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A date to (almost) remember

3 June 2012

Michael Forbes (The Guadalajara Reporter) did remember, and much thanks for reminding everyone of something we missed.  The fortieth anniversary of Mexico’s entry into the “Guerra Contra Nazifascismo“:

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mexico cut diplomatic relations with Japan, Germany and Italy and authorized U.S. tankers to enter  Mexican waters to transport oil.

At the beginning of May 1942, Germany warned Mexico of the “dire consequences” if it continued to supply oil to the Americans.  Within the space of a week, German submarines torpedoed two Mexican vessels, the Potrero del Llano (May 13) and the Faja de Oro (May 20).

On May 28, President Manuel Avila Camacho declared war on Germany, Italy and Japan.

The Germans sunk four more ships in Mexican waters that year as the country moved, albeit slowly, on to a war footing.

President Manuel Avila Camacho (1940-1946) took Mexico into World War II after German submarines torpedoed two Mexican oil tankers in May 1942.

Civil defense measures were wracked up, military service was made obligatory and the properties and businesses of all Germans, Italians and Japanese in the country were put into public administration.

Rather than send ground troops into the European conflict, where there might be language problems, Avila Camacho decided to contribute an airborne squadron.

Most of Mexico’s contributions to the war were in the form of food, fiber, minerals, oil (especially oil), manufactured goods and the labor that allowed the United States to keep railroads, farms and factories functioning.

Mexican Escuadron 201 may have been flying U.S. planes and may have trained in the United States (mostly in Texas, but also in Pocatello Idaho and in California), and attached to a U.S. air unit (the 58th Fighter Group of the Fifth Air Force) but were not under U.S. command.  It would have been a tad difficult to convince the Mexican people that their soldiers (or airmen) would be serving under the command of the Army that had attacked them at least three times in the previous 100 years.   Douglas MacArthur was in overall command, but he was also Field Marshall MacArthur of the Philippines,  and Field Marshall MacArthur — not one to give praise lightly,  unless it was to U.S. General Douglas MacArthur — considered the Mexicans fine soldiers.

The Escuadron’s fliers and crewmen certainly went above and beyond the call of duty in not mentioning that MacArthur claimed he deserved a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in the Veracruz Occupation of 1914 for being attacked by the Mexican Army and shooing four soldiers.  That could never be verified (although MacArthur could show off the bullet holes in the seat of his pants).   What could be verified was that he was stealing railroad locomotives at the time.

Escuadron 201, did not actually win the war in the Pacific all by themselves, of course… but don’t tell that the the Mexican Air Force.   The 30 pilots and 270 ground crew member of the Escuadron 201 have since the war been feted as some of Mexico’s greatest modern heroes, and although they only lost five men in combat (and one in a training mission) , they have been highly honored, and honored with an appropriately heroic memorial in Chapultepec Park for their services in liberating Luzon.

Escuadron 201 at a mission briefing in the Philippines, 1944.

There is a good article on the Escuadron 201 and the war in the Philippines by Santiago A. Flores, here.



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