|Part of the Mexican Revolution, Occupation of Veracruz|
The deck of SS Ypiranga around 1911.
President of the United States
World War I
The Ypiranga Incident occurred on April 21, 1914, at the port of Veracruz in Mexico. The SS Ypiranga was a German steamer that was commissioned to transport arms and munitions to the Mexican federal government under Victoriano Huerta. The United States had placed Mexico under an arms embargo to stifle the flow of weaponry to the war-torn state, then in the throes of civil war, forcing Huerta's government to look to Europe for armaments.
Ypiranga tried to enter the harbor at Veracruz to unload on the first day of the US occupation but was detained by US troops who were ordered by President of the United States Woodrow Wilson to enforce the arms embargo he had placed on Mexico. There was neither a declaration of war on Mexico by the United States nor a formal blockade on its ports, thus the detention of Ypiranga was not legal and she was released. She proceeded to a port where the US military was absent, Puerto México (modern-day Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz), and was able to offload her cargo to Huerta’s officials.
In February 1913, Victoriano Huerta launched a coup, known as the Ten Tragic Days, with the support of Félix Díaz, the nephew of deposed president Porfirio Díaz and American Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, to overthrow the government of Francisco I. Madero. Mexico had been engaged in civil war for almost two years up to this point and Huerta was unable to enact his plans for pacification. Instead, he had to continue fighting the rebels for a time and his resources were spread thinly.
Pres. William Howard Taft had concluded in 1912, based on the magnitude of the domestic violence, that no arms shipments were authorized to travel from the United States to Mexico by order of Congress. Huerta became dependent on European and Asian weapons for a short time until he created connections in the United States through his agents who coordinated arms sales to locations in Cuba that were then smuggled across the Gulf of Mexico.
Huerta began working closely with Leon Raast, the Russian vice-consul in Mexico City. Raast traveled to New York City to meet with the Huertista agent Abraham Ratner and Marquard and Company, Importers to purchase twenty machine guns to add to the stockpile already warehoused in the city. Raast then met with the president of Gans Steamship Line who would transport the contraband for him but could not legally consign the weapons to a port in Mexico, however, he would consign to a port in Odessa, Russia.
The manifest obtained by the United States Justice Department following the departure of the SS Brinkhorn lists the large amount of ordnance that was on board the ship. The cargo included: 10,000 cases of 30-caliber cartridges; 4,000 cases of 7-millimeter cartridges; 250 cases of 44-caliber cartridges; 250,000 carbine rifles; 1000 cases of 14/30 carbines; twenty rapid fire machine guns. The total value of the 15,770 cases is recorded at US$607,000.
Rasst shipped the arms to Odessa but did not appear there in time to clear it through customs. As a result, the Russian government seized the consignment. Rasst with the help of the Russian embassy in Washington was able to get the shipment released and sent to Hamburg. However, there Rasst could not pay for the freight charges resulting in the German government impounding the shipment. Money from the American financier and Huerta supporter John Wesley De Kay finally achieved a release. The arms now went to Havana with German-made Mauser rifles and cartridges added to it. The arms on Ypiranga required "three trains of ten cars each" to unload.
- Thomas Baecker, "The Arms of the Ypiranga: The German Side," The Americas, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jul., 1973), pp. 1-17 Published by: Academy of American Franciscan History
- Ypiranga and Bavaria Unloaded Cargoes at Puerto Mexico.; FIRST HAD 10,000 RIFLES - The New York Times, 28 May 1914
- Michael C. Meyer, "The Arms of the Ypiranga," The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 50, No. 3 (Aug., 1970), pp. 546 Published by: Duke University Press
- United States, Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1912 (Washington, D.C., 1919) 745
- Meyer, pp. 547
- Report of Scully, agent, Department of Justice, December 17, 1913, RDS 812.00/10284
- Heribert von Feilitzsch, In Plain Sight: Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908 to 1914, Henselstone Verlag LLC, Amissville, VA, 2012, p. 356