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The Story of
Captain Emilio Carranza Rodriguez
"THE  MARTYR  AVIATOR  OF  MEXICO"

as told by Ismael Carranza
Second Cousin of Captain Emilio Carranza Rodriguez
©2001 All rights reserved.

 

 

      Captain Emilio Carranza is a classic example of a valiant hero with faith in his ideals, because his own conviction provided a super human force even when this young man found himself alone and desperate.  He faced up to conquest of triumph and its glory, sacrificing himself as a martyr, he left as witness for ever his ideals, which survived his physical death:  his spiritual testimony and gallantry in search of triumph.  That is why he is still considered the greatest hero of Mexican Aviation.

       Emilio Carranza Rodriguez was born in Villa Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, the 9th of December of 1905, son of Mr. Sebastian Carranza and Mrs. Maria Rodriguez.  He was the grand nephew of Don Venustiano Carranza, First Commandant of the Constitutional Army who became First Constitutional President of the Mexican Republic.  He was also a nephew to General Alberto Salinas Carranza a pioneer in Mexican aviation and founder of the Mexican Air Force school of aviation.

       At the beginning of 1911 the Carranza family was forced to abandon their country and moved to San Antonio, Texas.

       At the end of a triumphant Mexican revolution Mr. Sebastian Carranza and his family moved back to Mexico City. In 1917, with all the aviation manufacturing plants and shops, and the National school of aviation, Emilio Carranza at the young age of 12, hung around every day at the Balbuena airport with his uncle General Alberto Salinas Carranza.  His inquisitive spirit and observing mind made him mix among pilots, mechanics, technicians and airplanes; without missing any details he learned from all of them.  This is where his vocation as a pilot started but he had to wait some years until he could qualify age wise, to meet the requirements of the school of aviation.

       After the death of President Venustiano Carranza, Emilio's family had to migrate once more to the United States.  They moved to Eagle Pass, Texas where he finished his high school.

       Once again back in Mexico City, Emilio Carranza applied and was accepted in the Military School of Aviation the 2nd of July 0f 1923.  He proved himself to be an excellent student and graduated with honors.  The 14th of January 1926 he was commissioned as a lieutenant of the Mexican Air Force.  A few months later he went to the United States to buy an airplane which he intended to use for long distance flights.  The 20th of June 1926, he acquired in Chicago Illinois a Lincoln Standard airplane with a 180 horsepower Heso engine.  He projected a flight to Mexico City following this route: Chicago, Moline, St. Joseph, Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Laredo, Monterey, San Luis Potosi, and Mexico City.  After departing Oklahoma City he was forced to make an emergency landing for lack of fuel and in trying to avoid a lady on his landing path he veered his airplane into some trees where he and his brother were injured seriously.  His brother being his mechanic fixed the airplane and they finished their flight to Mexico City.

       Three months after arriving in Mexico City, he was assigned to The Yaqui Campaign where he distinguished himself in the State of Sonora and was promoted to Captain.  Trying to realize his dream of long distance flights, he found some abandoned airplanes that the Mexican Air Force would no longer fly because they were made of 100% wood.  He supervised the repair of the best airplane and installed a 185 hp BMW engine.  After testing it and satisfied that he could fly a long distance flight he named it " Coahuila " and announced that he was ready to fly a nonstop flight between Mexico City and Ciudad, Juarez.

       This announcement aroused many eyebrows because it was the second longest flight proposed to be flown by a Mexican Pilot.  On Friday the 2nd of September, 1927, at 5:50 a.m. the aircraft "Coahuila" departed Mexico City for Ciudad Juarez leaving behind a sense of anxiety and hope.  At 8:25 telegraph reported Emilio Carranza passing over San Luis Potosi, at 10:00 a.m. the telegraph reported the flight over Torreon, By Escalon at 12:20 a.m. and by Diaz at 13:00 p.m., at 13:23 by La Cruz, at 14:44 p.m. by Chihuahua, at 15:10 p.m. by Gallegos, at 15:17 p.m. by Montezuma, at 15:55 p.m. by Villa Ahumada and at 16:06 p.m. by Lucero. Victory was about to happen and at 16:48 p.m. the aircraft " Coahuila " landed in Ciudad Juarez.  Capt. Emilio Carranza was received triumphantly.  His arrival to Ciudad Juarez coincided with Charles A. Lindbergh's and the Spirit of St. Louis arrival at El Paso, Texas where they both celebrated together.

       When Capt. Emilio Carranza was invited to the reception at El Paso, Texas honoring Charles A. Lindbergh, a true friendship developed between the two aviators.  This friendship was further nurtured when the " Lone Eagle " visited Mexico City on a good will flight on December 14th, 1927.  Capt. Emilio Carranza was Charles Lindbergh's official companion while in Mexico City.

