After Germany declared war on the United States (US) on December 11, 1941, the German Navy expanded the area patrolled by its submarines and increased their activity along the Canadian and US Atlantic Ocean coastline and in the Gulf of Mexico. In May 1942 a German submarine sank two Mexican oil tankers, the Potrero del Llano and the Faja de Oro, which were carrying crude oil to the US. After those two incidents, Mexico President Manuel Avila Camacho formally declared war on Germany, Italy, and Japan on May 22, 1942.
President Camacho, after meeting with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Monterrey, Mexico, in April 1943, formed the 201st Mexican Expeditionary Air Force Fighter Squadron which became part of the Allied war effort. It was thought that the historical and cultural connections between the Philippines and Mexico, with the sharing of the Spanish language, would make the unit valuable in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
The 201st Fighter Squadron (FS) was composed of pilots and ground crew. Over 300 men volunteered to be part of the unit. Training of the FS and equipping it for combat operations was accomplished under provisions in the US Lend-Lease Agreement of June 11, 1942.
The 201st FS arrived at Randolph Field, San Antonio, Texas, in July 1944 for their initial phase of training.
Pilots were sent for flight training to Foster Field in Victoria, Texas, Pocatello Army Air Field, Idaho, and Majors Field in Greenville, Texas. They were trained in various aircraft including the T-6 trainer, P-40 Warhawk, and the P-47 Thunderbolt. Training for the ground crew took place at a number of military installations across the US.
It was during training in the US that the 201st FS got the nickname “Aztec Eagles.”
The 201st FS graduated at Majors Field, Greenville, Texas, on February 20, 1945, and was presented with its battle flag. Colonel Antonio Cardenas Rodriguez was the unit commander. Captain First Class Radames Gaxiola Andrade served as squadron commander.
In March 1945 the 201st FS left San Francisco, California, by ship and arrived in Manila, Philippines, on April 30, 1945. The unit was assigned to the US 5th Army Air Force, 58th Fighter Group, based at Porac near the Clark Field complex on the island of Luzon. After initially flying borrowed P-47 Thunderbolts, the 201st received 25 P-47s painted with both the insignia of the US and Mexico.
The 201st FS fought in the Battle of Luzon with the bombing of Japanese targets in Luzon and Formosa and provided ground support for the US Army 25th Infantry Division. The unit flew an estimated 59 combat missions between June and August 1945.
The 201st Mexican Expeditionary Air Force Fighter Squadron returned to Mexico November 18, 1945. They were welcomed back with a parade in Constitution Square in Mexico City. During the parade, Mexico President Manuel Avila Camacho was presented with their battle flag.
Thank you to Dr. Mario Longoria for his invaluable assistance in providing information for this post. The photographs are from his Mexico’s 201st Fighter Squadron Collection and are used with his permission.