THE MEXICAN EXPEDITIONARY AIR FORCE IN WORLD
WAR II: THE ORGANIZATION, TRAINING, AND
OPERATIONS OF THE 201st SQUADRON
The Mexican Expeditionary Air Force is Mexico?s only military organization that saw
combat overseas in World War II. This organization and its operational unit?the 201st
Squadron?were part of the Allied forces that battled against the Axis in the South West
Pacific Area. However, there are few history works that mention the participation of this
unit. Hence, the history of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force is not well known.
The Mexican Expeditionary Air Force was part of the Allied forces in the South West
Pacific Area in World War II. Its operational unit?the 201st Squadron?was organized,
trained, and equipped with the P-47 aircraft. This is Mexico?s only unit that conducted
combat operations overseas. This web page analyzes the organization, training, and
operations of the 201st Fighter Squadron, as the basis for assessing its performance and
explain the significance of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force.
The main source of this research is Lieutenant Colonel Enrique Sandoval Castarrica?s
"Historia Oficial de la Fuerza A?a Expedicionaria Mexicana." Most of the support
for the unit?s history and operations data comes from original documents found in the
Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. It includes insights of
participants in the training conducted in the US and the operations of this unit in the
Philippines and Formosa.
"M?co, al adherirse a la causa de las Naciones Unidas, expres? la firme
resoluci?n de coadyuvar por todos los medios posibles a la victoria final
de las democracias, aceptando conscientemente las altas
responsabilidades que un pueblo libre debe asumir, cuando se ven en
peligro, junto con el prestigio de su soberan? los ideales que norman su
existencia y que son base de sus instituciones, honra de su pasado,
preocupaci?n intensa de su presente y garant?eficaz de su porvenir."
?President Manuel Avila Camacho
Mexico?s participation in the Second World War against the Axis powers is seldom
mentioned in history books. In the few works that acknowledge Mexico?s participation,
the support with raw materials and labor force to the Allied war effort receives
considerably more attention than the actual contribution in combat. This relationship
reflects the perceived overall contribution of the country to the Allied cause in World War
II, but unfortunately, adds to the lack of information about Mexico?s only unit
participating in combat overseas?the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force (MEAF).
The MEAF was part of the Allied forces in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) in
World War II. The organization of its operational unit?the 201st Fighter Squadron?
was mostly the result of coordination in the Joint Mexican-United States Defense
Commission (JMUSDC). The 201st Squadron, through Lend-Lease Agreement, trained
in the United States from August 1944 to March 1945 and was equipped to conduct.2
combat operations. The preparation of the MEAF culminated with its successful
employment in the SWPA from June to August 1945.
The participation of the MEAF in World War II, was not an ordinary
accomplishment; especially if we consider that this was the first occasion that Mexico?s
government sent forces to fight outside of the country?s territory. To understand the
significance of Mexico?s decision to send forces overseas, it is necessary to briefly review
the country?s history and the impact of the Second World War.
The Traditional Position of Mexico
A recurrent event in Mexico?s history is the country defending against acts of external
aggression. After Mexico?s independence in 1821, the country was invaded several times,
lost more than half its territory, and suffered foreign intervention repeatedly. Reparation
for war damages on foreign nationals? property was used on many occasions as
justification for military action against Mexico.
The last cases of military intervention happened during the Mexican Revolution.
From April to November 1914 US forces occupied Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico, to
deny European support to Victoriano Huerta. World War I started on August 1914. In
March 1916, US forces initiated the Punitive Expedition against Francisco Villa?the
outlaw who attacked Columbus, New Mexico. The people and government of Mexico
opposed both interventions, always recurring to law and international support.
The relations of Mexico and the US remained tense during most of World War I, until
the withdrawal of the US troops. The last formation of the retreating US forces reached
the border on February 5, 1917, the same day of the promulgation of the actual
Constitution of Mexico.
This is the legal foundation of the Mexican Armed Forces, and
signals the initial step in the professionalization of the Mexican military.
The single person that most contributed to both the US forces leaving Mexico and the
promulgation of the Constitution was Don Venustiano Carranza. The Mexican principles
of international politics, also known as Estrada Doctrine, are basically a continuation of
the posture adopted by Carranza, who solved an international conflict through law, not
force. The essence of this doctrine is Mexico?s freedom, sovereignty, independence, and
equality to all countries of the world before International Law.
Hence, the country?s history and international posture made appear the participation
of Mexican forces overseas almost impossible. The events brought by World War II
Mexico and the Second World War
World War II changed in many ways Mexico?s international relations. World War II
was a total war, and its economic aspects included the cooperation of countries distant
from the battlefields. The Allied nations, the US in particular, increased efforts to align on
its side the Latin American countries, reducing the influence of the Axis powers in the
continent. The US?s "Good Neighbor" policy and the inclination of Mexico to support the
cause of democracies, were probably the main reasons for greater cooperation among the
Mexico?s traditional opposition to imperialism contributed to the country?s
antagonism against totalitarian governments. Before the war, Mexico participated in the
economic blockade to Italy after the annexation of Ethiopia in 1935. Later, Mexico
maintained recognition to legitimate governments in exile after the military occupation of
their countries. Mexico also supported the Republicans in Spain. Those actions
manifested Mexico?s commitment to the cause of Democracies.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Mexico broke relations with the Axis
powers, adopted defensive measures, and increased cooperation with the US. Mexico and
the US continued negotiations and both countries reached political, economic, and military
agreements to ensure cooperation. One of these agreements was the creation of the Joint.
