In February of 1917, the intrepid pioneer pilots of the First Aero Squadron (FAS), stationed at Columbus for 11 months, were ordered back east to be transported to the raging inferno in Europe that became known as WWI.
Since that time, the Army Air Corps, later to be known as the Army Air Forces, fought and won our way through another World War, this time the second global conflict.
Shortly after WWII ended, in 1947, Congress formed the United States Air Force (USAF), an entirely new and independent branch of the U.S. Military, but it did not abandon the Army Aviation Branch.
When the USAF began to grow its ranks, the now much smaller Army Aviation Branch, likewise did not sit still but also began its own regrowth. Today, it has more pilots, almost entirely ROTARY WING, aviators, than does the USAF, although its inventory of Fixed Wing assets remains quite small.
Not since February 1917, 104 years ago, has the US Army flown into or out of their historic airfield in the small border town of Columbus, NM.
However, last month, on Tuesday, the 14th of December, that all changed, when the 501st General Support Aviation Battalion, stationed at Biggs Army Airfield (adjoining Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas), was led into the old Army FAS Airfield at Columbus by its commander, Lt. Colonel Jonathan Guinn.
Colonel Guinn personally flew the number 1 Boeing CH-47 Chinook twin-rotor helicopter into the Airfield, immediately followed by the 2nd Chinook. Upon landing, the heavy helicopters discharged some 60 young Army Aviators, who then walked from the Airfield into town, to explore their history in the two museums dedicated to the 1916 Punitive Expedition, which as most of you know, became to first instance of sustained combat flying by the fledging new Army flying squadron.
Here, below, you will see that historic event from last December unfold by way of videos of their arrival – – – and of their departure – – – along with many (78) photos of the Airmen and Women who took part in the event.
Click on the below photo’s centered boxed arrow to start the PowerPoint Show of the historic event, but remember, that, except for the opening and closing short videos, the other pictures will change to the next frame at regular intervals of 8 seconds per slide. Again, the entire show has 78 separate photos and two separate videos.
We suggest you use FULL-SCREEN for viewing since the photos are otherwise quite small.
Should you want to stop the show at any point, simply use your computer’s space bar, To restart the presentation, then tap the space bar once again. Remember, the two end piece videos are just under 2:00 minutes each. The entire show, if not paused, is only 14:16 long.
After several less than exciting false starts, Mayor Salas‘ idea of starting a new day on which Columbus will celebrate it beginnings – now called Founding Day – was a great success two weekends ago. If you’d like to guess when that historic date was, just go to the end of the post/story.
Other old time FASF members in addition to Mayor Salasalso played an active role in helping the event go over the top. July McClure, our Recording Secretary and Aerodrome Editor busily entertained the crowds at the East end of town in front of her Tumbleweed Theater. Another long-time member and major donor, our FASF landlord, Norma Gomez,also answered many questions thrown her way by a number of festival attendees as well as participants and caballeros. Your Webmaster took the Mayor aside for a five minute interview about the event, which appears below. Click in the lower right of the screen to view the video full-size.
All in all, the festive celebration was a genuine step back in time to the late 19th Century, when the streets of Columbus were as actively used by horses as by its citizens. Here are some photos taken of the occasion. If you’d like to see them full size and in high resolution, simply click on them:
FASF Office the Chamber of Commerce (White Building) & Tumbleweed Theater (yellow)
Looking West along Broadway Avenue
This was back then, above – and below is today: 1916-Ravel Bros. Mercantile Store Downtown Columbus
City Hall and Sheriff’s Office complex
A look down Broadway to the West in 1916
Broadway blocked off for the Horse Parade- Looking to the West
To East: The Railroad Depot and the railroad to El Paso in 1916 – Today’s Depot is the Historical Society’s Museum. Today that railroad is the bed for NM State Route 9 to El Paso, Texas!
Columbus Court House
Former Mayor Philip Skinner’s Los Milagros Hotel
Celebrants and horsemen chatting outside the Restored Senior Center Facility
View inside the Senior Center where Free lunch was provided for all . . .
Sheriff’s Team Joined the party in the Park
Visitors enjoying lunch outside the Borderland Cafe
After the parade there were still many horses to be loaded for their trip home . . .unless they were among those who rode to Columbus. COLUMBUS WAS FOUNDED ON JUNE 18, 1891!
William “Bud” Canfield, gave us his final goodbye this past weekend. He had retired as the FASF Corporate Secretary and Chairman of its Elections Committee just five years ago.
Bud was born on March 13, 1938, in Connorsville, Wisconsin, and he and Jeanewere married for 45 years.
