Lieutenants (junior grade) Patrick N. L. Bellinger and Richard C. Saufley raced over to hydroaeroplane AH-3 and rose aloft in barely five minutes. The members of the naval aviation section assigned to the battleship USS Mississippi deployed to Vera Cruz, Mexico, answered their first call to action after receiving an urgent message at 0908 on 6 May 1914:
It is reported by natives that at a point known as Punta Gorda, consisting of one large stone building near the beach, about one mile north of Vera Cruz, a company of Mexican soldiers, about 100 men, is encamped. A report is requested. By order of Col. Waller McGill.
As the aviators headed northward along the coast toward Boca del Rio Antigua at an average altitude of 3,200 feet, they flew low over a group of Mexican Army stragglers, who opened fire with their rifles and hit the fragile plane. Bellinger immediately pulled up, and he and Saufley miraculously escaped unhurt. On returning to base, the men stepped out of AH-3 and grimly inspected the bullet holes in the wings-the first damage sustained by a U.S. aircraft from enemy fire.