Mexican-United States Defense Commission (JMUSDC) for coordination of military
Support to Allied nations was not limited to greater cooperation with the US.
Mexico also resumed relations with Great Britain in October 1941. Both countries had
exchanged notes and suspended diplomatic relations after Mexico nationalized its oil
industry in March 1938. The Second World War helped to solve this conflict.
The enlargement of the theater of war after Pearl Harbor reached Mexico. German
U-boats expanded their area of operations after December 1941, to include the Atlantic
coast of the US and the Gulf of Mexico.
Two Mexican oil ships sank after submarine
attacks in May 1942. This caused Mexico?s declaration of war against the Axis Powers.
After Mexico entered the war, the country increased defensive measures and
cooperation with the US. The obligatory military service, civil defense, and the creation
of a Supreme Council of National Defense were some of the actions of Mexico.
The Mexican Army deployed in the Pacific Military Region to defend the Mexican territory
from Axis forces, while the US counterpart defended north of the border. This
cooperation, based on mutual respect, was a completely new relationship, in contrast to
the complicated and tense situation during World War I.
The participation of the Mexican military was not limited to territorial defense. The
Navy and the Air Force patrolled the coast of Mexico on antisubmarine missions.
The latter also participated in combat with a military force overseas. It was the Mexican
Expeditionary Air Force with the 201st Squadron; a small unit representing the Mexican
military. This was something new for Mexico, and it required the organization of a
Whereas to shift the weight of effort on the ground from one point to
another takes time, the flexibility inherent in Air Forces permits them
without change of base to be switched from one objective to another in the
theater of operations.
?Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery
Mexico?s declaration of war against the Axis powers demanded hostile action against
the adversary. Mexico wanted to participate, together with Allied forces, with a small but
significant military organization. An aerial unit offered the best option for the employment
of an effective Mexican force overseas.
Different considerations helped this decision.
Status of Mexican Aviation before World War II
Aviation in Mexico developed as a component of military forces during the Mexican
Revolution. The first military exercise in Mexico that included employment of an aircraft
took place in February 1911. The exercise consisted in the reconnaissance of an area near
Mexico city, to locate and bomb (with oranges) a hidden artillery battery.
became a part of the forces fighting the revolution, and probably the first aerial
engagement and air to surface attack occurred in Mexican territory.
The origins of the Mexican Air Force (MAF) go back to Carranza?s forces. The
Constitutionalist Army?s Aviation branch was created on February 5, 1915. The same.8
year, on November 15, the National Shops of Aeronautical Constructions and the National
School of Aviation were born. These organizations evolved, changing name and location
several times, and were the main source of technicians and pilots when Mexico entered the
The training of Mexican pilots was a responsibility of the Military Aviation School.
Many generations of pilots graduated from this school, which had moved recently to a
new Base built in 1941. When Mexico declared war on the Axis powers the requirements
for trained personnel increased significantly, and the school became insufficient. In 1944
the school had 18 instructors and over 500 students. The MAF had 425 officers (225
pilots) and 1,350 enlisted men.
The Mexican Army used different types of aircraft, for the training of pilots and for its
operational needs. Most of the equipment was obsolete when Mexico entered the war. In
July 31, 1942, in addition to a variety of biplanes and one Ryan STM-150, there were on
service a dozen Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher and North American AT-6 Texan, received
earlier that year.
Civilian aviation did not offer a great amount of additional means to
solve problems created by the war; so, a growth and modernization program started.
Mexico increased its military power significantly after the country entered the war.
The US Lend-Lease Law permitted agreements to obtain material and ammunitions. Air
power increased significantly in comparison to the status prior to the war. In 1944
Mexico?s military aviation included 70 AT-6, 24 AT-11, and 30 A-24B dive bombers.
The Aviation Department received the official name Mexican Air Force on February 10,
1944. The following month, the President of Mexico made known that if Mexican forces.9
were to participate in combat, it would be the MAF personnel who would be representing
the country?s military.
Probably different reasons contributed to the decision of sending Aviation personnel
to war. They could have been among others: the language knowledge, previous
experience, and the nature of training. Most pilots and maintenance personnel had some
knowledge of the English language; this reduced the problem of communication with
Allied forces. Also, some pilots had already received flight training in the US Army Air
Corps and Navy.
Finally, a relatively high amount of training would be of technical
nature, benefiting the modernization effort of the Mexican military. The implementation
of this decision required thorough coordination.
The Joint Mexican-United States Defense Commission
The Joint Mexican-United States Defense Commission (JMUSDC) was the primary
mechanism for coordination of the US and Mexican military. It was constituted on
February 1942, to coordinate actions related to the common defense of both countries.
Most of the initial coordination took place in Washington, DC, and the head of the
Mexican part was Mexico?s Military Attach?Brigadier General Luis Alamillo Flores. The
agenda of the JMUSDC included a program to coordinate activities of the Mexican Pacific
Military Region and the US Western Defense Command and Western Sea Frontier
It also contemplated advance training in US schools.
