slap Huerta in the face publicly. See, for example, Luis Lara Pardo, Matchs de Dictadores (Mexico, 1947), 87-90. 27 Carranza to Henry Allen Tupper, October 31, 1913, DHRM, I, 144-145. 28 General Merifield to Villa, February 5, 1914, AREM, L-E 760; Ernesto Fernandez Arteaga to General E. Aguirre Benavides, February 5, 1914, AREM, L-E 760; J. F. Sepuilveda to General Pablo Gonzklez, February 6, 1914, AREM, L-E 760; Venustiano Carranza to Gil Herrera [Hopkins], February 8, 1914, AREM, L-E 760. 29 Garden to Grey, February 6, 1914, FO 115/1789, folio 90. 80 Bryan to American legation, Havana, May 6, 1914, RDS 812.113/3145; Diederich, consul, Antwerp, to Bryan, April 25, 1914, RDS 812.113/3145.


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tained in Hamburg, comprised 717 cases of shrapnel, 1,333 eases of rifle ammunition, 78 eases of miscellaneous ammunition, and one battery lunette. The military supplies alone now totaled 17,899 cases. When Captain Bonath of the Ypiranga left Havana for the short journey across the Gulf to Veracruz, he might have been aware of the diplomatic impasse between the United States and Mexico that had resulted from the Mexican detention and subsequent release of several American sailors from the U.S.S. Dolphin in Tampico ten days before.3' Most assuredly he did not know, however, that the arrival of his own vessel in Veracruz would precipitate a cause celebre. On April 18 William W. Canada, the American consul in Veracruz, reported to the Secretary of State that the Ypiranga with arms for Huerta was scheduled to arrive in Veracruz three days later.32 In a more urgent message on April 20, the consul advised the State Department that the ship would arrive the following morning and would begin discharging its huge cargo at Pier 4. The arms and ammunition, he continued, would immediately be loaded aboard three trains of ten cars each and rushed to Mexico City.33 The astute consular agent tried to obtain a little more time for his superiors in Washington by urging the captain of the Ward Line Steamer Mexico, then berthed at Pier 4, to remain in dock as long as possible.34 In the early morning of April 21 Secretary of State Bryan, telephoned the White House, informed the president of the impending crisis, and received instructions. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels was to order Rear Admiral Frank F. Fletcher to seize the Veracruz customshouse to prevent the landing of the Ypiranga's arms. Joseph P. Tumulty, Wilson's personal secretary, noted several years later that immediately after the telephone conversation the president confided somewhat 81 The Tampico incident and the diplomatic hassle over the twenty-one gun salute are treated in detail in Robert E. Quirk, An Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz (Lexington, 1962), 1-77. See also Ted C. Hinckley, "Wilson, Huerta and the Twenty-One Gun Salute," Historian, XX (1960), 197-206. 32Canada to Bryan, April 18, 1914, RDS 812.00/11547. were 8 Most general accounts contend that the arms aboard the Ypiranga obtained in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. See, for example, Jos6 Vasconcelos, Breve historia de Mexico (Mexico, 1963), 446; Charles Sellers and Henry May, A Synopsis of American History (Chicago, 1969), 305; Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People (New York, 1965), 845; Lesley Byrd Simpson, Many Mexicos (Berkeley, 1966), 303. There is no doubt that Quirk is correct in concluding that the point of origin was New York and not Hamburg. An Affair of Honor, 98. The cargo manifest obtained by the Department of Justice in New York City the previous December and by the military attache in Mexico City in April 1914 affords incontrovertible evidence. '" Canada to Bryan, April 20, 1914, RDS 812.00/11564.


