Tampico Incident Brings U.S., Mexico to Brink of War

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in August, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 111th installment in the series.

April 9, 1914: Tampico Incident Brings U.S., Mexico to Brink of War

Anyone who expresses amazement that China and Japan might come to blows over a couple of tiny, barren rocks would do well to consider the Tampico Incident, when the United States and Mexico almost went to war over nothing. Well, almost nothing.

By April 1914, the Mexican Revolution had degenerated into a civil war between multiple factions including the beleaguered federal government under Victoriano Huerta, peasant revolutionaries rallying to Emiliano Zapata, and the “Constitutionalists” led by Venustiano Carranza. On the east coast of Mexico, Carranza’s forces were laying siege to the port city of Tampico, in Tamaulipas state, which was held by a smaller force of federal troops as well as some state troops. Meanwhile U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched a small naval force under Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo to protect American citizens and property, including investments in the local oil industry. Although the U.S. government refused to recognize Huerta’s regime, the American forces stayed out of the fight and the situation remained calm—at first. 

On April 9, 1914, the commander of the U.S.S. Dolphin sent nine sailors ashore in a whaleboat to pick up some cans of fuel oil from a warehouse in Tampico, as previously agreed with the Mexican federal commander. However, as the sailors were transferring the cans to the whaleboat, they were stopped by Tamaulipas state troops, who hadn’t been informed of the plan.

After a brief but tense armed standoff (naturally no one on either side spoke the other side’s language) the Mexican state troops arrested the U.S. sailors, including two who were ordered out of the whaleboat at gunpoint—technically, a violation of U.S. sovereignty, as naval vessels are considered national soil. The sailors were then paraded through the streets of Tampico to the headquarters of the federal commander, who recognized the mistake and ordered them released. Following a bit more confusion, and an official complaint by Mayo and the U.S. consul, the sailors were returned to the Dolphin with no harm done.

Or so it seemed. While the Mexican federal commander apologized for the mistake, he balked at Admiral Mayo’s demand that he raise the U.S. flag over Mexican soil for a 21-gun salute—an obvious affront to Mexican national pride—as restitution for the earlier alleged violation of U.S. sovereignty. Now, the seemingly minor incident started to spiral rapidly—and absurdly—out of control.

Back in Washington, D.C., President Wilson, who openly despised Huerta, claimed that the whole incident was part of a “pattern” of hostile and disrespectful behavior by Mexico, and repeated the demand for a salute to the U.S. flag. Huerta, who openly reciprocated Wilson’s feelings, of course refused, and Wilson in turn rejected Huerta’s counter-offer of a simultaneous salute by U.S. and Mexican troops.

Incredibly, the situation was about to get even worse, as Wilson ordered ships from the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific fleets to Mexican waters and asked Congress for permission to occupy a number of Mexico’s east coast ports, including the key city of Veracruz (but oddly enough not Tampico). On April 21, 1914, U.S. Marines landed in Veracruz and cleared Mexican forces from the city over the next few days, at a cost of 19 American and 150 Mexican dead. Meanwhile, on the west coast, U.S. ships made a show of force in the harbor of Mazatlan.

U.S. forces remained in Veracruz until November 1914, when the dispute was finally settled at the Niagara Falls Conference, but the Tampico Incident foreshadowed further American intervention in Mexico during the Punitive Expedition that attempted, unsuccessfully, to capture Pancho Villa from March 1916 to February 1917. Around this time, the continuing tensions seemed to offer Germany an opportunity to distract the U.S. and prevent it from joining the First World War by embroiling it in a war with Mexico instead, leading to the infamous Zimmerman Telegram—a ham-handed covert initiative that ended up backfiring disastrously.

See the previous installment or all entries.

Friends's James Michael Tyler Says a Fan Theory on How the Characters Always Got their Seats at Central Perk Makes Sense

Warner Bros. Television/Getty Images
Warner Bros. Television/Getty Images

There are plenty of fan theories surrounding the hit sitcom Friends, including one that claims Rachel actually dreamed the entire show and another which suggests Phoebe was hallucinating the entire time. But even after the sitcom ended in 2004, there is one burning question that remains unanswered: How did the gang always manage to sit at the orange couch when they went to Central Perk?

The coffee shop is located in New York City, one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, so it seems pretty unlikely Monica, Ross, Joey, Phoebe, Rachel, and Chandler could get their spot every time they stopped in for their (many) cups of coffee. But according to Insider, Friends actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, told RadioTimes there's one fan theory about it that "makes a lot of sense."

The theory suggests that Gunther was the reason the crew was always able to grab the couch. In some scenes, there's even a "reserved" sign on the coffee table in front of the orange sofa. Why would he purposely reserve the table? According to the theory, it's because of his enormous crush on Rachel.

While Tyler says he never personally placed the sign on the coffee table, he told RadioTimes, "That was probably one of the set designers, I'm guessing, maybe one of the writers … I'm not sure who was responsible for that. But I do remember seeing that." He continued, "It never really occurred to me why it was there, but it makes a lot of sense [that Gunther put it there] in retrospect."

Now that you have that question answered, learn why some fans think the crew's incessant coffee drinking was just a long Starbucks marketing ploy by heading here.

[h/t RadioTimes]

Roar—Tippi Hedren’s Wild Big Cat Movie From 1981—Will Soon Be Available to Stream

Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith with a couple of cool cats in 1982.
Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith with a couple of cool cats in 1982.
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Decades before Joe Exotic amassed his frightening collection of big cats as seen in Netflix’s Tiger King, there was an even wilder personal zoo located in California—and owned by people you might already know.

Following a trip to a game preserve in Mozambique, Tippi Hedren, star of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, and her filmmaker husband, Noel Marshall, decided to produce a movie about a scientist and his family coexisting with big cats. The cast would include the couple, Marshall’s sons John and Jerry, and Hedren’s daughter Melanie Griffith (who’d later become a film star herself and the mother of another one: Fifty Shades of Grey’s Dakota Johnson). They started raising lion cubs at their Sherman Oaks house in 1971, and soon moved to a larger property in Santa Clarita. By the time they began shooting in 1976, they had 132 lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, and jaguars. And one 5-ton bull elephant named Timbo.

The film, titled Roar, was finished in 1981, but it never got a wide release in the United States. Next week, it’s getting the VOD treatment.

Entertainment Weekly reports that Alamo Drafthouse is releasing the film—along with a video Q&A with John Marshall—on Vimeo starting Wednesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. EST. For $10, you’ll be able to stream it for one week on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and/or Chromecast. Ten percent of the profits will benefit the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation’s Pioneers Assistance Fund, which will use the money to support theater workers unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you’re hoping Roar will live up to the jaw-dropping nature of Tiger King and similar programs, you won’t be disappointed. The narrative might be fictional, but the risky encounters with the various beasts are very real.

“I am amazed no one died,” John Marshall told Entertainment Weekly. A staggering 70 members of the cast and crew sustained serious injuries on set, including Hedren, who contracted gangrene after her leg was crushed by Timbo; Griffith, who required plastic surgery after a cat clawed her face; and John Marshall, whose head was gnawed on by a lion.

While you wait to watch Roar on Wednesday night, here are 10 wild animal documentaries you can stream right now.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

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