1847 – Mexican–American War: Six teenage military cadets known as Niños Héroes die defending Chapultepec Castle in the Battle of Chapultepec. American troops under General Winfield Scott capture Mexico City in the Mexican–American War.
Juan de la Barrera was born in 1828 in Mexico City, the son of Ignacio Mario de la Barrera, an army general, and Juana Inzárruaga. He enlisted at the age of 12 and was admitted to the Academy on 18 November 1843. During the attack on Chapultepec he was a lieutenant in the military engineers (sappers) and died defending a gun battery at the entrance to the park. Aged 19, he was the oldest of the six, and was also part of the school faculty as a volunteer teacher in engineering.
Juan Escutia was born between 1828 and 1832 in Tepic, now the capital of the state of Nayarit. Records show he was admitted to the Academy as a cadet on 8 September 1847—five days before the fateful battle—but his other papers were lost during the assault. He is often portrayed as a second lieutenant in an artillery company. He is the cadet who supposedly wrapped himself up in the Mexican flag and jumped from the roof to keep it from falling into enemy hands. His body was found on the east flank of the hill, alongside that of Francisco Márquez.
Cadet Francisco Marquez
Francisco Márquez was born in 1834 in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Following the death of his father, his mother, Micaela Paniagua, remarried Francisco Ortiz, a cavalry captain. He applied to the Academy on 14 January 1847 and, at the time of the battle, belonged to the first company of cadets. A note included in his personnel record says his body was found on the east flank of the hill, alongside that of Juan Escutia. At 13 years old, he was the youngest of the six heroes.
Agustín Melgar was born between 1828 and 1832 in Chihuahua, Chihuahua. He was the son of Esteban Melgar, a lieutenant colonel in the army, and María de la Luz Sevilla, both of whom died while he was still young, leaving him the ward of his older sister. He applied to the Academy on 4 November 1846. A note in his personnel record explains that after finding himself alone, he tried to stop the enemy on the north side of the castle.
Miguel Miramón, at the age of 15, also defended Chapultepec Castle and was taken prisoner in the battle of 1847. However, he is never included as one of the Niños Héroes, as he went on to lead an insurrection against the government of Benito Juárez and was executed by firing squad in 1860.
Fernando Montes de Oca was born between 1828 and 1832 in Azcapotzalco, then a town just to the north of Mexico City and now one of the boroughs of the Federal District. His parents were José María Montes de Oca and Josefa Rodríguez. He had applied to the Academy on 24 January 1847, and was one of the cadets who remained in the castle. His personnel record reads: “Died for his country on 13 September 1847.”
Vicente Suárez was born in 1833 in Puebla, Puebla, the son of Miguel Suárez, a cavalry officer, and María de la Luz Ortega. He applied for admission to the Academy on 21 October 1845, and during his stay was an officer cadet.
1886 – Amelie Beese, German pilot and sculptor (d. 1925)
Amelie Hedwig Boutard-Beese (13 September 1886 – 22 December 1925), also known as Melli Beese, was an early German female aviator. She was born in Laubegast (de), on the outskirts of Dresden, Saxony.
In 1906 Beese decided to pursue a career as a sculptor; however, she had to leave her native Germany to study, as German art schools did not admit female students. She studied instead at Stockholm’s Royal Academy from 1906 until 1909. During this period, she learned to sail and developed an affinity for skiing. When she returned to Dresden in 1909 and she began studying mathematics, shipbuilding, and aeronautic engineering. It was during this period that she developed a desire to become a pilot.
Interest in aviation
In November 1910 she travelled to Johannisthal, the first airfield to open in Berlin. Here she encountered early aviators from a variety of nations, and began to search for an instructor. In December of that year, Robert Thelens agreed to help her, but shortly thereafter he quit after Beese crashed a plane sustaining multiple injuries including broken ribs, nose and leg bones. In 1911, regulations pertaining to the flight test were made more stringent, and Beese, an inexperienced flier, found it increasingly difficult to persuade more experienced aviators to teach her.
Nevertheless, in May of that year she found a new instructor named von Mossner, who allowed her to take complete control of an aeroplane for the first time. Beese, encouraged by this, sought to gain more flying time, and spoke with the director of Johannisthal to this end. The director, Major von Tschudi, anticipated a stir in publicity if he allowed a female aviator to participate in the upcoming flight display, and so at the end of July 1911 Beese was allowed to fly unaided. She encountered several setbacks, including sabotage of her aircraft by other participating aviators. However, she did participate in the flight display, becoming the first female pilot in Germany on 13 September 1911.
Marriage and World War I
1912 was an eventful year for Beese. Following her father’s death in January, Beese opened a flying school at Johannisthal airfield, with financial assistance from her mother. That same year she used her early training in architecture to design and patent a collapsible aircraft.
She worked with one of her early pupils from her flying school, Charles Boutard, on plans for a flying boat. Her relationship with Boutard became close, and the two married in 1913. After marrying Boutard, Beese became a French citizen, thus making her ineligible to work on German airfields during the war. She was eventually arrested with her husband and tried as “undesirable aliens”. Charles Boutard was interned and they moved to Wittstock for the duration of the war.
After the armistice between Germany and the allies was concluded, the Boutards filed suit on claims of compensation for goods confiscated upon Charles’ internment. The lawsuits continued for most of the rest of her life, although the value of the claimed compensation decreased with the hyper-inflation that Germany suffered during the Weimar period. Despite the troubles suffered due to the ongoing lawsuits and the economic troubles suffered throughout Germany, Melli planned to make a film documenting her flying. Some pieces were shot and still survive, and were included in a film made by Walter Jerven in 1940.
Death and legacy
As time passed, the marriage of Boutard and Beese began to deteriorate, and by 1925 they had separated and Beese was living alone in Schmargendorf. Also in 1925 Beese had an unfortunate accident, crashing the aeroplane she was flying when she reapplied for her pilot’s license. On 22 December of that year, she shot herself in her Berlin flat. She is buried in the cemetery at Berlin-Schmargendorf. There is a small memorial park named after her in Wilmersdorf, at the corner of Storckwinkel- and Schwarzbacherstraße. In 1992, Straße 19 in Treptow was renamed Melli-Beese-Straße. Also, there is an exhibition dedicated to her in the Heimatmuseum in Treptow, in the eastern suburbs of Berlin. Johannisthal airfield, where she began her career as an aviator has now largely disappeared beneath the changing landscape of Berlin, and beyond street names in the area such as Pilotenstraße and Segelfliegerstraße there is no trace of it.
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