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Mexico's Involvement in World War II

Esquadron 201, also known as the Aztec Eagles, was a famed Mexican squadron that helped the American WWII effort.

Esquadron 201, also known as the Aztec Eagles, was a famed Mexican squadron that helped the American WWII effort.

Was Mexico an Allied Nation during WWII?

When people comment or read about the Allies in World War II, they generally referr to Britain, the US, Canada, Holland, Belgium, and possibly Russia. Mentioning Britain usually conjures images of the “Battle of Britain,” and the US is immediately associated with “Pearl Harbor." Very few will remember (if they ever knew!) that two Latin American countries had active armed forces during this worldwide conflagration: Mexico and Brazil, both of which joined the Allied forces during 1942. This article discusses Mexico's participation.

Why Mexico Joined the War Effort

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the immediate entry of the United States as an active belligerent in WWII produced multiple repercussions in the Western Hemisphere. Prior to that, it had been relatively free from the effects of the War.

As a result, a Conference of Foreign Ministers of countries in the Western Hemisphere convened and took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on January 15-18, 1942. The participants unanimously agreed to break off diplomatic relations with Germany, Italy, and Japan.

A participant of the Conference, Mexico broke off relations and proceeded to strengthen her bonds with the US, a complex issue—relations between these two North American countries had not always been felicitous.

The agreements of the Rio Conference also determined that preference be given to the Allies in regards to the commercialization of strategic raw materials. Some statistics state that Mexico contributed as much as 40% of these raw materials to US war industries.

German U-boats Attacked Mexican Tankers

Mexican tankers intensified their runs between Tampico, the home port for Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos), and various locations on the US east coast. These tankers normally traveled unescorted, as the Allied war effort at that time was concentrating on providing escorts for the North Atlantic convoys.

In what has been considered a misguided action on the part of German U-boats prowling in the area, two tankers flying under the flag of Mexico—then a neutral country—were attacked and sunk in May 1942.

SS Potrero del Llano was sailing from Tampico to New York with 6,132 tons of petroleum when she was sunk by U-564 on the 14th of May, while SS Faja de Oro was sailing in ballast from Pennsylvania back to Tampico when she was sighted and sunk by U-106 on the 21st of May.

These two events resulted in Mexico’s declaration of war on Germany, Italy, and Japan in the first days of June 1942, following Congressional approval.

Noteworthy Results of Mexico's Participation in WWII

  • Many Mexicans volunteered and joined the US armed forces, acquitting themselves well in different battlefields. These participants numbered in the thousands; some estimates go as high as 400,000.
  • Mexican troops fought valiantly in Europe and in the Pacific, and they have the medals to attest their valor. These medals include numerous Congressional Medals of Honor.
  • Many of these volunteers acquired US citizenship at the end of the war, although some of them did not stay in the US in spite of this gesture.
  • Counterintelligence information was freely shared by officials from the US and Mexico.
  • As a result, the spy rings that had been working from Mexico with the intent of sabotaging vital US installations were rounded up and put in prison.
  • There was more control over the ports that faced the Gulf of Mexico, thus liberating US support to concentrate on other geographical areas.
  • The US war effort was reinforced by the contribution of thousands of Mexican agricultural workers called braceros, thus freeing indispensable American men and women from these tasks.
  • Mexican braceros were fundamental in providing food for the general population of the US.
  • The most significant contribution was the arming and training of Flight Squadron 201.
Members of the Aztec Eagles group

Members of the Aztec Eagles group

Escuadron 201, Also Known as the Aztec Eagles

Some time would pass before this squadron could participate more actively, due to Mexico's initial lack of development in equipment and trained fighters.

After the initial preparation period, the squadron left Mexico for final training in the US in July 1944, with a total of 300 volunteers, 30 of which were pilots and the rest were ground crews. Their training included communications, armament, combat air tactics, formation flying, and gunnery.

The men graduated from training in February 1945 and embarked for the Philippines in March, arriving in Manila at the end of April. They were then attached to US 58th Fighter Group based at Luzon.

Combat Operations of the Aztec Eagles

The squadron flew over 90 combat missions, totaling more than 1,800 hours of flight time, principally over Luzon and Formosa (present-day Taiwan).

Their most important achievement was their participation in the last phases of the Battle of Luzon, providing air support to the US and Philippine Infantry. They also flew fighter missions and performed a dive-bombing attack over Formosa. The bombing occurred at the port of Karenko in August 1945.

