The 201st Fighter Squadron
Mexico Joins the Fight in World War II
SAN ANTONIO – In May 1942, Nazi submarines sank two Mexican oil tankers. This provocation prompted Mexican President Manuel Avila Camacho to pledge support to the Allied forces and enter the war against Germany and Japan. In meetings with United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, they determined the war effort could best be served with fighter pilots. The result: Recruitment and mustering of personnel for the 201st Fighter Squadron that became known as the "Aztec Eagles."
The story of this small unit of Mexican pilots, largely untold and overlooked in the history books, will be on display at the Institute of Texan Cultures, Aug. 3, 2013 – Jan. 12, 2014. "The 201st Fighter Squadron: Mexico Joins the Fight in WWII" is curated by UTSA Art Specialist Arturo Infante Almeida and developed by researcher and English Doctoral candidate Mario Longoria.
Lecture with researcher and doctoral candidate Mario Longoria
2-4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 10
Free Second Sunday!
"The exhibit features the courageous Mexican volunteers who trained and fought alongside American servicemen during World War II, and offers a rare glimpse at a moment in history that reflects the enduring tenacity of the generation that saved the world," the joint statement from Almeida and Longoria reads.
In July 1944, the 201st Fuerza Aerea Expedicionaria Mexicana (Mexican Expeditionary Air Force) arrived for training at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The unit trained on various aircraft including the P-40 Warhawk and P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes. The unit shipped to the Philippines in April 1945, assigned to the 58th fighter Group of the 5th United States Army Air Force.
The unit flew combat missions from Porac and Clark Air Fields on the island of Luzon. Major General Charles L. Mullins, Commander, 25th Infantry Division praised the 201st for the support they provided his troops. The unit sustained five casualties during their overseas service. In recognition of their service, members were awarded many decorations, including the Legion of Merit, the Air Medal, the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, and the Mexican government’s Far East Service Medal of Valor. The squadron has the distinction of being Mexico’s only veterans of a foreign war in the nation’s history.
"ITC is pleased to be partnering in the creation of this exhibit, highlighting the contributions of our Mexican allies in World War II," said Bryan Howard, director of exhibits at the museum. "The 201st trained in Texas for a period before joining our forces in the Pacific, but it’s a story few Americans have ever heard. One of the last members of the squadron passed away not long ago here in Texas, so in a way, the history of the 201st isn’t just one of U.S. and Mexican cooperation during the war, it’s now part of our collective Texan heritage too."
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.