Mexican Punitive Expedition and World War I Diaries, 1916-1919

When Woodrow Wilson mobilized the Mexican Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa in 1916, Patton was determined to be a part of it even though his unit was not being sent. In a bold move, he reached out directly to General John J. Pershing who agreed to assign him as his aide. Patton’s diary chronicles the ill-fated expedition, which failed in its mission to capture Villa, but which in many respects served as a wargame exercise prior to the U.S. entry into World War I. It was a mechanized campaign, which employed motor transport and aerial surveillance with varying degrees of success. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Pershing tapped Patton to command the headquarters troop for the American Expeditionary Forces. Patton immediately started his next war diary. Fascinated by the French and British use of tanks to break the stalemate of trench warfare, Patton received permission to study their tactics and create an American light tank center and school. In September 1918, he commanded a tank brigade in the Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives, leading as always from the front.

Both Patton’s original, handwritten Mexican Punitive Expedition and World War I diaries, and their subsequently produced typed transcripts are available for transcription. The original diaries and typed transcripts differ in wording, yet both versions are important historical records. Transcribing the original diaries will make them accessible and searchable. There is a downloadable transcription aid in Related Links on the campaign home page with suggestions for coping with Patton’s difficult handwriting. Transcribing the typed transcripts will make them word searchable, including the handwritten corrections and additions that appear throughout the transcripts.