The Aztec Eagles were later commended by General Douglas MacArthur.

The infantry advances under air cover provided by the Aztec Eagles. Baleta Pass, near Luzon

The infantry advances under air cover provided by the Aztec Eagles. Baleta Pass, near Luzon

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How Important Was Mexico's Contribution?

History writers have placed great value on the participation of Mexico and on both Mexican and Mexican-American contributions to the final Allied victory in WWII.

Without the participation of Mexico, the US would have had many more difficulties to deal with: more coastline to guard against the destruction of ships carrying Allied cargoes, less harvesting of food for American citizens, more difficulties obtaining necessary raw materials for wartime industries, and so on.

Who Were the Soldiers?

It is unfortunate that Mexico’s significant contributions to the WWII effort are often ignored. There are numerous stories of heroism from interviews of combat survivors to be found on the web. The following is just a sample:

  • Carlos Faustino, pilot from Esquadron 201, received commendation
  • Louie Dominguez, a Mexican-American who, at the age of 18, died fighting against German troops in the last weeks of the war. He posthumously received six medals, including the bronze star, the Purple Heart, and the combat infantry badge
  • Silvestre Herrera, European battlegrounds, recipient of the Medal of Honor
  • José Valdes, US Army, recipient of the Medal of Honor
  • Joe Martinez, US Army, recipient of the Medal of Honor
  • Alejandro Renteria, US Army, recipient of the Medal of Honor.
  • Agustin Ramos Calero, Sgt.1st class, fought in France after D-Day, awarded the Silver Star Medal

It is sad that this contribution is hardly ever recognized as such; in fact, it is mostly unknown to the public. As a Chilean national and fellow Latin American, I would hope that something could be done to remedy this omission.

© 2012 Joan Veronica Robertson


Montijo on June 05, 2019:

Thank you for writing this excellent article. I am a history fan with a fondness for WWII and 1940's history. I grew up in Southern California during the 1970s and I learned about the many roles that Mexicans and Mexican-Americans filled during the war. My grandfather was a mason-plasterer who worked for the US Navy and my father worked for the railroads. Many friends had parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who served in the US military. On the eve of the 75th anniversary of D-day let us remember the huge sacrifices made by all who served in the war,

al Reeves Oxnard, Ca. on April 15, 2018:

Hi I was given some bad information about the partisapation of Mexico and ww-2 support from Mexico . It could not have been any more wrong, shame on that person and what a great story. I am so proud as a American to have read the articile and will pass it on to my Latino friends that might have seen the articile so well presented on the web site. ( Mexicos involement in WW-2 ) Thank you so much, Sincerely al Reeves

Octavio B Aguilar on November 12, 2017:

Many Mexican Volunters to Fight along US

Army . brigades of Mexican Soldiers Acomplish Titanic tasks .

Besides Zcuadron 201 Aztec Eagles .

Phillip Barzune on November 09, 2017:

Perhaps I missed something that was stated, but was Mexico, the State, an active military combatant state, or were all Mexican nationals participating only as U.S. enlistments?

AVILA on November 08, 2017:

My dad came to the mid-west and worked on the railroad.

My uncle also came and joined the U.S. Army and fought

in France. Both became U.S. Citizens. Both started their

own business, married and had children. Both active in

the community and both always voted!

This is a wonderful article and it should be televised and taught in school across the country.

Granny on August 27, 2017:

What a wonderful, enlightening report, one that should be taught in all American History classes! Thank you.

Mark Stevens on July 28, 2017:

As a Canadian, the story is similar. Thousands of our troops died fighting in Europe and Hong Kong. Canada liberated Holland but most don't know that, except the Dutch and Canadians. Every D-day celebration the Canadians and Dutch celebrate this victory. Not to mention the rest of the 1 million Canadians enlisted and involved in the war effort at the time. Great article Joan.