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cryptically: "It is too bad, isn't it, but we could not allow that cargo to land. The Mexicans intend using those guns upon our own boys.... There is no alternative. "35 Does one dare read anything into these remarks? Certainly Huerta was planning no invasion of the United States. Had Woodrow Wilson already determined that American troops would shortly be sent to Mexican soil to remove him? Was this simply the non sequitur of a sleepy president? Or did Tumulty's memory of the conversation fail him when he noted the incident? When the Ypiranga sailed into Veracruz shortly after noon on April 21, the United States marines and bluejackets had already taken possession of the customshouse, the telegraph office, the post office, and the railroad terminal. The ship was met in the outer harbor by Lieutenant Lamar R. Leahy of the Utah who, on instructions from Admiral Fletcher, informed Captain Bonath that the customshouse had been seized to prevent his cargo from reaching Huerta's hands. Leahy informed the German captain that he might enter the inner harbor if he wished, but under the circumstances Bonath preferred to remain in the outer harbor. He promised not to depart precipitately and, in fact, agreed to remain within gun range of the Utah. Finally, and most important, Lieutenant Leahy told Bonath that he would not be permitted to leave the harbor until his cargo was unloaded at the American-controlled customshouse. In this the admiral exceeded his authority and, indeed, contravened basic principles of maritime law. Upon receipt of the news from Veracruz. Johann von Bernstorff, the German ambassador in Washington called at the State Department immediately to protest that since a state of war did not exist, the United States navy had no right to detain a German ship or control the disposition of its cargo. The international jurists of the department quickly confirmed that Bernstorff was correct and Secretary Bryan released the following memorandum :36 The Secretary of State called on His Excellency the German Ambassador at 7:15, April 21, 1914, to say that Admiral Fletcher had, today, through a, misunderstnnding exceeded his instructions and notified the captain of a German merchant ship not to leave the harbor of Vera Cruz with munitions of war consigned to or for General Huerta. Admiral Fletcher has been instructed to call upon the captain of the ship and present an apology and explanation. While the United States hopes that the munitions of war intended for General Huerta will be landed at the Vera Cruz customhouse so that after landing the United States Government may detain them, still this Government does not claim the right-as a state of war does not exist-to interfere with the ship's departure 8 Joseph P. Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson as I Know Him (New York, 1921), 152; Ray Stannard Baker, "El Arribo del Ypiranga Precipit6 el Desembarco de Marineros en Veracruz," Exedlsior (December 6, 1931), 3, 10. 88 Quoted in Josephus Daniels, The Wilson Era, Years of Peace 1910-1917 (Chapel Hill, 1944), 201.


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or to exercise control over said munitions of war unless they are delivered at a wharf or custom house controlled by the United States. The Secretary of State, by direction of the President, offered through His Excellency the German Ambassador the apology and explanation which Admiral Fletcher was instructed to offer to the captain of the ship.

Ironically, the apologies, although motivated by proper diplomatic convention, backfired. Captain Bonath, less concerned about international repercussions than Ambassador Bernstorff, wanted to land the arms in Veracruz under direct orders from the United States navy. Under this type of duress not a maritime court in the world would have rejected his right to collect his freightage even though the shipment had not been delivered to the original consignee. Two days later when Bonath was simply given permission to enter the inner harbor and begin unloading his cargo, the captain refused, indicating that he planned to take his shipment back to Germany. With the Ypiranga still in the outer harbor Carl Heynen, a representative of the Hamburg-American Line in Mexico, called at the Veracruz eustomshouse and spoke with Commander Herman 0. Stickney, Fletcher's collector of customs. Heynen wanted a direct order from the navy warning him not to land the arms elsewhere in Mexico, but the navy, still smarting from the State Department's recent rebuff, refused to issue the order, and Commander Stickney practically ejected Heynen from his office.37 At the same time, however, the navy reminded Secretary Bryan that there was nothing to prevent Captain Bonath from landing his cargo at any other Mexican port of visit,38 for international law prohibited interference with the ship anywhere but in Veracruz. On May 23 the Ypiranga passed the breakwater and entered the inner harbor for the purpose of unloading the nonmilitary supplies which had been taken on in Hamburg and evacuating any German nationals or other foreigners who wanted to leave the troubled city. Ten day later, with the arms and ammunition still in the hold and some refugees on board, the ship cleared Veracruz for Tampico. Here the crew encountered a very angry colony of Americans, incensed that they had been left virtually without protection while the invasion of Mexican Affairs, Report and Hearing '7 United States Senate, Investigation Before a Sub-Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Albert Bacon Fall, Presiding, Pursuant to Senate Resolution 106 (2 vols., Washington, D.C., 1919-1920), I, 782. This testimony was given by William F. Buckley before the Fall Committee. Buckley, an American resident of Veracruz, served as treasurer in the municipal government appointed after the American occupation. 38 Daniels to Bryan, transmitting telegram of Badger, April 28, 1914, RDS 812.00/11768.


