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Misdirected missiles • Damn interesting

A car wrecked in Naco, AZ
A car wrecked in Naco, AZ

In April 1929, the Cristero War raged in Naco, Arizona, just above the border in Mexico. The rebels in the conflict had hired pilots and rickety wooden and canvas biplanes to drop homemade bombs on their enemy, the Federales government. Throughout the day, people on the Arizona side of Naco huddled on boxcars, picnicking, and playing with children as they watched the spectacle of combat from a seemingly safe distance.

One of the pilots hired by the Mexican rebels was an American biplane named Patrick Murphy. The rebels paid Murphy to fly high above the battlefields with “suitcase bombs”

; attached to the sides of his torso. Due to a combination of high winds and stiff drinks, he occasionally got lost and flew over the border to the American side of the city. He opened his suitcase and let go of slapdash canisters full of dynamite, nails, nuts, bolts and bearings. Civilians dispersed as the explosions smashed windows, destroyed a car, lightly struck bystanders, and ruffled American military feathers.

Mexican Federales forces shot down Murphy’s plane over Mexico on April 7th, but he survived the rough landing and fled back to the safety of his home on US soil. He was arrested immediately. Due to temporal constraints, Murphy was released a few days later, without criminal charge, for his role in the first aerial bombardment of the continental United States by a foreign power.

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