Dora c.OlmosSauceda on July 08, 2017:

My uncles Jose,Celestino,and AugrelioOlmos trained in the US And fought in the worlds War 2 of 1942 to1945. And became U S Citizens after war ended in 1945

yesnia oseguera on February 27, 2017:

Great article.Thank you for the very needed and poor known information on that event. I didn't know about Mexico involvement in WWII till recently and with my researching I got this info.Fuerza Aerea Mexicana (FAM). The Aztecs Eagles consisted of 300 enlisted men and officers from all branches of the military, including 38 of the best pilots. Its pilots provided air support in the liberation of the Philippines and flew long-range sorties over Formosa. The Fifth Air Force’s 58th Fighter Group, to which General George Kenney had assigned the 201st squadron, the so-called Aztec Eagles, was a seasoned veteran of the New Guinea campaign, consisting of three squadrons. The 201st was attached as a fourth, though it would operate under Mexican command and administration and occupy its own area. The pilots flew an intensive schedule incorporating ground attack, air combat, advanced acrobatics, instrument flying and navigation, and formation and high-altitude flight. The Aztec Eagles started flying missions as a unit. Their initial targets were buildings, vehicles, artillery and enemy concentrations in the Marikina watershed east of Manila, where the U.S. 25th Infantry Division was encountering fierce resistance. Their missions changed from hitting visible targets to striking hard to see troops and fortified positions in close proximity to friendly forces. Its pilots provided air support in the liberation of the Philippines and flew long-range sorties over Formosa, where they encountered no challengers. The Aztec Eagles owned the air, the sweep was completed successfully, and all pilots managed to return safely except for Lieutenant Reynaldo Perez Gallardo. The squadron flew its final mission, escorting a U.S. Navy convoy bound for Okinawa

Terry olson on January 27, 2017:

Nice to know

Geri McClymont on March 25, 2016:

What an interesting article. Like many, I did not know Mexico was significantly involved in World War II. Your article was especially meaningful to me because many of my students have been Mexican.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 25, 2016:

Joan, congrats on HOTD! Thanks for sharing your knowledge about the Mexican involvement in the WWII, which is something I didn't know about. You're right about the Mexicans should be remedied and acknowledged in war and military history.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on May 11, 2014:

Hi again kenneth.avery I did read one Hub, and I went slightly crazy! I followed, left fan mail, shared all over, put it on G* . added it to a community on G+ and also to my page on G+ . included you in circles and followed through my page on G+ I am know quite exhausted! See you soon!

Kenneth Avery on May 11, 2014:

You are certainly welcome, joanveronia, they are truthful words. I hope that you will read only one hub and then become my follower.

Thanks so much.


Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on May 11, 2014:

Hey kenneth.avery so happy for you visit, comment and follow! I will definitely visit your profile page. See you!

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on May 10, 2014:


I loved this piece.

I voted you up and away for this story. It was informative, interesting, and very colorful.

I left you some fan mail, and now following you.

Now if you would, I cordially invite you to check out a hub or two of mine and then be one of my followers.

I would sincerely appreciate that so much.

Kenneth/ from northwest Alabama

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on March 24, 2013:

Hi Daisy! So happy for your visit, and your comment made my day. My purpose in writing about these topics is to tell as many readers as possible about them, especially as Mexico is a Spanish speaking country. Mexico's contribution is hardly ever mentioned anywhere! Thanks again and have a good day!

Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on March 24, 2013:


I enjoy reading articles in which I learn something new. I wasn't aware of Mexico's involvement in World War II. Thanks for publishing this Hub.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on January 21, 2013:

Hi Peggy, your visit and comment are much appreciated. I agree that the participation of the Latin American countries during WW2 is very little known elsewhere, and even among those same countries. I thought it was very important to set the record straight! The problem of the braceros is indeed a rather tragic one, from my perspective. Thanks for the votes and the share (and the follow!) Have a good day!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2013:

Hi Joan,

Thanks for enlightening many of us who were unaware of just how important Mexico's involvement was during World War II. This was a fascinating article and well done. My dad was a paratrooper during World War II and was in the European theater of war.

You touched on an interesting subject regarding the braceros who were welcomed and much needed during that time. The U.S. continues to need their manpower to harvest crops and at times it was handled better with worker permits and the like. The problem is when undocumented workers do the work and then end up staying as illegals. A perennial problem and a thorny issue.

Up, useful, interesting votes and will share with my followers.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on January 04, 2013:

Hi botipton, nice to have you visit my Hub! I'm so glad you found it interesting, it was fascinating to research and write! Thanks for the comment! Have a nice day!

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on January 04, 2013:

Hi jennifer, thank you for your visit and your comment! I'm glad you enjoyed this read! Have a good day!

