The Bombing of Naco

Sep 11th, 2007 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News
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Strange picture, isn't it? I found it in the files of the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum Library. This bombed-out car marks the first aerial bombing on U.S. soil by a foreign power – 72 years before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. April 1929 – The Americans were watching the Cristero Rebellion across the border in Naco, Sonora, with a jaundiced eye. Because of the revolution, the Americans had built the first border wall in 1919 along Naco, in what's now called Camp Newell*. Five thousand soldiers of the National Guard were put in place to keep the revolution from spilling over. Some things never change. Drinking steadily in Bisbee's Brewery Gulch, pilot Patrick Murphy decided he was going to help the Cristeros by bombing the Mexican Federal Army in Naco, Sonora. He kept a plane in Cananea, the Mexican government kept their own planes on the U.S. side. I've never been able to determine if it was the liquor that did it; but instead of bombing the Mexican troops, Mr. Murphy bombed Naco, Ariz., marking the first aerial bombing the U.S. had ever suffered. The suitcase bombs, packed with three-inch pipes stuffed with dynamite and nails, didn't damage much but did scare hell out of Naco residents. An American motion picture operator was injured; the windows of the Naco Pharmacy, the Phelps Dodge Store, and other businesses were shattered. All in all, a pretty good desmadre from one drunken, revolution-fueled Irishman. The mercenary did it again four days later, this time laying waste to the car in the above photograph (it belonged to a Mexican army general who'd parked it on the American side for safe-keeping). Old Mr. Murphy was finally shot down by the Mexicans but somehow never arrested. Even when the Americans finally nabbed him, they let him go and no charges were ever filed.


Why? Hell, I don't know. A lot of the same mysteries surround us today, six years after the Sept. 11 attacks. I've been watching the Osama bin Laden tapes lately. It's fascinating how the videos are being reported. The one fixation by the national media is how good the man's beard looks. It even came up during a Congressional hearing with top U.S. security officials. Republican Senator Norm Coleman wanted to know if the new look was a signal to al-Qaeda terror cells. But putting aside the man's fashion vanities for the moment, I'd like you to consider this: Osama bin Laden may have had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. Consider: Bin Laden has never been indicted for the Sept. 11 attacks. $25 million reward or no, when you look at the FBI's wanted posters, bin Laden is wanted for: Murder of U.S. nationals outside the United States; Conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals outside the United States; Attack on a federal facility resulting in death. Under the specific charges, bin Laden "is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed over 200 people. In addition, Bin Laden is a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world." I was a little surprised. The FBI and the Department of Justice have never taken a case against him before a grand jury. The only reason the FBI doesn't charge someone is because they don't have enough evidence to do so. For example, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán is wanted on multiple narco-trafficking charges in the U.S. The indictment against him is 20-plus pages long. Same goes for the Arellano-Felix brothers. And nothing against Osama. Did he do it? Been re-reading George Orwell's fantastic allegory, Animal Farm, lately. Orwell's great reading at 3 a.m. when dark thoughts keep you awake. "Snowball! He has been here! I can smell him distinctly!" and at the word "Snowball" all the dogs let out blood-curdling growls and showed their side teeth. The animals were thoroughly frightened. It seemed to them as though Snowball were some kind of invisible influence, pervading the air about them and menacing them with all kinds of dangers. Oddly relevant in my paranoid mind. Still, was it bin Laden who attacked us that day six years ago? Or was it someone more powerful? I don't pretend to understand the manipulations of power in this world. But I do understand federal investigations and right now, our federal investigators don't have enough evidence to say whether Osama bin Laden engineered the Sept. 11 terror attacks. If they did, there would be a massive indictment filed against him. And you can bet that indictment would be very, very public. But there isn't. And somehow, that idea is the scariest of all.

-- Michael Marizco

*Corrected; I had it as Camp Lowell. Thanks to Rebecca Orozco from Cochise College for the correction.

Leave a comment »


    Thanks for the Naco story. Nice to see. As far as Bin Laden goes this internet movie questions the accepted 9-11 scenerio.
    I don’t see how a story this fantastic could be kept quiet. If it was an inside job of that magnitude and they were able to keep it secret then I am scared to death.
    Enough paranoia for now.