The JMUSDC also handled the military part of Lend-Lease to Mexico. According to
one author the Mexican Army received equipment, including tanks and airplanes, for
about $18,000,000 to pay at a discount price. By 1949 Mexico had paid the $6,000,000.10
price set on the equipment.
The Lend-Lease agreement covered the cost of the program
related to the training and equipment of the MEAF, whose organization was discussed in
The organization of an aerial unit to be employed in combat overseas, representing
the Mexican military, offered many advantages for both countries. Operational and
tactical considerations favored such an organization. An aerial unit would be able to
concentrate the military power of a small unit against different objectives in the Theater of
Operations, in contrast with the requirement for a larger ground force deployed in the
front. Strategic considerations also supported this type of organization. An aerial unit
could better seek combat with a retreating adversary force, which was the overall war
situation since 1942.
Many other aspects indicated that the best option for a military force overseas was an
Air Force unit. One important consideration was that there would be a lower number of
people participating in training in the US and in the operations overseas. This reduced the
chances of incidents that could affect the program, and contributed to reduce the expected
amount of casualties, which combat experience showed were higher for ground forces. In
addition, there was the experience in the US of the organization and training of a Brazilian
aerial unit that fought in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
The coordination resulted in the organization of a Mexican Squadron, which later
became the operational unit of the MEAF. As a result of this coordination, on July 1944
Mexico organized a group to receive advanced training in the US. The group developed
around the MAF?s existing 201st Air Squadron, augmented with personnel selected from
different Army and Air Force organizations.
Organization and proficiency were key considerations during the organization of the
Squadron. The unit?s organization was to be the same as a P-47 squadron in the United
States Army Air Forces, in accordance to the corresponding Tables of Organization. The
required Standards of Proficiency were identical to those of the same type of unit in the
These considerations guided the planning of the training and the requirements of
the trainees for the ground and flight echelons.
Coordination in the JMUSDC allowed agreement on a training plan for the Fighter
Squadron, presented on July 10, 1944.
The plan considered approximately 42 officers
and 249 enlisted men, most of them fluent in English if possible, to arrive to Randolph
Field, TX, not later than July 25, 1944. Training included three broad areas:
1. Individual training. During five weeks on different bases, starting August 1, 1944.
2. Unit training. For two months on Pocatello Air Base, Idaho, from September 10 to
November 10, 1944. In P-47 aircraft, under supervision of Commanding General
2nd Air Force, and according to Standard 10-1-1.
3. Replacement training. If necessary, to start four months prior to the date required.
After January 1945, when the governments of Mexico and the US reached an
agreement regarding the participation of the Mexican Squadron overseas, the JMUSDC
also coordinated details for the employment of the force. The agreement established the
participation of the Mexican Squadron, accompanied by a senior officer and a small staff
group. The Squadron and adjutant personnel were to be handled as an integral part of the
US Army, with exceptions in the Command, Administration, Expenses, and Equipment
The Command and Control coordination are particularly important due to the terms
of the Agreement. The Commander of the Squadron had been a Mexican Colonel, and it
did not represent any problem during training. However, the Mexican Congress approval.12
for the participation of a force overseas and the terms of the agreement with the US
government for such participation, required changes.
The regular Command line for a US P-47 Squadron, normally commanded by a Major
or Captain, was a Fighter Group headed usually by a Colonel or Lieutenant Colonel. The
rank of the Commander of the 201st Squadron was higher than usual, a normal
designation for independent forces, but unnecessary for the agreed structure. Since the
Squadron would be operating under tactical tasking from a US Fighter Group, it was
necessary to appoint a new Commander. A Mexican officer, qualified to command in
accordance with the standards applied for selection of a commander for a Fighter
Squadron in the US Army, was to be in command of the Squadron. As a result, Captain
Radam?Gaxiola Andrade was appointed for this position after the creation of the
The Mexican government, given the importance that this force represented for
Mexico and in accordance to the nature of its mission, created the MEAF. This
organization was the Squadron?s superior unit overseas, except in tactical tasking. The
commander of the MEAF was the senior Mexican officer accompanying the Squadron,
and he represented the Mexican Army in matters pertaining the Squadron. The Mexican
government appointed for this position to Col Antonio C?enas Rodr?ez, the previous
Commander of the 201st Squadron. His responsibility included to further the
administrative efficiency of the MEAF, and foster good relations with other United
Nations troops. He disposed of a small staff group to assist the training and operations of
the 201st Squadron..13
Col C?enas received instructions from Mexico?s Secretary of Defense on March
1945, regarding the MEAF mission performance overseas.
They contemplated a variety
of details, including organization, command, legal and disciplinary aspects, administration,
logistics, payment, and communications. These instructions established the organization
of the MEAF, which included:
1. Command and Staff.
2. 201st Fighter Squadron.
The JMUSDC also coordinated the MEAF deployment to the SWPA. The Mexican
Government preferred to participate in the liberation of the Philippines, due to the
historical and cultural connections among both nations. This decision proved beneficial
beyond the combat aspect, since the MEAF personnel also became a "valuable social
contact with the Spanish speaking Filipinos."
Training and Equipment
Train as you intend to fight, and fight as you trained.
?Principle of training
The training of the MEAF took place in the US and overseas. Activities in the US
involved Individual and Unit training. The purpose was to create a force able to operate
independently, integrated with the US forces. Adaptation to the US system and
procedures was a requirement to permit integration on the battlefield. Training continued
after deployment in the Theater of Operations. There were many obstacles in the training,
but important lessons were learned.