Budworked as a Dairy Farmer and Tractor and Implement Technical Specialist in Wisconsin, until 1989, when he and his wife, Jeane, moved to Columbus, NM, where he took a position as a State Park Ranger, later retiring, after several promotions, as a State Park Manager.
Long fascinated by aviation, although not a pilot himself, Bud, eagerly answered the call for assistance when the FASF first opened its doors in 2007. Over his active years, Bud became close friends with a number of aviation enthusiasts and active pilots across the country.
After retiring from the State Parks, he took over as President of the “Friends of Pancho Villa State Park,” the local Park’s Docent group. To help assure that his fellow citizens had a library of which they could be rightfully proud, Budchipped in as a long-time volunteer with the Columbus Library, whose wife, Jeane,was the library’s Director, until retiring in the Summer of 2015. Both the Canfields simply couldn’t really retire, but continued to be extraordinarily active in their adopted community of Columbus.
As though not deeply enough engaged in his new community, Bud ran for, and was elected as a member of the Columbus Village Council, where he served as a Councilman for a number of years. His wife, Jeane, was also a Village Trustee.
Additionally, Bud was an early active volunteer with the Columbus Historical Society, which took over the abandoned and run-down relic of the old Columbus Railroad Depot, and then restored it the the pristine condition in which visitors to Columbus now see it and enjoy its many historical artifacts and memorabilia of the infamous Pancho Villa Raid back on March 9, 1916, which event permanently put the small Village on the World Map. If anything significant has happened in Columbus over the past 30 years, it will be difficult not to find that Bud was right in the center of the action.
He was an enthusiastic collector of, and an historical expert on antique agricultural vehicles and implements, as well.His personal collection of antique agricultural equipment is impressive and could easily prime a new museum dedicated to such early American mechanical farming implements.
Any of the below photos of Bud or Jeanne may be seen in full hi-resolution by clicking on them.
Here they are, as usual, volunteering to raise money for the Deming Animal Shelter at an Antique Car Show in 2015
An accomplished musician, this long-time Trustee was rarely found far from his trusty guitar, either, regularly performing around the SW New Mexico area with various bands, or just soloing various country-styled ballads and country western music, often accompanied by his wife Jeane, with whose voice he loved to harmonize.
Down below, thanks to our Aerodrome Editor and local musician,July McClure,you can hearBudsinging two solo pieces of country music . . . and one with his wife,Jeane,JulyandWilly Jones.
Bud played a vital role in helping the FASF produce its first successful special event, when Dr. Roger Miller, USAF Deputy Historian, was especially flown out to Columbus from USAF Headquarters in Washington, DC, to make his highly successful 2010 presentation about the First Aero Squadron’s history making role in the Punitive Expedition.
After retiring from the FASF Board of Trustees, where he had served as an Officer, Budcontinued to help the FASF, when he agreed to join the Board of Advisors, where he remained active until only a few years ago, as its Official FASF 1916 Airfield Director.
Here, below are a few shots over the past two years showing Bud and his local involvement in Columbus and FASF Sponsored events:
L to R above: Dev Olliver, FASF Photographer; Jeane andBud Canfield(FASF Advisor); Retired UAL Capt., author and FASF reporter, Nancy Aldrich, Wayne Le Blanc; Leslie Bronken; Alma Villezcas; Jeff Smith, atty. and FASF Business supporter;and and Adelaide Bennett. This wasMay 2018at FASF member, Ivonne Romero’s fabled Pink Store in Palomas, Mexico.
Jan 2019: John Read’sRetirement celebration at the Columbus Pancho Villa State Park (PVSP) 1916 Recreation Hall: All are active FASFers! – – – The PVSP Friends’ Group Officers: July McClure (Treasurer), Elly and John Read, Maria Rangel (Secretary), Todd Montes (President – & US Postmaster for Columbus), Budand Jeane Canfield, former PVSP Friends’ Group officers and organizers.
Budsings “Fox on the Run” with his wife, Jeane, July McClure and Willy Jones.
In these as yet unpublished photos below we see Bud serenading retirees in nearby Deming, New Mexico.
L to R: Background are Bill Armendariz – Editor in Chief of the Deming Headlight newspaper, Maria Jimenez of Casas Grandes, Mexico, and Alma Villezcas, FASF Treasurer; in foreground are (L to R) July McClure, FASF Aerodrome Editor and John Readretired Mgr. of Pancho Villa State Park.Before his retirement last month, Johnmade all the arrangements for the upcoming RAID DAY events at the local New Mexico State Park.
This past Friday, key members of the 2019 Raid Day Planning Committee met at the famous Palomas, Mexico “PINK STORE” (longtime commercial supporter of the FASF!) to discuss the upcoming annual RAID DAY event in Columbus. The below photos capture most of the participants.