  2. A slight correction–It was Camp Newell (officially Camp Naco) in Naco, AZ not Camp Lowell.

  3. Fixed, but I’ll leave this comment up. Thank you.
    While you’re visiting, enlighten us a little.
    Was Patrick Murphy a mercenary or did he just want to help the Cristeros?
    And, was he drunk? Or was the Naco, Ariz., bombing intentional?

  4. Sadly, some of these “revolutionaries” have, sometimes, the same judgment range of drunks.

    Take for instance, the recent disruptions on the reports regarding the Iraq surge. Those activists didn’t look much better than disruptive, drunken frat boys. What did they accomplish? To suggest that there are people who dislike this war or the way it’s being handle? Please, tell us something we don’t already now.

    So, to get back to your question, perhaps Mr. Murphy was drunken with the desire for revolution, which he just happened to mistake with explosive disruption.

  5. Actually I think it was only periferally associated with the Cristero rebellion. IThe Cristero movement pretty much died out or was smashed in response to the assassination of Alvaro Obregon, the president elect in the 1927 election by an alleged Cristero. But Obregon’s place was taken by an appointed “provisional president” Emiliano Portes Gil. The rebellion, often called the Topete Rebellion after General Bonifacio Topete, was actually led by General Jose Gonzalo Escobar, who felt the provisional presidency was illegal and wanted to be named president instead. Escobar was a very influential general and he had extensive support. It was a bloody fight which destroyed much of the economy of the country and killed more than 3000 people. It is also sometimes called the Bank and Railroad Rebellion because of the near mortal blow it dealt to those institutions. The Naco fight was basically a sideshow. Murphy was a mercenary hired by Escobar to attack the federal garrison in Naco. He failed miserably at the job. Escobar fled to exile in Canada but went back to Mexico where he died in 1969.

  6. I forgot to answer the question about being drunk–probably. Legend is that the bombs were assembled in suit cases, he had a Jenny BiPlane, his bombadier was the guy who hired him from Escobar’s troops. He had a cigar with which he would light the fuses, then toss them out as Murphy made his pass. Most landed on the wrong side of the border…

  7. Rebecca Orozco has no evidence that what she calls Camp Naco was in existence in 1919. There is no connection between that camp and the US Army.

  8. Sorry post should have said Camp Newell. Camp Newell was a CCC camp. Had nothing to do with the US Army.

  9. Actually I believe we have considerable evidence that the camp was built by the US Military. In addition to the oral histories of local residents including the Newells, and Fred Valenzuela, the CCC themselves said in their newspaper and in their records for the camp that it was constructed by the US military for the Black troops. We have the request before the County board of supervisors in 1919 by the Army Quartermaster to build the camp on that site, we have the newspaper reports from 1919 that say the materials have arrived and reporting on the plans to build the camp at that site as part of a nation wide “wall” and we have the contract to the architect by the Army in 1919 for the camp. We have arial photos by the US Army as part of an inventory of camps that show Camp Newell in 1924. WE have the tax records showing the camp when the military turned the land back to the Newell family. There is far more evidence of the military building and using the camp than there is evidence against it.

  10. What does Fort Huachuca say? They say we don’t know anything about this. Why would the army build something and not take credit for it. If the army built it,which has not been proved, it was a back door deal for someone. Myths die hard.

  11. Mr. Ferguson: Ms. Orozco has you “out documented”.

  12. Yes Mr Hudson she does. Her documentation is not conclusive. What we do know is that it was a CCC camp and that is reason enough to preserve it. I commend and thank Ms Orozco for her tireless efforts to preserve this wonderful piece of Americana.

  13. We continue to seek “conclusive” proof although what we have has been enough for the State Historic Perservation Office to grant a Heritage Fund Grant to start work on the camp’s preservation. Part of the money will be used to fund a research trip to the archives to seek documents. The historians at Ft Huachuca have accepted what we have and now support an army role at the camp. Most of the document relevant to that time period were removed when the fort went through decommssioning in the 1950s. They do not believe the lack of documentation is in any way indicative of the camp not being built by the military. Many of the records that were taken from Ft Huachuca were destroyed in a fire at the military archives in St Louis a few years back but we still believe there will be documents out ther and we hope to find them. The congressional record indicates that funding was made in that time period for a number of camps. Naco is on the list and the camp plans are described as calling for an adobe brick camp for Naco.

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