World War I and New Mexico: A special remembrance

Armored truck and motorcycle in action, Pershing Mexican Expedition, New Mexico, 1916, by W.H. Horne. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives LS.1908. Armored truck and motorcycle in action, Pershing Mexican Expedition, New Mexico, 1916, by W.H. Horne. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives LS.1908.

Armored truck and motorcycle in action, Pershing Mexican Expedition, New Mexico, 1916, by W.H. Horne. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives LS.1908.

After Pancho Villa’s March 9, 1916, attack on Columbus, NM, Gen. John J. Pershing launched a Punitive Expedition with one goal: Get Villa. Given his failure to do so, Pershing’s effort could easily be chalked up as a military failure. But its long-term impact was significant. The surge into Mexico provided valuable training for Pershing and for New Mexico troops who would all too soon enter World War I.

As centenary commemorations for “The Great War” begin across the globe, the History Museum’s interim director, Jon Hunner, will speak on “World War I and New Mexico” at noon on Wednesday, July 30. This free lecture will be in the Meem Community Room; enter through the museum’s Washington Avenue doors.

Hunner is a New Mexico State University professor of history on loan to the museum. His areas of expertise include 20th-century New Mexico and the Manhattan Project.

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo, along with his wife. A month later, Emperor Franz Joseph declared war on Serbia; Russia, Serbia’s ally, immediately mobilized its forces. By Aug. 1, Germany had declared war on Russia, and the dominoes began to fall. The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917. Armistice was achieved on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918—today commemorated as Veteran’s Day.

What roles did New Mexico play in the conflict and what impact did the war have on our state? What was the Zimmerman telegram and how did it speed America’s entry into the war? Hunner will explore how events in distant lands affected the New Mexicans who served, including the many men who gave their lives, and how those events transformed the nation’s second-youngest state.

Who has the nation’s No. 1 Western museum? We do, we do!

4-72-Cowboys_Cheron-boyNow landing in subscribers’ mailboxes, the September 2014 issue of True West magazine names the New Mexico History Museum as the nation’s best Western museum, “in recognition of their superior exhibitions and ability to reach all generations through their creativity in interpreting the West while fulfilling their institution’s mission.”

The honor follows the announcement that the museum won a national Award of Merit for Leadership in History from the American Association of State and Local History for its 2013–14 exhibit, Cowboys Real and Imagined.

“New Mexico History Museum’s dedication to excellence, and their mission of preserving and interpreting our great Western history for all generations, is inspiring,” said True West Executive Editor Bob Boze Bell. “They keep the Old West alive.”

Other honorees include the Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Houston, Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, Kan., and the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles. In a media release announcing the honor, the magazine noted the History Museum’s “extraordinary, award-winning exhibitions, such as Cowboys Real and Imagined, but [also] cutting-edge, creative exhibits like Toys and Games: A New Mexico Childhood [and] the long-term exhibit Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now.” The magazine article lauds the cowboy exhibit for its state-of-the-art quality and robust programming. “Best of all, the exhibit made cowboys—and history—interesting to today’s youth.”

“This is a fantastic recognition of the team at the N.M. History Museum and their hard work in preserving and interpreting our state’s unique heritage,” said Interim Director Jon Hunner. “From cowboys to Spanish colonial devotional art and from pinhole photography to the Native American Artisans Program under the Palace Portal, this museum takes joy in presenting exhibits and programs about New Mexico and the true west.”

Upon its opening in May 2009, the museum was named “one to watch” by the magazine. In this, its fifth-anniversary year, the museum has two major exhibits featuring treasures from its collections: Painting the Divine: Images of Mary in the New World and Poetics of Light: Pinhole Photography.

Spur Award-winning writer Johnny D. Boggs selected the winners for True West’s annual award based on his extensive travels, research and firsthand experiences in visiting dozens of Western museums each year. True West magazine is in its 61st year of leading the way in presenting the true stories of Old West adventure, history, culture and preservation. For subscriptions and more information, visit or call 888-687-1881.