The majority of the group are all long time active members of the FASF.
This year the memorial event, which commemorates the disastrous raid on the town of Columbus, NM, by Mexican Revolutionary General Francisco “Pancho” Villa, a tragedy which took the lives of some 18 innocent Americans, will fall on a Saturday, March 9th.
Some 1500 of the Villistas (as Villa’s troops became known) attacked the sleeping village under cover of darkness that fateful day. In response to this attack, then US President Wilson ordered US Army General “Black Jack” Pershingto organize the “Punitive Expedition” as a means of capturing or destroying Villa in retaliation for the attack. It was this Expeditionary force that gave rise to the first US Military deployment in sustained combat circumstances of two new weapons: The Airplane and the Motorized ground vehicle.
Thus, the incident saw the launching of the World’s Greatest Air Power in the small rural community of Columbus, NM. There will be many events taking place on RAID DAY, from public historical presentations at both Pancho Villa State Park and at the Columbus Library.
FASF President, Ric Lambart, will conduct a slide and video presentation at the Library at 9:30 AM entitled “How Pancho Villa Saved the United States.” Three historian experts on the Raid will make their presentations starting at 1:00 PM at the Pancho Villa State Park Recreation Hall.
The traditional RAID DAY Cabalgata Binacional, where horsemen (and women) from deep in Mexico ride into Columbus to join with hundreds of American riders, coming down from the North, will begin to enter the Village Plaza at approximately 11:00 AM.
The Columbus Historical Society (CHS), under the leadership of local Historian, Richard Dean (whose grandfather was one of the civilians killed by the Villistas), will also hold its own traditional solemn Memorial Service at the Society’s Depot Museum at 10:00 AM.
The joining of the Mexican and American riders is an annual gesture of the peace and goodwill now in effect between the two nations. All throughout the town, there will be vendors supplying Mexican and American food. There will also be entertainment by local musicians, such as the FASF’s own July McClure, along with Mariachi bands, and traditional Mexican folkloric dancers. There will be much to see at this always well-attended event.
In background (L to R),, John Read discussing plans with July McClure and Headlight Editor,Bill Armendariz.
L to R above: John Read speaking with (standing) Raul Martinez, Cabalgata Parade Marshall and CEO of the Pancho Villa Development Corporation. The Pink Store waiter is speaking to Norma Gomez, RAID DAY and CABALGATA EVENT organizer and Columbus Chamber of Commerce Secretary. July McClure is enjoying her lunch and Bill Armendarizgets some event information from Norma.
The above photo of the planners was taken by Bill Armendariz. L to R: Ric Lambart, John Read, Raul Martinez, JulyMcClure, Norma Gomez, Alma’s visiting guest from her home down in Mexico, Sra. Maria Jimenez and Alma Villezcas in the foreground.
Today, only three days to go before retiring as Manager of New Mexico’sPancho Villa State Park (PVSP) in Columbus, one of the FASF’s earliest and most active members and enthusiastic supporters, John Read (at left), was honored at a surprise celebration, held at his beloved Park in Columbus, the very spot which once housed U.S. Army troops under General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing, during the famous Punitive Expedition of 1916 and 1917. High resolution still photographs and video follow story down below . . .
Camp Furlong 1916-17 Recreation Hall
Today’s celebratory event was actually held in the very same “Recreation Hall” (at right) in which U.S. Army infantry, cavalry, and Signal Corps Aviation troops held their various recreational activities over a century ago. The Army Fort and Garrison at Columbus became known as “Camp Furlong.”
Since arriving in Columbus, Mr. Read has maintained a continuous presence in all FASF activities, often helping the Foundation put on various presentations for the general public, and acting as one of its principle historical consultants.
General “Black Jack” Pershing
He supported and even hosted the very first public event put on by the FASF, when the United States Air Force (USAF) flew its then Deputy Historian, Dr. Roger Miller, out to Columbus to put on the group’s very first public History sell-out extravaganza.
It was New Mexico’s interesting employment opportunities and the excitement of the Southwest that initially drew the Readsfrom their home in Tampa, Florida to New Mexico. WhenJohnarrived at Columbus, in 2008, his first task was to become the Park’s new Heritage Educator. Prior to his arrival in Columbus, John first worked as a Park Ranger at the Roswell NM State park.
Although Read’s major during college was in the Sciences, and notwithstanding his years of teaching science in Florida, he nevertheless became a dedicated student of history, in particular the history of those events which surrounded Columbus during those years just prior to our entry into the “War to End All Wars,” better known today as WWI, in Europe.
