Black Jack, Blood and Guts, Pancho and Dodge

From left, Villa, Pershing and Patton at a border conference in Texas in 1914.

By Bob Erickson
NTC Communications

The first motor vehicles used in actual combat by the U.S. Army were the 1916 Dodge touring cars in which forces under the command of Brig. Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing pursued and engaged Pancho Villa following Villa's raid on Columbus, N.M., March 6, 1916.

A young Army lieutenant, George S. Patton, saw his first motorized combat as a member of this "punitive expedition."

Patton was in charge of a 15-man contingent traveling in three of the Dodges for the purpose of buying corn from Mexican farmers. Relying purely on a hunch, Patton led a raid at a place called the Rubio Ranch, believing that one of Villa’s men might be there. As it turned out, three of the enemy were there and, during their attempted escape, Patton and his men engaged them in a lively skirmish resembling an old western movie gunfight.

Two of Gen. Pershing's 1916 Dodge Touring Cars wait outside his Mexican headquarters.

All three of Villa’s men were killed. Patton, who was later nicknamed "Blood and Guts" by the American press, tied the bodies to the cars, one on each hood, and drove them to Pershing’s headquarters.

Villa was a Dodge guy, too, and Pershing’s expedition failed to capture him.

Villa's end came seven years later in 1923 in the town of Parral, where he let down his guard for a moment. He drove his Dodge out of town on a predictable route – one where a band of armed assassins waited until he rounded a corner, then fired hundreds of shots into the car, killing Villa and his bodyguard.

Villa's body hangs out of his bullet-riddled Dodge.

The vintage Dodge roadster, riddled with bullet holes, sits now in the courtyard of Villa's former mansion in Ciudad Chihuahua, Mexico., which has been converted to a museum.

Pershing's Dodge is displayed at a museum in West Point, N.Y., and Patton's Dodge is displayed in a museum at the Aberdeen (N.M.) Proving Grounds.

The success of these Dodge cars in cross-country operations gained them a high priority on the Army's procurement list for World War I.