The Training in the United States
The Mexican group of approximately 300 men entered the US on Laredo, TX, on
July 25, 1944. They would become part of the first Mexican military organization to leave
the country with a war mission. They arrived to Randolph, TX for initial processing.
personnel took a medical exam, and the pilots also took a flight examination.
Individual training started as early as August 1, 1944. The Squadron divided
according to specialties and went to different training centers. The largest groups went to
Pocatello, Idaho and the Republic Aviation Corporation in Farmingdale, Long Island,.16
N.Y. Others went to Boca Rat?n, Florida., and Scot Field, IL. Training for the ground
echelon consisted basically of instruction in English, basic military subjects, and on the job
training in different specialties.
Instructors and trainees worked hard to accomplish the
mission. "In the opinion of their instructors, the Mexican maintenance men were
demonstrating a commendable seriousness of purpose, initiative, and comprehension."
The pilots commenced a refresher training in Foster Field, TX that terminated in
October 1944. Twenty seven pilots were needed to fill the Tables of Organization, and
the original training plan included eleven replacements. They flew transition, formation,
instruments, navigation, night flying, and strafing missions in the AT-6 and P-40 aircraft.
Two pilots were considered not apt for the training and returned to Mexico in August
1944, together with six enlisted men eliminated in the medical exam.
After individual training finished, the Squadron concentrated in Pocatello, Idaho for
unit training. The purpose of unit training was to create a force able to operate
independently. On October 20, 1944, the only absences were the Intelligence Officer and
six radar men.
The Second Air Force, to assist in the unit?s training, organized Section "I" in
Pocatello, Idaho, in August 1944. This organization, commanded by Captain Paul B.
Miller, included instructors and interpreters selected for their technical knowledge and
ability to speak Spanish.
Lieutenant Colonel Arthur W. Kellond replaced Captain Miller
in February 1945, and Section "I" changed to Squadron; it was disbanded in March 1945.
Ten members of this unit, including Lt. Col Kellond, remained on temporary duty with the
201st Squadron, and accompanied the MEAF overseas.
Flying training in the new aircraft started on 22 October 1944 with good results,
attributed to the pilots flying experience. They "proved to be well above average as a
The pilots flew a minimum of three sorties in the Vultee BT-13 aircraft, before
flying the P-47. The complete training program was the standard for US pilots, and it
included 120 flight hours, in five phases. Appendix B provides more information about
the Flying training program.
The pilots soon demonstrated their flying ability, and during the first week, all except
one had been "checked out" in the P-47. The Commander of Section "I" proclaimed the
Mexican pilots "considerably above average" in judgment, technique, take-off, landings,
and in general performance. He also reported on 16 December 1944 that "their formation
flying ranged from excellent to superior."
Inclement weather on the winter of 1944 prevented flying activities in Pocatello. The
MEAF wanted to be ready to participate in combat, and when weather permitted the 201st
Squadron aircraft were the first to be ready to flight. To solve this problem and continue
training, the MEAF relocated to Majors Field, TX on November 30, 1944.
Senate authorized the President to send Mexican troops overseas on December 29, 1944.
On February 2, 1945, the pilots were ready to start gunnery training, the final phase
of the 201st Squadron training program. The unit moved to Brownsville Army Air Field,
TX for this training; but unfortunately, weather continued to be a delaying factor. The
higher score for air to air impacts was almost 25 %, and the best results for air to ground
strafing were over 30 %.
The unit completed gunnery training, and returned to Majors
Field, TX on March 14, 1945.
The training of replacement pilots and ground personnel started on February 1945.
On March sixteen pilots were flying the refresher course. Ten were almost ready to fly the
P-47, and six were about a month behind. Considering the attrition rate, at least nine
replacement pilots would be ready on July 28, 1945, and five more a month later. The
replacement training plan considered forty-eight more pilots for refresher and P-47
The training, initially conducted at Foster Field, TX, was changed to Napier
Field, Alabama, near Maxwell Field. Maxwell was the home of the Air Corps Tactical
School, the US center for development of air power tactics and strategy.
After finishing the unit training, the MEAF, which received the Mexican Flag on
February 22, 1945, was ready to go overseas.
The pilots went to Topeka, Kansas, for
final processing by the 21st Bombardment Wing, and the ground personnel left Majors.19
Field by train on 18 March. The MEAF departed San Francisco, California, onboard the
Fairislile on March 27, and arrive to Manila Bay on April 30, 1945.
The Training in the Theater of Operations.
The MEAF debarked in the Philippines on May 1, 1945. General George C. Kenney,
the Commander of the US Army and Allied Air Forces in the SWPA, wrote about this
event in his memoirs:
That afternoon Colonel Cardenas, the commander of the Mexican
Expeditionary Force, landed at Manila with the 201st Mexican Fighter
Squadron. After a reception at the pier I took Cardenas over to see
General MacArthur, and after the official exchange of greetings, the
Mexicans were officially assigned to my command. They then proceeded
to Clark Field, where I turned them over to Brigadier General Freddy
Smith with instructions to outfit them with P-47s and give them a course of
advanced combat training before putting them into action. Both officers
and enlisted men were a fine-looking lot and seem anxious to get to work
against the Japs as soon as possible.