Aside from his heavy workload at managing the New Mexico PVSP operation, John has still continued his love of Science, foraging into advanced theoretical physics concepts, such as Quantum Mechanics and String Theory, and he has also become in income producing YouTube presenter of New Mexico High Desert Exploration and Aventure Videos.
It was during that Punitive Expedition that the United States first engaged its fledgling, and as yet unproven Army First Aero Squadron, in sustained combat. And, of course, it was this very history-making development in Columbus, over a century ago, that led to the small Mexican border town’s becoming the “Birthplace of American Air Power,” and the “Rebirth Site of American Civil aviation,“ as well.
However, it was not just this history that captured Mr. Read’s interest, but the entire series of related historic events that arose out the Columbus engagement in that historic Punitive Expedition.
Let’s take a quick glance of some of John’smore notable contributions, which so greatly enhanced the PVSP’s status as a historical site and local landmark for visitors and history buffs:
He created 1st website for the Pancho Villa State Park Friends (Volunteer Docent) group
Expanded and helped re-organize for more effectiveness, the PVSP Friend’s Group
Obtained large donation of new historic Expedition Artifacts for display in the exhibit Hall
Got donations of numerous original 13th Cavalry Army Uniforms from the Expedition
Acquired large collection of impressively mounted new Photo Plaques re the Raid
Promoted + sold many FASF souvenirs to park visitors, to help PVSP Friends’ funding
Created and marketed numerous other Expedition and “Raid” gifts for tourists
Got for display a valuable US 48 star Flag used by the expedition in Mexico in 1917-17
Acquired from Pancho’s grandson (Mex. Atty) for display, aluminum death mask of Villa
Put on display an actual artillery shell found in Mexico from the Expedition’s action there
Got donation of Bill Rakocycollection (SW Historian/Artist & Writer) exhibit for display
Sold numerous new donors to make exhibit donations to the Park for its prized collection
Coordinated historical education “Staff Rides” (Field Trips) for USA Sgt. Majors Academy
Regularly coordinated USA Sergeant Majors Academy “Staff Rides” (Field Trips) thru PVSP
Did research: why PVSP was named after the Mexican Revolutionary who raided the US*
Greatly expanded the Park’s fostering and promoting of large Antique Car Show each year
Managed and orchestrated huge “Raid Centenniall” extravaganza in 2016, which featured:
A large group of 13th Cavalry Reenactors from all across the United States
Had Congressman/FASF member, Steve Pearce present US Capitol Flag to the FASF
Arranged Special FASF Presentation to the overflow crowd of Centennial visitors
Otherwise coordinated hundreds of enactors and others for successful Centennia
Here, for your enjoyment, are some of today’s photos . . . click to see full high-resolution view
Some of guests line up to get their event lunch
Guests begin to assemble in the Camp Furlong Recreation Hall to hear John’sretirement ceremony
L to R in foreground: Park volunteers, Dave and Marlene Ferguson, Josephine Gosiak, Shirley and Steve Schou, and with their backs to cameral, PVSP Friends’ VIPs, Jeane and Bud Canfield
L to R facing camera and standing: FASF Aerodrome Editor, July McClure, John Read, and seated, Maria Rangel, FASF member, Ted Williams(turned toward John and a park volunteer) and Bud Canfield, long time FASF Advisor.
L to R: July McClure, John Read, Maria Rangel, Ted Williams, Bud and Jeane Canfield.
L to R above: Guest of honor,John Read and his wife, Elly Read.
New Mexico State Park employees and staff, along with guests, listen to event MC and Park Regional Manager, Evaristo Giron, as he descried John Read’snumerous achievements during his tenure as the PVSP manager.
John and Elly Readlisten to Mr. Evaristo’s praise of John’s many accomplishments as Park Manager.
L to R: Evaristo Girontells crowd of some more of John’s achievements as Johnwaves one of his thank you cards with its many grateful anc congratulatory signatures.
FASF ALL!– – – and also PVSP Friends’ Group Officers: July McClure (Treasurer), Elly and John Read, Maria Rangel(Secretary), Todd Montes (President – & US Postmaster for Columbus), Bud and Jeane Canfield, early PVSP Friends’ Group officers and organizers.
Guest of honor, John Read, with his principal long-time support staff Park Rangers:, L to R:Junior Martinez and Martin Nunez.
John Read with long-time friend and one of FASF organizers and its Webmaster, Ric Lambart
A happy new retiree and his bride about to savor their hard earned new life without so much daily responsibilities.
John Read’s New Mexico State Park’s Recognition for Outstanding Service Commemorative Plaque.
CLICK HERE to see John Read’streatise on the strange story behind park’s Pancho Villaname.