Then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to build a wall on the US-Mexican border wasn’t the first time border security was an issue in American politics and foreign policy. 100 years earlier President Woodrow Wilson sent some 7,000 American troops and every available aircraft deep into Northern Mexico to kill or capture one man, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, the leader of an attack on Columbus, New Mexico. That violation of the border and the loss of American lives provoked a massive military invasion of Mexico. The American “Punitive Expedition” failed to find Villa. By early 1917 the troops were withdrawn and soon found themselves heading for France on a new mission to “make the world safe for democracy” on the Allied side in World War I. This little-known episode on the eve of American entry into a larger war in Europe illustrates the adage: “history doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes”. Join us on Saturday, November 10 for this lecture with Robert Messer.
Robert Messer is Associate Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he taught US History for 35 years. He is a long-time Oak Park resident and volunteer with the Historical Society.