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Mystery doughboy could be Marion County soldier

Photo from 1916 may be of Guard member mustering for Mexico


by: OREGON NATIONAL GUARD - Oregon National Guard troops relax along the Mexican border in 1916 after being mobilized by President Wilson.The identity of the mystery soldier pictured in the March 18 Portland Tribune may have been solved.

It is unlikely he is related to Robert Short, the Florida military memorabilia collector who found the 1916 photograph. Although Short says it bears a striking resemblance to his grand nephew, it is probably Kenneth A. Aspinwall, an Oregon National Guard soldier who lived in Marion County.

But there could be a connection between Short and Aspinwall after all. Oregon military records suggest the photo was taken around the time that Aspinwall and his unit was deployed to patrol the Mexican border in response to a raid by revolutionary leader Pancho Villa into the new state of New Mexico.

by: COURTESY OF ROBERT SHORT - The mystery photograph may be of an Oregon National Guard soldier who mustered for skirmishes along the Mexican border in 1916 after being mobilized by President Wilson.Short says his father was among the U.S. soldiers who pursued Villa in Mexico under the command of Gen. John J. Pershing. The pursuit was called off in 1917 because of World War I before Villa could be captured or killed. Short does not know much else about his his father’s experiences in Mexico. He died when Short was just 6.

According to Oregon National Guard Historian Warren Aney, Aspinwall’s name appears on page 28 of the 1916 report “Third Oregon on the Mexican Border.” He is listed as a private in Company M, Third Regiment, of the Oregon National Guard from Salem. it includes numerous photographs of Oregon soldiers along the Mexican boarder, although none of them are identified as Aspinwall.

The deployment grew out of the Battle of Columbus, sometimes called the Burning of Columbus or the Columbus Raid. It happened early on the morning of March 9, 1916, when Villa sent members of his Division of the North into the small border town of Columbus, New Mexico, for supplies. The Villista calvary looted homes, burned the settlement, and seized horses and weapons. They were driven back across the border by armed residents and members of the U.S. 13th Calvary, which was stationed nearby.

The raid infuriated President Woodrow Wilson, who launched the Pancho Villa Expedition, led by by: OREGON NATIONAL GUARD - This machine gun crew didn't see action along the Mexican border in 1916, but may have in Europe during World War I the following year.Pershing, to capture or kill Villa.

As part of the federal response, National Guard units from around the country were mobilized to patrol the Mexican border. Altogether, Wilson activated around 110,000 National Guard soldiers in various states. Of that number, 1,404 were from Oregon, where they began assembling at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas County on June 19, 1916.

The Oregon soldiers headed for the southern California border on June 29, where they trained and patrolled for the rest of the summer. They returning in early September and mustered out of the camp on Sept. 25, having seen no combat.

Ride into Portland

by: OREGON NATIONAL GUARD - Oregon National Guard troops move their camp along the Mexican border in an pre-1916 truck with right-hand steering, a remnant of the horse-drawn wagon days.Camp Withycombe was originally established in 1909 as Camp Clackamas, an Oregon National Guard rifle range and training area. It was used for summer encampments and became the major site for marksmanship training and competitions.

An electric rail line provided direct connections with downtown Portland where the Multnomah County Armory was located. That was near where the Van Dyck Studio, a former photography studio on Southwest Washington Street in downtown Portland whose name appears on the photo.

“My best guess is that this is a studio shot of a soldier who could have been encamped at Camp Withycombe for the 1916 mobilization. It would have been relatively easy for him to get from this site to a downtown Portland studio via the electric line,” says Aney.

The National Guard traces its roots back before the Declaration of Independence, when groups of farmer, merchants, fishermen and others took up arms to defend their homesteads. These organized militias expanded throughout the 13 colonies and were later called up to fight in the revolution that led to the establishment of the United States. Militias continued to be formed as the country expanded westward.

In 1843, settlers in the Oregon Territory authorized a company of mounted riflemen who became the nucleus of the state’s first militia. It was established by the passage of the Summers Act in May 1887, named after its sponsor, state legislator Owen Summers. It’s dual mission was to support the United States and assist stateside in times of natural disasters or civil strife.