join military



Mexican Expeditionary Air Force 201st Fighter Squadron

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. 1 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 showed differently. 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 two countries. 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 concerns. 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 capable unit. Organizational Development 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. 1 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. 2 Aviation 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 war. 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. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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 Command. 7 It also contemplated advance training in US schools. 8 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. 9 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 JMUSDC. 10 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. 11.11 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 US. 12 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. 13 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 and Supply. 14 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 MEAF. 15 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. 16 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. 17 3. Replacements. 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. 1 All 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. 2 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." 3 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. 4 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. 7 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 whole." 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." 10.18 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. 11 The Mexican 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 %. 12 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 training. 13 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. The 201st Squadron used P-47s on loan from the 58th Fighter Group units. Flight training included: 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 Equipment 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 Spanish." 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 pass. 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 MEAF. Operational Performance 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." 1 The 201st Squadron flew fifty-nine combat missions in Luzon and Formosa, and several ferry flights in the SWPA. 2 There were inevitable losses; that was the price to pay for the honor of Mexico. 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. 3 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 results. 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 sea. 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." 9 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. 10 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. 11 Some 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. Operational Factors 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 combat missions. 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 Officer. 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 was important. 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 relations. 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. 1 For a country with a reduced military budget, these were very important contributions..38 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 centers. 2 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. Conclusions 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 cause. 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 Expedicionaria Mexicana. 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 United Nations

Back to Unit Page

Other Links:

© 2017 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.