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of Veracruz was going 011.39 Fearing possible retaliation from the Mexicans, a number of American nationals asked Captain Bonath for passage to some United States port. Bonath agreed and a few days later transported the new group of refugees to Mobile and New Orleans. He made no attempt to land the arms before departure. Although the Department of State had been advised in a number of independent dispatches that the Ypiranga would return to Germany rather than land the arms shipment at an alternate Mexican port, the Hamburg-American Line had other plans. Having dropped off the American passengers in Mobile, the ship dallied in the Caribbean for a week waiting to see if the diplomatic impasse would be broken. On May 16 the captain sailed into the harbor of Tampico again to establish contact with officials of the line and receive instructions. The captain of the German cruiser Dresden, also in Tampico, promised United States naval officials off the coast that the Ypiranga would not discharge its cargo.40 Captain Bonath did take on some passengers at Tampico, however, and left for Veracruz the same afternoon. The Ypiranga remained in Veracruz for a week and a half, its captain consulting frequently with Carl Heynen and other company officials to discuss various plans of action. Finally they opened direct negotiations with Mexico City and reached a decision. Huerta gave the Hamburg-American Line special permission to land the cargo in Puerto Mexico (Coatzacoalcos), even though the original bills of lading specified Veracruz as the port of discharge.4' On May 26 the ship cleared Veracruz for Puerto Mexico, a small Gulf port some 200 miles to the south. Here the cargo was immediately unloaded and placed aboard waiting railroad cars bound for Mexico City. The controversial shipment reached the army arsenal in the Mexicall capital before the month was out, but the military position of the Huerta government had deteriorated to such a degree during the spring of 1914 that the shipment was of little value to the federal government.42 Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels was especially angered when the news reached him that the arms had arrived at their desti"Statement of Facts Given to the People of the United States by 372 Tampico Refugees, Albert Bacon Fall Collection, Papers from the Senate Office Files of Senator Albert Fall Relating to Mexican Affairs, Group T. 40 Daniels to Bryan, transmitting report of Badger, May 16, 1914, RDS 812.00/ 12014. 41 Declaracio'n hecha por el senior Carlos Heynen, represeitante de la lifnea hamburguesa-americana en Veracruz, DHRM, II, 95-97. 42Badger to Daniels, May 27, RDS 812.00/12118; Badger to Daniels, May 28, 1914, RDS 812.00/12123.


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nation despite the occupation of Veracruz. In his study of the Wilson administration he later recalled :43 I felt a sense of frustration and indignation when I learned that the . . . munitions in the latter part of May had been unloaded at the port of Puerto Mexico, and presumablyreached the Huerta forces. It was to the Navy like a blow on the head. Our chief incentive in seizing the customs house was to prevent the [arms] . . . from becoming available to the unspeakable Huerta. . . . Of course, in all matters pertaining to diplomacy and internationallaw, the State Departmentwas supreme. I was impotent. The strange voyage of the Ypiranga had a final epilogue. After he had unloaded his cargo at Puerto Mexico, openly flouting the desires of the United States government, Captain Bonath sailed brazenly back to Veracruz. Commander Stickney, utilizing a Mexican maritime statute (the Reglamento Maritimo de Mexico) which prohibited the discharge of cargo at any port other than that to which it was legally consigned, refused to provide Captain Bonath with clearing papers. In addition, Stickney imposed a fine of 894,950 pesos (50 pesos for each of the 17,899 cases) on the Hamburg-American Line. The Ypiranga was not allowed to sail until the company posted bond; but once the ship was on the high seas the State Department canceled the assessment, not wishing to offend the German government under the currently delicate international conditions.44 The story of the arms of the Ypiranga is laden with irony. The shipment was purchased in the United States when the arms embargo was in effect but was not permitted to be discharged in Veracruz after the embargo had been repealed. Huerta's arrest of Leon Raast caused delays in Russia, so that the Ypiranga steamed into Veracruz at an inopportune time for Mexico. With much of the American public and Congress piqued by the Tampico incident and Huerta's subsequent resolve not to yield to Yankee pressures, President Wilson was able to take his decisive step with minimum fear of popular rebuke. Finally, an enormous invasion force was activated ostensibly to prevent the landing of the cargo; yet with almost the entire Atlantic fleet operating off Mexico's gulf coast, Captain Bonath sailed into Puerto Mexico and delivered the shipment. The State Department's explanation that international law enjoined the United States from interfering with the German-owned vessel certainly would have been more convincing had not Washington just flagrantly violated Daniels, The Wilson Era, 200-201. 44 Quirk, An Affair of Honor, 151-152; Sweetman, The Landing at Veracruz, 155-156. 48


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Mexico's territorial sovereignty. Fear of provoking the German imperial government more nearly approximates the truth. The arrival of the Ypiranga in Veracruz enabled the American president to act on his anti-Huerta sentiments. Fully convinced that the masses of Mexicans opposed everything Huerta represented, Wilson had long since decided that he should save the country from that dictatorial regime. The crucial question was neither the arms on board, nor the honor of the American flag. Wilson simply wanted to rid himself and the Mexicans of a troublesome dictator and, if possible, to avoid open war at the same time. The arms of the Ypiranga provided him with the perfect excuse.


The arms of the ypiranga