Colonel C?enas with the MEAF personnel established at Fort Stotsenburg in Clark
Field, located about 40 NM Northwest of Manila. Some MEAF elements were assigned
to the Fifth Fighter Command as Liaison officers. The 201st Squadron established in
Porac, in the Clark Field?s area, and was attached to the 58th Fighter Group, Fifth Fighter
Command, Fifth Air Force, US Far East Air Forces.
The unit remained in this situation
until its attachment to the 360th Air Service Group (CR&TC) on 11 August 1945; it was
assigned to 13th Air Force along with 360th Air Service Group on 1 September 1945.
Advanced combat training in theater was a normal procedure for newly arrived
replacements, and it involved ground and flight training. The training program for the
201st Squadron established ground training from 7 to 12 May 1945.
The initial two days
were lectures from V Fighter Command and Fifth Air Force personnel; the rest included.20
one day of practical demonstrations at the 51st Fighter Sector, and the Ground Pre-Combat
Training. The topics of the lectures were:
1. Overall picture on War Fronts
2. SWPA forces
3. Weather in SWPA
4. Fighter Sector orientation
5. Air Sea rescue
6. Escape and evasion
7. Zones of action
8. Friendly ground situation
9. Support Air Party
Flying training started until May 17, due to bad weather the previous days.
201st Squadron used P-47s on loan from the 58th Fighter Group units. Flight training
1. Familiarization and orientation
2. Fighter tactics and technics
3. Simulated combat missions
4. Combat missions
Advanced flight training finished on June 3, and the 201st Squadron was ready for
combat in the SWPA.
The pilots had started missions integrated to US formations,
increasing the number of Mexican pilots until the formation was completely from the 201st
Squadron. However, during most operations of the Mexican Squadron one liaison
American pilot was included. In addition, the Squadron flew some more training missions
in the SWPA, especially in the air to air arena..21
The Lend-Lease agreement permitted the Mexican Squadron to use airplanes,
equipment, instructors, and training facilities, in the US. It also contemplated the
equipment of the unit overseas, in the same manner that an American unit. Initially the
unit received in the Philippines used aircraft and other equipment on loan. The 201st
Squadron?s aircraft had US markings in addition to the Mexican marks, and they also have
a white band painted in the nose.
The 201st Squadron flew the P-47 aircraft, officially known as Thunderbolt, but
nicknamed "Jug" due to its bulky shape that resembled a milk jug. It was a big and heavy
airplane, weighting almost 7 tons, but powerful and fast. There were many series of this
aircraft, of which 15,682 were built.
Initially it was used as an air superiority fighter, a
role later taken by the P-51 Mustang, an aircraft with better endurance and range. The P-47
could carry up to two 1,000 lb. bombs, and with its eight 0.50" cal. machine guns, it
was an excellent aircraft for Close Air Support and air to ground missions in general,
specially at short range.
The unit started operations with fifteen P-47 D aircraft, and was able to maintain
around twelve operational aircraft at all times. Adequate training and integration in the
US logistical system contributed to these numbers, in spite of losses. Spare parts were
available and the 58th Fighter Group retained the P-47 aircraft, while other units changed
to the P-51. Access to higher level maintenance facilities, also contributed to the
Squadron operational status. However, there were some limitations..23
The Limiting Factors
Several factors affected the training. The time necessary for preparation and the
language barrier were critical. Weather in the US and in the SWPA was a factor that
caused delays and imposed restrictions. The equipment of the unit as a whole also
required a great amount of effort.
After the 201st Squadron program started, time for training was critical if the unit
was to be sent to combat. The original training plan contemplated that the Squadron
would be ready in November 1944; however, more realistic estimates indicated five
months of training. It took over seven months before the unit was ready to leave the US,
and the training was not completed as established in the program, due mainly to weather.
Weather played an important role in the delay of the MEAF training. The Squadron
suspended unit training in Pocatello, Idaho due to weather; it had to move, together with
the American classes training at Pocatello, to Majors Field, TX. Weather also affected
gunnery training at Brownsville Field, TX. Even in the SWPA flying training was delayed
because of weather.
Language was probably the biggest barrier for pilots and ground personnel, and
English classes were added to the training program. The instructors of Section "I" agreed
that "The chief difficulty in the training of Mexican personnel was the language difference.
This was a particular handicap in the on-the-job training program. Results were not
completely satisfactory when the Mexican mechanics were put to work with the base
mechanics." The interpreters of Section "I" at Pocatello and Majors Field were a great
help. "Some considered that training at Farmingdale (Republic Aviation Corp.) was not as.24
beneficial as training on the line, due to inability of interpreters to speak sufficient
The language difference also affected pilot training, and probably flight safety. One
fatal training accident in the US was probably due to communication problems. A pilot
died during a take-off accident, when after receiving clearance to use the runway
attempted to get airborne on a short taxiway. The tail wheel and the big engine on the P-47
difficulted forward visibility on the ground. One pilot was eliminated during unit
training for his limited knowledge of the English language; a problem that could not be
solved completely even with bilingual instructors.
The "check sheet" for the ground
training in the SWPA recommended: "Since only about 40% of the 201st Squadron
personnel are English speaking, the use of posters, photos, maps and other visual aids is
indicated. An interpreter will also be present to assist you in presenting your material."
