The History of the Mexican Pilots
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201st Squadron: The Aztec Eagles: The History of the Mexican Pilots Who Fought in World War II

Published Date: May 28, 2020

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In April of 1945, just before the end of the Second World War, Mexico sent an air contingent to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Allied Forces: the 201st Fighter Squadron. The six-year war that had wrought so much havoc would be over in just three months: the group of Mexican pilots flew through the last, rapidly-closing gap in order to finish on the side of the victors. The thirty pilots who made up the air squadron did not fight Nazi Germany or Italian fascism, but Japanese imperialism in Luzon and Formosa.

The mission dripped with symbolism: during colonial times, the Philippines had been administrated from New Spain (modern-day Mexico), and there were multiple cultural and social links between the two peoples. The best of the Mexican Air Force arrived in the Far East to form part of the end of the biggest naval battle in history, under the command of the legendary General Douglas MacArthur. The great adventure of the 201st Squadron was a hastily-added footnote; a small Mexican coda on a worldwide conflagration that was already coming to an end. Back home, the exploits of the thirty pilots in charge of those Republic P-47 Thunderbolts had society in a state of excitement, and the faraway location lent any news of them a heroic, legendary air.

Upon their return from the front, they were greeted triumphantly in Mexico City. But once the frenzy had passed, the young pilots were forgotten. Their triumph lay not in the bombs they dropped on Luzon and Formosa, nor in the homages paid to them at home, nor in the kisses planted on them by young Filipina women, immortalized in iconic black-and-white photographs. Their greatest achievement was somewhat less ostentatious, but more enduring: the 201st Squadron enabled Mexico to join the ranks of nations who lost sons on the battlefield. The sacrifice of those who fought against the Japanese empire earned Mexico the respect of conquering powers and bought the country a one-way ticket to modernity, a voice in global post-war negotiations and, above all, an improvement to its hitherto hostile relationship with the US.

This is the story, told for the first time, of the 201st Squadron, and the thirty pilots who won their place to fight in the skies and contribute, albeit modestly, to the fall of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. Using unedited sources, declassified reports, old military files, and the testimonies of pilots and other contemporary witnesses, this book revives important characters, the missions, heroic facts, and tragedies, and analyzes the legacy of the 201st Squadron like never before.


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