       If Lindbergh's flight from New York to Paris had broken the barriers and open the technical possibilities of aviation in general, his nonstop flight from Washington to Mexico City had resulted in the second longest flight in the world.  This was the goal that aroused the enthusiasm in Mexican Aviation.  The newspaper Excelsior promoted the idea that the people of Mexico should sponsor a good will flight from Mexico City to Washington as a return gesture of Lindbergh's December flight.  This aroused the banks, soon people from all over were sending donations including Mexicans that had immigrated to the United States, shoe shine boys, students from all over Mexico, bar tenders, domestic workers, street vendors, market place vendors, taxi drivers, motorist and anybody that felt like a patriotic Mexican willing to help such a noble cause, of peace, good will and understanding between our two countries.  When Lindbergh heard of the possible flight he himself donated $ 2,500.00.USD.

       The committee wanted an aircraft that had been proven and with a range of 24 flying hours.  They decided that it had to be a Ryan B1 aircraft (a replica of The Spirit Of St. Louis) built in San Diego, California.  The order was made and the aircraft was built and named the "Excelsior".  Mexico was now looking for the most serious and professional pilot for this memorable flight.  On February 14th 1928, the newspaper Excelsior invited by telegraph Capt. Emilio Carranza for this sensational flight from Mexico to Washington, D.C..  Carranza was at this time assigned to a military operation in the Guadalajara Jalisco Plasa against rebels of that region.  His answer to the Excelsior news paper was in text as follows:

       ".............Received your kind message of "Excelsior" and the difference that this important daily has taken and served upon me, I am indeed honored to address you first, to manifest my appreciation for this indicated favor, and also to let you know that I am very moved and my best wishes to cooperate enthusiastically for the success of your notable business.

       Having accepted this memorable flight from Mexico City to Washington, D.C. Capt. Emilio Carranza and the technical committee that was organized by The Excelsior to oversee the Mexico to Washington flight put their gears in motion.  There was a Ryan B-1 aircraft to be built and a runway to be cleared and built before the rainy season arrived.  The engineers and workers worked on the runway to make it long enough for the Ryan B-1 to lift off in the high altitude thin air of the Mexico City airport, while Emilio Carranza monitored the construction of his airplane by the Mahoney Aircraft Corporation in San Diego, California.

       It is written that Capt. Emilio Carranza made several trips to San Diego to be present during the construction of his airplane and to be made aware of the most minute details of its structure and mechanisms.  One such flight was done as reported by The New York Times in April 17th 1928.  He was reported found in the desert of Ajo, Arizona after crash landing the airplane he was flying in route to San Diego.  He boarded a train and finished his trip on the railroad.

       This crash landing was witnessed by a five year old Mexican boy named Juan Tapia.  This young boy was so impressed by Emilio's bravery that he became the most decorated US Army officer of Mexican decent with seven Purple Hearts.  His life long dream was to be as brave as Capt. Emilio Carranza. (This is another story that we will cover later.)

       Finally The Mexico Excelsior was completed and after several test flights Capt. Emilio Carranza was satisfied and he plotted his flight from San Diego to Mexico City.  Every one wanted him to make several stops in route and wanted him to fly in good weather and daylight hours.

       Ignoring all recommendations Capt. Emilio Carranza left San Diego, Cal. on May 24th 1928 at 15:20 p.m..  The next word would come from Guaymas at 23:35 p.m. reporting an airplane overhead.  The word got out that the Mexico Excelsior piloted by Capt. Emilio Carranza was on a non-stop flight from San Diego to Mexico City.  He chose to fly the aircraft non-stop as a training flight before his flight to Washington D.C. On May 25th 1928, all Mexicans were waiting and talking about Carranza's flight.

       Thousands and thousands of Mexicans surrounded the newly made runway.  No word was heard until 04:00 a.m. on the 25th of May, Mazatlan reporting aircraft passing overhead.  The next report came at 07:50 a.m. from Ixtlan and Guadalajara reported seeing the aircraft at 09:40 a.m.  By this time 100,000 people surrounded the airport and at 12:06 p.m. on May 25th 1928 Capt.  Emilio Carranza landed in Mexico City.

       After this glorious flight, the longest flight flown by a Mexican aviator, the thousands and thousands of people at the airport chanted " Viva Mexico " " Viva Carranza " which stands for long live Mexico and long live Carranza.

       Catching his breath from this fantastic experience, it was time to start preparing for the flight to Washington D.C. The technical committee went to work on making sure the runway were long enough for the upcoming take off for the Mexico Excelsior with a full load of gasoline.  Mexico City being at an altitude of over 6,000 feet and the air being so thin at such altitudes, it was imperative that the aircraft performance would be jeopardized.

