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Carranza Memorial
Wharton State Forest, Tabernacle, NJ
October 19, 2003

Note: This text orginally appeared in Good Food Zine, Issue 4

On a particular Saturday in July, hidden among the trees of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a few hundred people gather in a small clearing to honor a man all but forgotten by history. The attention is focused on a rather unimposing granite obelisk, paid for with the pocket money of hundreds of children, a memorial to a fallen hero. A dignitary from Mexico speaks, as well as representatives of the United States military and of Mount Holly Legion Post #11.

It was near this point on July 13, 1928 that Mexican aviator Captain Emilio Carranza in his plane the Mexico Excelsior crashed to his death, the victim of a lightning strike. Scarcely a month before, he had completed a historic goodwill flight from Mexico City to Washington D.C. in bad weather, making only one stop to refuel. He had no instruments aboard other than a compass, a map, and a flashlight. It was one of the longest flights made to date (only Carranza’s friend Charles Lindbergh had flown further, in his historic trip across the Atlantic), and the longest by a Mexican aviator. Carranza was hailed as a hero in both nations, and greatly honored, even meeting the President and reviewing the troops at West Point, the lowest ranked foreign officer ever to do so. He made plans to leave on July 3rd, hoping to arrive back in Mexico City on July 4th, the United States’ Independence Day. However, his flight was cancelled due to bad weather. He rescheduled for July 12, but was again grounded due to poor weather conditions. He returned to his hotel and was eating dinner when he received a telegram from the Mexican military. He immediately returned to his plane and took off, despite the pleas of those around him.

Pieces of his plane were found the next day by a child named John Carr and his mother while picking blueberries. Carranza’s body was discovered still clutching his flashlight by members of Mt Holly American Legion Post #11 later that day. Newspaper headlines across the world cried out the death of the young hero of the Mexican people. Meanwhile, his body was shipped back to his family. Two years later, the Carranza Memorial was erected on the spot that the young heroes body had been discovered, paid for with the donations of the children of Mexico.

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More information: Daniels, Michael. "Pinelands memorial honors pioneer pilot." Camden Courier-Post 14 March 2003: Online.

American Legion Post #11, Mt Holly, Emilio Carranza Page