Most pilots agree that the P-47 was not an easy plane to fly. Marvin Bledsoe, a P-47
fighter pilot, mentions in his book Thunderbolt that several inexperienced pilots were
killed in this aircraft, while others asked for transfers.
In addition to that, the very nature
of combat training increases risk. One pilot died on air to air gunnery training, when the
aircraft went out of control right after he made a firing pass on the target. It was never
known if something hit him, but that is a possible cause. Another pilot died in the SWPA
during combat training, attempting to recover a high speed stall after a dive bombing
Maintenance during training was excellent, but the war requirements imposed
sometimes to operate barely within safety margins. It is natural for a unit engaged in
combat to retain the best aircraft, and give away war weary equipment. This is one.25
possible explanation for some of the accidents in P-47s "loaned" to the 201st Squadron in
the SWPA. Three forced landings because of engine malfunctions happened from 21 to 24
May 1945. Flights stopped for a maintenance inspection, and some aircraft were replaced,
reducing the accident rate.
Sometimes it was necessary to use "alternate procedures" to
accomplished the mission, such as wood boxes or oil drums on top of dollies for loading
bombs. During take-off and landing training of Mexican pilots at Napier Field, Alabama, it
was necessary during the summer to water spray the old P-40 engines before take-off to
allow sufficient cooling.
These limitations highlight the operational performance of the
Que los miembros de la Fuerza A?a Expedicionaria Mexicana no
olviden nunca el ejemplo de nuestros h?es. Que, en las pruebas que les
reserva la guerra, sientan latir?al un?no con los suyos?los corazones
de todos los mexicanos. Y que la bandera que les env?vuelva con ellos,
desgarrada tal vez por las balas del enemigo, pero con gloria.
?President Manuel Avila Camacho
The MEAF and the 201st Squadron were a force representing in the battlefield to the
Mexican military; they represented them well. It was a small force that combated during a
relatively short period of time. "But considering that the 201st was new to combat their
record compares favorably with that of the veteran pilots of the 58th Group."
Squadron flew fifty-nine combat missions in Luzon and Formosa, and several ferry flights
in the SWPA.
There were inevitable losses; that was the price to pay for the honor of
The Concept of Operations
Tactical and Operational concepts in the SWPA are unique in many ways. General
MacArthur and General Kenney established a working relationship that enhanced the
capabilities of ground, air, and maritime components in an unprecedented form among.28
Allied forces. Their success in integrating air and land forces? operations is comparable to
the German?s "Blitzkrieg" operational concept.
The Allied Strategy to defeat Japan required the reduction of the defense perimeter,
expanded after the Japanese offensive in 1942. This strategy made unnecessary to
recapture all the terrain in Japanese hands. Isolation of forces and use of forward
operational bases were better in terms of cost and effectiveness. From these forward
bases it was possible to employ tactical air power, to negate Japan its lines of
communication. The War Zone Familiarization Manual for the SWPA presented this
strategy as follows:
The pattern has been generally like this: An Allied air blockade is first
spread out from our most advanced base. Japanese shipping is attacked
with persistence until the enemy strong-points within the blockade area are
sealed from their major feeder lines. Simultaneously our fighters seek out
enemy planes wherever they are, particularly over the latter?s bases and
destroy them. Importunate, well rehearsed bomber missions follow into
these bases and shoot for ships and airplanes. This continues until the
enemy?s capacity for air retaliation to a landing is minimized. Meanwhile
only one or two of the numerous enemy coastal bases within the blockade
area are selected for invasion. The Air Force is switched to ground support
and turns its full fury on the infantry?s target. Then comes the landing with
the ground troops aiming for the airstrips. Engineers and malarial control
units begin work immediately. Our Air Force moves forward and the
process is then ready for repetition to the next limit of our fighters? reach,
while by-passed bastions in the rear are kept impotent by isolation.
In World War II, it was already accepted that Air Superiority was the initial task of
air power. After it was achieved, some believed that strategic bombardment of "moral" or
material objectives followed; others thought that isolation of the battlefield and support to
ground forces was next. The characteristics of the SWPA favored the latter, that is,
tactical air power was necessary, either to contribute in the destruction of the Japanese
fielded forces to attain victory, or to permit forward bases for strategic air operations..29
The Allied Strategy required a great degree of cooperation at the operational level.
Not considering maritime forces, most of the time it was air power who supported ground
forces, but also ground forces helped air power providing and defending air bases closer to
the diffuse battle front in the Pacific islands. This was the concept that permitted tactical
development in air-ground operations, and allowed an early invasion of the Philippines in
Leyte Gulf, on October 20, 1944.
When the MEAF arrived to the Philippines, Japanese forces still occupied an
extensive part of Luzon and Mindanao. The Allied ground forces were in pursuit of the
Japanese troops, but they were still a formidable force that continued fighting until the
surrender of Japan.
Enemy air activity over Luzon was very limited, but there were some
isolated reports of hostile aircraft over Manila Bay in June.
This was the general situation
when the MEAF initiated combat missions on 4 June 1945.
