We stood in the rain. It was wet. It was cloudy. It drizzled. And of course it was humid. The only thing missing were the thunderclaps and lighting. Emilio Carranza would have made his final landing on a day like today’s 84th anniversary of his 1928 unintended and fateful visit to the Wharton Forest. Over a forty year period I have attended many of the Captain Emilio Carranza memorial services. The sun has always shown brightly, the sky was a deep summer blue and white “puffy” clouds floated overhead.
Not even the Civil Air Patrol flyover was possible. It was as if Emilio himself had said “enough is enough, you need to see what it was really like.” And we did. Several hundred of us ventured down Carranza Road to his monument. Cars parked amid Jersey bull pines which may have witnessed the aviator’s arrival. But the service went on without a hitch.
American Legion Mount Holly Post 11 organized the memorial service. It is an event they have been leading for many, many years. Speakers included representatives of the Mexican Embassy, American Legion, Civil Air Patrol and the Carranza family. In a very moving ceremony, over 25 organizations presented wreaths in honor of Captain Carranza. Our own Tabernacle Boy Scout Troop 439, Cub Scout Pack 439, Committeeman Joe Barton and yours truly represented our township. We joined the others as we each individually presented our wreaths to the American Legion honor guard.
Captain Carranza was known as the Mexican Lindbergh. As we heard it explained to us, he had just completed the third longest non-stop flight by any aviator up to that time. Only Charles Lindberg had flown further. The two fliers were good friends and worked to encourage good will between our respective nations. Carranza had come to New York and was awaiting a good weather report before his return to Mexico City.
But for some, yet clearly unexplained reason, he left in the worst possible weather conditions. He may have been ordered by his superiors to “leave immediately” or have his “manhood questioned.” Whatever the reason, he only made it to the area traveled by the “Blue Comet” (railroad buffs will understand that reference) and inhabited by box turtles and rattle snakes. His plane broke apart and was scattered amid those “bull pines.”
The American Legion will say their search party found his remains. It fact, part of their ceremony recreated their assertion. However local “pineys’ will tell you a blueberry picker made the discovery. And that once Emilio’s last remains were taken to Buzby’s Store in Chatsworth, the American Legion became involved. To some the factual history will be important, but for all of us we should recall why this flight was made and how two international aviators had world harmony in there hearts. It’s a lesson so few world leaders today have learned.