The first Marine amphibious assault - Vera Cruz 1847
Every Marine knows the first lines to the Hymn: "From the Halls of Montezuma." The reference comes from the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. Marines have good reason to give this conflict a prime spot in their history, for it was in Mexico that they earned their first laurels. While their storming of Mexico City is more famous, it was at Vera Cruz in March 1847 that they first practiced their stock-in-trade: over the water amphibious assault and over-the-beach operations. While the numbers and scale pale in comparison to operations a century later, the Marines only matched its overall success one more time: Inchon in 1950, and in part on Baghdad in 2003.
Let's discuss this affair from the American and Mexican perspectives. The latter showed spectacular incompetence throughout the campaign, bordering on treasonable negligence. Their commanders, and Santa Anna in particular, made few attempts to stop the invaders - a mistake that they would not make again 15 years later against the French. They still celebrate that victory on May 5. What did they change?
By contrast, American leaders and units showed extraordinary initiative and daring. Winfield Scott exploited Mexican weaknesses on his way to Mexico City. Marines formed part of his army, where they stormed Chapultepec. A figure no less than the Duke of Wellington said that Scott was crazy, but later took it back when passed the torch to the new greatest general of the age. Was it luck or genius that allowed the smaller U.S. Army and attached Marines to march 250 miles into the heart of an enemy's country and capture its capital?
This operation would, I think, be an excellent candidate for a "battle study," whether at the Expeditionary Warfare School or elsewhere. Can you recommend any resources for those who might want to put together a presentation on the Vera Cruz landing?
Re: The first Marine amphibious assault - Vera Cruz 1847
The place to start is K. Jack Bauer's The Mexican War 1846-1848 (1973) - which is still the best text on the conflict. Other books by John S. D. Eisenhower (So Far From God) and Peter Guardino (The Dead March) may also help.
For a specific text on naval and amphibious operations, there's Bauer's Surfboats and Horse Marines (1969). Timothy Johnson's A Gallant Little Army covers Scott's campaign in detail. Scott's memoirs are not to be discounted. Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs are better.
That should get anyone started. I regret that I know little of Mexican sources.
Bruce mentioned Henderson's A Glorious Defeat as having "Suggestions for Further Reading" that give the Mexican perspective. Some titles mentioned are -- Mexico Views Manifest Destiny, 1821-1846: An Essay on the Origins of the Mexican War by Gene Brack; The View from Chapultepec: Mexican Writers on the Mexican American War ed. and trans. by Cecil Robinson; The Other Side: Notes for the History of the War Between Mexico and the United States by Ramon Alcaraz, tr. and ed. by Albert C. Ramsey.
Mexico During the War with the United States by Jose Fernando Ramirez (ed. by Scholes, trans. by Scheer) might also be of interest.
Santa Anna's autobiography, The Eagle, Chapter VIII, touches on a very personal perspective entitled "The United States Invades Mexico -- My Return and Final Campaign (1845-1848)."