       On June 10th 1928, there was a farewell dinner for Capt. Emilio Carranza at " Sylvian " It was a modest dinner where Carranza enjoyed the company of his closest friends and relatives.  His airplane was fueled and final inspections made by his brother Sebastian his mechanic.  The technical team had all the weather bulletins and reports through out Mexico and the United States ready for Carranza's final study.  Telegraph stations were manned and look out observers were deployed.  He departed the dinner at midnight with his brother Sebastian, his mother and his wife.  As his mother and wife squeezed his hand as the final gesture of a good bye, they said to him " Tomorrow will be our day of Glory " He slept for five hours in his apartment at the Rits Hotel and aroused at 05:30 a.m. to make his final preparations for his flight, arriving at the military complex at 06:15 a.m.

       Finally on June 11th 1928, a cloud of dust that looked like a hurricane coming from under the Mexico Excelsior billowed into the blue sky as the aircraft pulled away and became airborne at 08:08 a.m. destined for Washington D.C. The crowd of onlookers once again chanted " Viva Mexico " " Viva Carranza ". The newspapers, the radio stations, telegraph, telephones and any means of communication was used to announce to the world that Capt. Emilio Carranza the grand Mexican aviator had departed Mexico City for Washington.

       Carranza represents our race who sent him as an ambassador of peace and friendship towards the great city in North America.  By 10:00 a.m. every Mexican was aware of the news and followed the flight as it progressed on its assigned trajectory.  The first report came from Tulancingo, Hgo... the aircraft Mexico Excelsior passed over head at 9:05 a.m. we were able to read the name on the side of the aircraft.  At 09:20 a.m. Huauchinango, Pue... reports passage of Capt. Emilio Carranza over this station heading northeast.  Tampico, Tamps... The Mexico Excelsior crossed over this port at 11:00 o'clock a.m.  A ship heading for New Orleans reports seeing the Mexico Excelsior flying over the coast line at a high rate of speed.  Brownsville, Texas reports the Mexico Excelsior passed Port Isabel at 13:10 p.m. flying the coast line.  Galveston, Texas - Carranza flew by this city at 16:20 p.m.. New Orleans, La.. - We believe that Capt. Carranza flew overhead at 19:10 p.m., due to darkness we were unable to read name on the aircraft.

       Fog was beginning to cover the earth and navigation was becoming impossible; dead reckoning was his only method of navigation.  He was forced to descend from 7,000 feet to 500 feet due to heavy rain and turbulence. Montgomery, Al - at 10:08 we heard a monoplane fly over head, we feel it was probably Capt. Emilio Carranza.  Atlanta, Ga.- the airplane flown by Capt. Carranza passed by this station at 23:30 p.m.. aircraft was heading north to Washington.  After receiving bad weather reports on his route we were all alarmed and fearful that he might fail on his mission.  At 01:45 a.m. we received reports from Spartanburgh, SC that all flying had been canceled due to the weather conditions, although they had heard what had to be the Mexico Excelsior pass by.  For hours we heard nothing and the phones were ringing constantly trying to get information on the flight.  The hours seemed like years especially when his mother and his wife called asking for an update on his flight.  Fortunately at 04:00 a.m. we heard from the Civil Aviation Administration that Capt. Emilio Carranza had made an emergency landing in Mooresville, North Carolina.  He had landed at 03:45 a.m. and both airplane and pilot were OK.  We were all rejoicing and the reporters immediately spread the news that the Mexico Excelsior was down and safe 300 miles from Washington D.C..

       At 13:50 p.m. on June 12th 1928, Capt. Emilio Carranza took off from Mooresville, NC and lands at Bolling field in Washington D.C. at 17:15 p.m. where all the representatives of the world were gather to congratulate the heroic aviator that had come to Washington with a message of peace and good will from Mexico to the United States.

       Bolling field was inundated by the world press as well as dignitaries from both countries. The military bands blaring out Mexican music as well as American tunes.  Two regiments of the U.S. Cavalry lined up as they saluted the Mexican aviation hero.  Capt. Carranza was escorted by the Mexican Ambassador to the Mexican Embassy where he received the first congratulatory wire from the newspaper Excelsior.  The wire mentioned the pride of the Mexican people for his achievements in completing the flight from Mexico to Washington D.C., it went on to say that because the airplane "Mexico Excelsior", was acquired by the Mexican people's money, in who this case we represent and serve through our subscriptions, we do here by make you the rightful owner and hope that this airplane will help you achieve higher goals.  At the same time we remind you that the purchase of this aircraft was made possible by elements of different social classes with different aims and endeavors.

