Articles

That time the US accidentally captured a Mexican city

On Oct. 19, 1842 a squadron of ships under the command of Commodore Thomas Ap Catesby Jones sailed into the harbor at Monterey, California, then part of Mexico. Under the guns of the Mexican fort that overlooked the harbor, the sailors made the ship cannons ready for a fierce fight.


The heavy frigate USS United States faces off against the HMS Macedonian in the War of 1812. Photo: Wikipedia

Meanwhile, Marines and sailors formed a landing party under Commander James Armstrong. The small force made its way to shore, searched out the local governor, and demanded the city. The governor indicated he would surrender the entire province in the morning.

Sailors spent a tense night manning the guns in case it was a trick, but the governor and his commissioners arrived the next morning at the heavy frigate USS United States — Jones's flagship — and signed the articles of capitulation.

Commodore Jones had ordered the fleet to Monterey and the subsequent invasion because he was worried that the British would use the war between Mexico and America as a chance to capture coveted Pacific ports in California. Jones had raced to Monterey to arrive ahead of the British.

Jones's men immediately moved into the fort and prepared to defend it from the coming British attack.

But the British weren't headed to Monterey. And there wasn't a war on between Mexico and America. Jones had jumped the gun and illegally captured the provincial capital of Alta, California.

Commodore Thomas Ap Catesby Jones. Photo: Wikipedia

In Jones's defense, he had been in a tough spot. Relations between the two countries had been souring and he had received news of British ships moving up the coast of South America in force. Jones was under orders to capture Californian ports rather than let them fall into British or French hands in case of a war with Mexico.

The problem in 1842 was that Jones wouldn't get a satellite or radio call telling him when war broke out. He had to figure out himself.

Then he jumped the gun a little bit and invaded prematurely. It happens. The commodore realized his mistake when an American businessman in Monterey brought him a number of recent newspapers from the U.S. that made no mention of hostilities.

After realizing his error, Jones gave the city back to Mexico and told his men to stand down. The Mexican flag was raised over the fort once again.

To try and patch relations, the Mexican and American officials at Monterey began hosting parties for one another while their respective national governments launched investigations.

Luckily, the Marines and soldiers had behaved themselves so well during the occupation that the locals were actually fond of the them.

Unfortunately, word was already making its way up the coast that American ships had captured Monterey as part of a war with Mexico. Another U.S. Navy officer, Captain W. D. Phelps, then captured Fort Guijarros at San Diego, California and spiked its guns.

Military Life

Why death iconography is a beloved part of military culture

Take a look at the naming convention of any combat arms battalion. Chances are that alpha company is "Assassins," bravo company is "Barbarians," and, because there's no clever, hardcore, historical fighter that starts with 'C,' charlie company will be "Reapers" or something.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

Why the Navy might buy new frigates from France or Italy

When the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates (FFGs) retired in 2015, the littoral combat ship (LCS) was expected to pick up the slack. Well, between mechanical failures and the fact that the LCS is under-armed, that hasn't happened.

As a result, the Navy has cut the LCS program down to 40 vessels and is now looking for a new generation of frigates. Two contenders for the FFG(X) program have surfaced, one from Lockheed based on the Freedom-class LCS and one from Spain based on the Álvaro de Bazán-class guided-missile frigates. There's a third contender, however, and it's also from Europe, based on the Franco-Italian FREMM.

Keep reading... Show less

How the US is falling behind China in this high-tech arms race

Mike Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, made some worrying admissions about China's growing military capabilities, and the US' decline in technological advances.

"Our adversaries have taken advantage of what I have referred to as a holiday for the United States," Griffin said April 18, 2018, referring to the West's victory over its communist rivals in the Cold War. The Pentagon official was speaking at a hearing for the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.

Keep reading... Show less
History

The fascinating origin of a favorite gloating phrase

You've just proven yourself to the doubters and in your moment of triumph you turn and ask just one question: "How do you like them apples?" This phrase has been used for decades and has been made popular by films like Good Will Hunting and Rio Bravo, but where does it come from?

While many claim that the origin of this phrase is unknown, others claim that it comes straight from the trenches of World War I.

Keep reading... Show less
History

Macron will bring a 'Devil Dog' Marines tribute to the White House

French President Emmanuel Macron said April 22, 2018, that he is bringing a living tribute to "Devil Dog" Marines who fell in the World War I battle of Belleau Wood to the White House as a symbol of the two nations' enduring ties.

The oak sapling from the battle site will be presented to President Donald Trump in hopes that it will be planted in the White House garden, Macron said in an interview on the "Fox News Sunday" program from the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

6 of the most notable pre-M16 military guns

Throughout history, the U.S. Military has used a wide variety of guns to win its battles. Prior to the M16, there were several weapons used across the service throughout some of the most devastating wars the world has ever seen.

Here are some of those weapons:

Keep reading... Show less
International

China and the US could end up in a war – here's what would happen

It's unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it's not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.

Keep reading... Show less