top of page

Coming of War

The drums of war sounded for Oklahoma in the 1910s in Mexico before they did in Europe. By 1914, the Mexicans had spent years bloodying themselves in a vicious, betrayal-laden civil war. Much of the fighting occurred in Mexican states contiguous to the U.S. When charismatic Mexican politician and military commander Pancho Villa’s forces rampaged through several Texas and New Mexico border towns in early 1916, American troops, including Oklahomans, entered the conflict.

Colonel Roy V. Hoffman led Oklahoma National Guardsmen south to the Rio Grande from Fort Sill that summer. Along with Guardsmen from other states, they patrolled the border and chased Villa for eight months. Even though they failed either to catch him or halt his periodic border raids, they helped stifle his potency as a military force.

The Oklahomans returned home and mustered out in March 1917. Less than one month later, the United States entered World War I by declaring war on one of the fighting nations, Germany. The U.S. did so due to German submarine attacks on American merchant and commercial ships.

Many of these supposed non-military vessels were carrying armaments for use against the desperate Germans, against whose civilian population the British had erected a deadly, and illegal, starvation blockade. The federal government called the Oklahoma Guard back to active duty.