       Mexico joined the celebration in Washington with a sense of national pride.  Flags were flying on all government buildings as their occupants demonstrated their jubilation in their own way.  Mexican pilots took to the air and dropped flowers all over the city.  His first day in Washington was full of great emotions.  He was personally congratulated by the President of the United States Mr. Calvin Coolidge and invited by same to a dinner in the white house.  He was so motivated by the events of this day that he announced the flight from New York to Mexico City not knowing that it would result in tragedy.  The secretary of state Mr. Kellogg and Mrs. Kellogg had Emilio as the honor guest at a dinner on his behalf.  The ambassador in Washington, Mr. Manuel Tellez, gave a reception at the Mexican Embassy attended by many very prominent personalities.

       Captain Emilio Carranza attended all the festivities with the modesty of a true aviation hero.  Noted in history is the fact that after recovering from such a long flight, his first act was to place a wreath at Arlington Cemetery at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.

       While in Washington Emilio took a flight to Detroit with his good friend Charles A. Lindbergh the American ace, which granted him the admiration of the American people.

       On June 17th he was escorted off Bolling field by a squadron of military aircraft and was received by another military squadron as he headed into Mitchell Field, NY.  Heading the reception committee there was none other than Mayor Jimmy Walker who handed him the key to New York City.  His stay in New York was very enjoyable since his father, Mr. Sebastian Carranza, held a post with the Mexican Consulate.  While in New York he was invited to review the troops at West Point an honor never before given to a visiting official with the rank of Captain.

       Capt. Emilio Carranza was very grateful for the way the people from Washington and New York City had treated him.  Never the less he must prepare for the return flight from New York to Mexico City.  He consulted with his brother Sebastian, who was his mechanic, and also with the Wright Co. manufacturer of the engine on the Excelsior.  He made plans to leave New York on July 3rd and arrive in Mexico City July 4th.  All his preparations were concluded except for the favorable weather conditions.

       The U.S. Weather Bureau kept telling him that it was unsafe for him to attempt his departure but his airplane was fueled and ready.

       The date set for his departure had come and gone.  He found himself frustrated and bored by the unfavorable weather conditions.  His true friend Charles A. Lindbergh waited with him at the Waldorf Astoria and tried to convince him not to attempt the takeoff under those terrible cross wind conditions.  He made several attempts to take off which terminated in flight cancellations.

       Finally after a well advertised departure he attempted to initiate his flight to Mexico City on July 12th.  After many Airport Officials and the U.S. Weather Bureau gave warnings and weather reports of a pending electrical storm, Capt. Emilio Carranza had canceled his departure once more and ordered his airplane hangared.  The airport officials were relived at his decision and most of them had departed the airport.

       Back at the Waldorf Astoria his dinner was interrupted by a telegram that arrived.  He went to the telephone and called for his airplane to be made ready for his immediate departure.  He avoided telling his father what he was about to do for fear of parental pressure put on him.  He knew what he had to do and nothing and no one would interfere with his destiny.  His behavior was solemn, he abruptly departed for the airdrome at Roosevelt Airport.

       On July 12th, 1928 at 7:18 in the evening Captain Emilio Carranza lifted off Roosevelt airport in New York City, disregarding a tremendous electrical storm in progress.  His astonished mechanics watched as the Mexico Excelsior disappeared into the menacing storm.

       Silence, deafening SILENCE. The newspaper headline read " Capt. Emilio Carranza departed New York in route to Mexico into a furious storm ".

       Nothing was heard about the flight until the next day around 3:25 p.m.on July 13th from Sandy Ridge.  John Carr, a young man that was picking berries with his mother and sister in law reported finding part of a wing and alerted local authorities. The wing turned out to be from the Mexico Excelsior.  The authorities were mobilized and the death of the Mexican hero was confirmed.  When his body was found, a telegram was found in his partially destroyed flight suit pocket.  The telegram from his Superior Officer, General Joaquin Amaro, read " Sal imediatamente sin escusa ni pretesto oh la calidad de tu hombria quedara en duda" which means "Leave immediately without excuse or pretext, or the quality of your manhood will be in doubt".

       Being the military man that he was, he obeyed the order of his Superior Officer at the cost of his life.

       The part that American Legion Post 11 of Mount Holly, N.J. took in recovering his body, is in my opinion,  

" THE REST OF THE STORY !"
 

 
©2001 All rights reserved. All text and images contained in this web page are the property of American Legion Post 11 and The Carranza Family.  NO part of this site can be used without written authorization. 
 
Page by Post 11 Member Bob Barney
Story By Ismael Carranza
Page Content by Tod Jonson
Spanish Translation by Ektor Carranza

 


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