The Luzon Operations
The 201st Squadron conducted 53 combat missions in Luzon, supporting Allied
ground forces, from 4 June to 4 July 1945. Many operations were pre-planned missions
to attack enemy concentrations or provide Close Air Support, but others were immediate
missions from air or ground alert. Forty-five missions were effective, with a high
percentage of bomb impacts in the target area. Many reports indicated good and excellent
Eight of these missions were not effective due to different reasons. The History
of the 58th Fighter Group mentions: "From the 7th to the 25th of June, the 201st flew 31
missions with the 58th Fighter Group. The results of the various missions ran the scale.30
from good to excellent, with the results of some missions not reported by SAP." Appendix
C contains mission information.
Coordination with ground forces was essential for this type of missions. The Support
Air Party (SAP) concept in use for Allied forces in the SWPA was a refined aspect of the
Air-Ground operations. It had evolved from experiences in previous operations, and all
the general components of a modern CAS system were present. The 201st Squadron
conducted many missions under SAP control, most of them with good results.
Weather was the most common cause for ineffective missions. Weather conditions in
the Philippines during summertime are unpredictable. In general, there is a direct
relationship observed between accuracy of impacts and weather conditions. However,
sometimes the 201st Squadron attained good results dropping bombs in close formation
due to bad weather. Occasionally, an alternate target was attacked due to weather
conditions around the main target.
Target identification was also a factor for ineffective missions. Forests in the
Philippines sometimes prevented target identification. Clearance was a requirement for
attack, and it would only be granted after identification of the target. The available and
unclassified mission reports of the V Fighter Command, 58th Fighter Group, and the 201st
Squadron, do not indicate cases of fratricide during the Mexican missions. However, Lt.
Col Sandoval Castarrica wrote that on one occasion the SAP and the L-5 pilot (Forward
Air Controller) designated the target with white smoke bombs and cleared the attack,
indicating satisfactory results with all bombs observed impacting the objective area; later
the V Fighter Command notified the attack affected American troops.
The next two.31
flying days, pilots from the 58th Fighter Group replaced the American liaison pilots, and
accompanied the Squadron?s flights.
To facilitate target identification, a liaison aircraft (L-5) or ground controllers directed
the attacking force. Lack of communication with these elements also added to non
effective missions. These personnel gave mission results, and when foliage or distance did
not interfere scoring most results were confirmed on target. When the Squadron aborted
a mission for any reason, the pilots dropped their bombs on safety areas, usually over the
Effective strafing required visual contact with the target. Not all missions involved
strafing, but when it happened, results were also good. Some mission results mention
secondary explosions and silenced machine gun nests. One daily report indicated: "The
Mexican P-47s bombed and strafed enemy concentrations and motor convoy north of
PAYAWAN on route # 4. All bombs were in the target area and two trucks were left
burning. Accurate M/G fire holed two A/C."
These reports testify the performance of the
201st Squadron in the SWPA.
The Formosa Operations
In the Philippines there was almost no enemy air activity. Japanese aviation had
concentrated in the defense of Japan, and only sporadic flights were seen over the
Philippines. There was some enemy air activity over Formosa (Taiwan), and the 201st
Squadron received the opportunity to go after it from 6 to 9 July 1945.
Four long range operations were launched over Formosa, to conduct Fighter Sweep
missions. On two missions the pilots saw unidentified aircraft, possibly adversary, but.32
they were too distant and it was not possible to engage in air combat. On one occasion
the enemy planes reversed direction, and both times they climbed into the clouds.
friendly flights were observed, and on one occasion a submarine was detected. Japanese
submarines conducted resupply missions to forces isolated on some islands.
These missions did not destroy enemy adversaries, but allowed training for long
range missions. After almost a month of training and aircraft ferry missions, the unit
received another mission?to bomb Karenko, Formosa. Eight aircraft launched on 8
August 1945 for a long range mission that almost exceeded the aircraft capabilities. The
pilots declared the mission non effective, but they did not have a second chance. The war
ended on 15 August 1945.
The last mission of the 201st Squadron was to escort a convoy enroute to Okinawa,
and it took place on 26 August 1945. The war was officially terminated, but there was the
possibility of Kamikaze aircraft launching from Formosa. This was the final mission
tasked to the 201st Squadron of the MEAF.
When the MEAF arrived to the Philippines there was almost no Japanese air
opposition, and the ground forces were retreating trying to reorganize. However, the
adversary was still capable of inflicting damage, and at least on three missions aircraft
were damaged from enemy fire. The P-47 was a rough airplane and no aircraft were lost
due to enemy action.
Five Mexican pilots died and several accidents happened in the SWPA during non
The first fatal accident overseas happened on June 1, 1945, apparently.33
for a high speed stall after a steep bombing dive. Another pilot died on June 5 when his P-47
crashed because of engine failure after take-off for a functional check flight. Apparently
he attempted to avoid a bivouac area. One more fatal accident happened on July 16
during a ferry flight, when the pilot attempted to ditch on the sea after the engine quit due
to lack of fuel, while trying to reach friendly territory flying wingman to an American
Another fatal accident occurred in similar conditions on July 19, 1945. A two-ship
flight encountered heavy weather and the leader was lost and never found. The final fatal
accident happened on July 21, 1945. In the weather, a pilot flew to the ground in
formation with his leader?an American officer.
These losses severely affected the
operational performance of the unit, and contributed together with other factors to prevent
the Squadron from relocating to Okinawa.
The short range of the P-47 also affected the operational performance. When the
Squadron flew missions to Formosa, the aircraft limitations imposed severe restrictions.
