Submitted by Dick Martin
The Aztec Eagles
Mexico was an ally of the United States. At the beginning of WWII, neutral Mexico began increasing oil exports to the United States, which the Axis powers viewed as a threat. On May 14, 1942, a German U-Boat torpedoed and sank the Mexican tanker Protrero del Llano, which was carrying oil to New York, with the loss of 13 crew members. Mexico asked the foreign ministries of Germany, Italy, and Japan for an explanation and compensation. Instead on May 21, a German submarine sank another Mexican merchant oil tanker, Faja de Oro, killing 10. The next day, Mexico declared war on the three Axis countries, breaking its tradition of diplomatic neutrality.
As part of the war effort, Mexico continued its increased exports to the US, began conducting military surveillance on the Pacific coast, and agreed that Mexican citizens who were residents of the United States could join the US Army. In addition in 1942, both countries signed the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, known as the Bracero Program, which brought Mexican agricultural workers to the United States to replace Americans who had left their farms and fields to enlist in the military.
Most famously, the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force Squadron 201, popularly known as the “Aztec Eagles,” was formed in spring of 1944. A contingent of 300 fighter pilots and support crews from the Mexican army’s aviation unit traveled to the US for a year of training and in May 1945, arrived in Manila, Philippines, for combat duty. The Aztec Eagles fought with the 58th Fighter Group of the US Army Air Forces on more than 90 combat missions to liberate Luzon from the Japanese. Five Mexican pilots were killed in the campaign, which marked the first and only time the Mexican air force had left the country for a war effort.
Provided by the Mexican Embassy to the United States and taken from the February 2019 issue of WWII magazine