Captain Emilio Carranza Rodriguez – The Mexican Lindy
Ninety years have passed since the aviation pioneer known as the ‘Mexican Lindy’, Captain Emilio Carranza Rodriguez and his aircraft “The Mexico-Excelsior’ were lost in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. His aircraft was a copy of Charles Lindbergh’s Ryan Brougham B-1 ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’. Captain Carranza was a member of the Arma de Aviation Militar which would become todays Air Force of Mexico. At only 22 years old, he was already the holder of several aviation records as well as being the great nephew of Mexican President Venustiano Carranza and nephew to Alberto Salinas Carranza who was the founder of the Arma de Aviation Militar.
The Mexican newspaper ‘The Excelsior’ suggested the goodwill flight of Captain Carranza after Charles Lindbergh’s flight to Mexico City in December of 1927.
Deep in what is now known as Wharton State Forest, on the very patch of sand where his flight ended, time has nearly stood still. Along the narrow roadway known as Carranza Road stands a twelve-foot memorial to Captain Carranza, who perished in his attempt to fly non-stop from New York’s Roosevelt Field to Mexico City on the night of July 12, 1928. The four sided, obelisk-like memorial was erected in 1931 with funds raised by the Children of Mexico. The memorial is made of granite mined near Captain Carranza’s home in Mexico. Worn by the elements, it remains a testament to the events of that fateful July evening. The memorial is rich in symbolism. Each block represents a Mexican State and the artwork to Captain Carranza’s love of aviation. At the base there is a garden containing the only Yucca plants in this pine tree forest. The memorial has two sides that have the same inscription, one side in English and the other in Spanish. Both sides state the following;
“Messenger of Peace, The people of Mexico hope that your high ideals will be realized. Homage of the children of Mexico to the aviator Captain Emilio Carranza who died tragically on July 13,1928 in his good will flight.”
The other two sides are adorned with carvings. On one side there is a descending Aztec Eagle above two footprints, which are symbolic of Captain Carranza’s final flight and his final steps on the earth. The opposite side has an arrow pointing skyward toward heaven.
The facts surrounding this non-stop return flight are in dispute and are only really known to Captain Carranza. The flight from Mexico City to New York was flown in stages but the return trip was to be a non-stop record setting trip. It would be the longest non-stop flight attempted in the America’s. The return trip was originally scheduled for July 3rd with arrival in Mexico City on July 4th. The weather was poor and Captain Carranza made several attempts to depart on July 3rd. Captain Carranza was advised not to attempt the flight that night. He reluctantly agreed to reschedule the attempt to July 12, 1928. The weather that night was forecast to be even worse. Some reports say Charles Lindbergh himself begged his friend not to go. Captain Carranza had ‘The Mexico-Excelsior’ returned to its hanger and he departed to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. For reason’s, known only to Captain Carranza, he interrupted his dinner and returned to his aircraft at Roosevelt Fields. During a break in the thunderstorms and believing the weather would improve, he departed on his ill-fated flight sometime after 7:00 PM. He set out along the New Jersey coast and then turned on a heading for Philadelphia. Most believe the answer for Captain Carranza’s sudden departure was contained in a telegraph reportedly found in the pocket of his flight jacket. The long lost message was reportedly from General Joaquin Amaro, who ordered Captain Carranza to leave immediately without excuse or pretext lest the quality of your manhood will be in doubt. Captain Carranza is believed to have received this telegram during his dinner and it was the precipitous of why he departed abruptly. There are some reports that personnel at Roosevelt Fields tried to physically stop Captain Carranza from departing but to no avail.
The next day, John Carr and his wife found the wing of his Ryan Brougham B-1 while out picking blueberries along the nearby Central Railroad of New Jersey. They searched the area and found the remains of the aircraft and Captain Carranza. It is believed he crashed sometime before 9:00 PM on July 12th.
The U.S. Army dispatched Officers from Camp Dix (known today as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst) to conduct the crash investigation. Based on their findings, they believed Captain Carranza was trying to find a place to land the aircraft when he crashed. The Army’s findings reported that the engine throttle was closed and the spark lever was in an advanced position indicating to them he was landing. Captain Carranza was found still gripping a flashlight in his hand.
President Calvin Coolidge offered the use of the Destroyer USS Florida to return Captain Carranza to Veracruz, Mexico. The Mexican government declined the offer and members of the nearby American Legion Post 11 of Mount Holly escorted Captain Carranza back to Mexico by train. Upon his return, Captain Carranza was posthumously promoted to General. Still to this day, American Legion Post 11 keep General Carranza’s memory alive by holding a memorial service every year on the site where he was lost. Despite its remote location, the memorial remains a popular site for visitors.