Loiter time in fighter sweep missions with no bombs onboard was about 20 minutes. With
the aircraft loaded with bombs, the missions were critical.
In the only mission to bomb
Formosa, two aircraft had to land in an alternate field due to fuel shortage.
Another factor that combined with the others to affect the operational performance
was the lack of replacements. They continued training in the US, and it would require
more time for them to arrive to the SWPA and be ready for combat.
In addition, some
losses were leaders and it would require additional training to replace them.
Assessment and Conclusions
Fue as?omo dejo de existir la FAEM, una fuerza de modestos efectivos
que, con un m?mo costo en sangre y en dinero, en poco tiempo
desarroll? una actividad visible en efectos materiales en el frente del
Pac?co, haciendo realidad la voz de M?co en defensa de las libertades
humanas al lado de las Naciones Unidas.
?Tte.Cor. de E.M. Enrique Sandoval Castarrica
To assess the significance of the MEAF and the 201st Squadron, it is necessary to
consider more than the simple participation in combat. Several aspects of the Mexican
military benefited from the participation of this small but significant military force. Hence,
the contributions of the MEAF can even be connected to emerging US-Mexico relations
after World War II.
The MEAF Contribution
The analysis of the operational data presented in this research paper, gives indications
of the overall performance of the MEAF in combat. The number of effective missions is
clearly greater than the ineffective ones, and the mission reports indicate accurate bombing
and strafing. When assessing the impact of the unit in the war, clearly it was not essential
for the Allied victory, but this was never the purpose of the Mexican force. It was only a
small unit representing the Mexican military, and it was immersed in a new combat arena.37
full of technical innovations, but it was fighting among friends and for a noble cause; this
In spite of the losses in lives and material, the overall cost of the MEAF was not
excessive. Perhaps the lack of combat experience and the conditions in the SWPA
contributed to a relatively high amount of casualties and accidents. Probably they could
have been avoided with better training, conducted without time constraints.
The MEAF program brought great political value. The people of Mexico united to
receive and honor the returning MEAF personnel. Enormous groups of Mexicans
gathered in US and Mexican cities to celebrate with the MEAF. They were part of the
forces of liberation that fought against the oppressor and attained victory. Mexico?s
participation in combat overseas brought international prestige and strengthened US-Mexico
Probably in the same way that the war contributed to better US-Mexico relations, the
MEAF also contributed to better relations between the military of both countries. The
MEAF program fully developed from start to finish, and it contributed to a greater degree
of cooperation among the US and Mexican military.
This cooperation contributed significantly to the modernization of the Mexican armed
forces. Some of the equipment acquired during World War II remained in the inventory
for many years. Some trainer aircraft were still flying almost forty years after the MAF
received them through the Lend-Lease agreement. The MAF also received some B-25
bombers after the war.
For a country with a reduced military budget, these were very
The training of pilots in the US was another positive result of this cooperation. Some
201st Squadron replacements continued training in twin engine aircraft after the war
finished. Many of them would later fly the transport and cargo aircraft of the MAF,
fulfilling an important role during peace time. Also, some MAF pilots went on to civilian
jobs in airline companies during the following years. This somewhat reduced capabilities
of the armed forces but contributed to the development of Mexico?s commercial aviation.
The pilots graduated from flight training centers in the US helped to improve the
Mexican training programs. Since 1943 the MAF pursued a reorganization of its training
The curricula, organization, and equipment of the Military Aviation School
benefited from the coordination through the JMUSDC.
The MEAF also contributed personnel to senior leadership positions in the MAF.
Colonel Antonio C?enas Rodr?ez and Captain Roberto Salido Beltr?the
Commander and A-3 of the MEAF?would later become Chiefs of the MAF. Also, some
201st Squadron and replacement pilots would reach the rank of General. No doubt their
combat experience benefited the MAF development. These are some of the contributions
of the MEAF.
The participation of the MEAF in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) in World
War II is an important aspect in the history of Mexico?s Armed Forces. The organization,
equipment, and operations of this force, successful in spite of many obstacles, offer
valuable lessons. The development and performance of this force are an example of trust,.39
coordination, commitment, and cooperation between international allies for a worthy
This research paper analyzed the organization, training, and operations of the 201st
Squadron, and explained some aspects of the operational performance and contributions
of the MEAF. The participation of this force in World War II was not an ordinary
accomplishment, especially if we consider that this was the first occasion that Mexico?s
government sent forces to fight outside of the country?s territory.
It is almost certain that Mexico?s participation in the Second World War against the
Axis powers will continue to be seldom mentioned in history books. Also, the support
with raw materials and labor force to the Allied war effort aspect will continue to receive
considerably more attention than the actual contribution in combat. A relationship that
reflects the perceived overall contribution of the country to the Allied cause in World War
II, but that not diminishes the action of Mexico?s only unit participating in combat
overseas?the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force (MEAF).
The MEAF ceased to exist on December 1, 1945. This is what Lt. Col Sandoval
Castarrica registered about the event in his Historia Oficial de la Fuerza A?a
That is how the MEAF ceased to exist, (it was) a modest force in numbers
that, with a minimum cost of blood and money, in a short time performed a
visible activity in material effects in the Pacific Front, turning into reality
the voice of Mexico in defense of the human liberties together with the