Bo Tipton from Cecilia, KY on January 04, 2013:

I lived in and around Mexico for 50 years and knew they were involved in WWII but I learned a lot from reading your hub. Great Job and thank you for teaching more of the history of WWII

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 24, 2012:

Hi toknowinfo, your visit and comment are much appreciated! I'm so glad you liked this article and I agree that Mexico's participation is a surprise. Have you read my other articles about history? There are quite a number of them on my profile page. You might enjoy them too. Thanks again and have a good day!

toknowinfo on October 23, 2012:

I really enjoy reading about history and you taught me a lot. I really didn't even know much of Mexico's part in World War II. Thanks for all this info. Rated up, interesting, awesome, and useful.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 22, 2012:

Hi CS, your visit is greatly appreciated! I'm so glad you liked this hub, and yes, my intention was to provide a memorial to those probably long forgotten participants. Looking into the future, these memories should contribute to the concept of "Never More"!

Thanks again for the visit and the comment, and have a good day!

Shelley Watson on October 22, 2012:

Enjoyed your very interesting hub and bringing up once again the Mexican contribution to WW ll, is a wonderful memorial to those who fought. Up, interesting and beautiful.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 19, 2012:

Hi CP, many thanks for your visit and your comment, I'm glad you found it interesting, it is a rather a surprising topic! Have a good day!

Chris Price from USA on October 19, 2012:

Very interesting article on the activities of the Mexican forces in World War II. You are correct that most people ignore this activity.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 15, 2012:

Hi again shining... I will do my best to hurry them up! At the moment I've accepted an exclusive that looks good, but isn't on WW2. Still I have lots of material, maybe I can do both at the same time! Be happy!

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on October 15, 2012:

I will be waiting as I am a huge reader, investigator and delver of all things World War II. They truly are the Greatest Generation and I stand in awe of the many feats of bravery as well as overcoming such unbelievable odds.

I'll be waiting to read me.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 15, 2012:

Hi SIE, how wonderful of you to visit and comment so enthusiastically! I'm so glad you enjoyed this Hub, it was written from the heart as a fellow Latin American.

I still have some more WWII topics to structure into Hubs, so stick around! The only thing is, I'm slow! The research takes quite some time to organize, but I enjoy it! So thanks again and have a good day

Shining Irish Eyes from Upstate, New York on October 15, 2012:

Although I was vaguely familiar with Mexico's participation, I had no idea this much historic contribution was involved. Such a proud moment for Mexico and all involved.

I love all things about WWII and you provided my evening with much enjoyment and interest.

Voting this up and sharing.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 15, 2012:

Hi teaches, I found your comment very moving! Thank you so much for your visit and comment, and also for your ever present support, as a fellow teacher it means a lot to me. I hope to continue to write more articles in this vein! Thanks again and have a good day!

Dianna Mendez on October 15, 2012:

Joan, thank you for posting this information on how Mexico contributed to WWII efforts. I didn't realize it was so extensive. Your highlighting these efforts is noble and very educational for me. Voted way up!

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 15, 2012:

Hi Gypsy, so nice to have you visit! Your comment is much appreciated, I'm so glad you liked this article. This is encouraging I will continue my efforts to provide more interesting topics!

Thanks for the visit, the comment and the share, and have a nice day!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on October 15, 2012:

Voted up and interesting. Another fascinating and informative hub about history. Enjoyed much and the pics are incredible. Passing this on.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 15, 2012:

Hi ribertoo, your visit and comment are very motivating, I will try to keep up my efforts! About Mexico and Latin America en general, I find it sad that there are such a lot of unknown features, this is such an interesting continent or subcontinent, whatever!

Thanks again for the visit and the comment, and have a good day!

rlbert00 from USA on October 14, 2012:

Another eye-opening article about something of which I knew absolutely nothing about. Much in the same way you raised my awareness in regards to the Chilean experience during WWII, you have now elightened me in regards to the Mexican experience. Literally, the only Mexican involvement in either of the World Wars that I was aware of was the Zimmerman telegraph from WWI. Nicely done.

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 14, 2012:

Hi UH, nice to have you visit! As to your query, that is not so easy to answer, there were basically two situations: (a)individual Mexicans joined the US armed forces, mainly the Army, and fought under the US flag, side by side with Americans and (b) Squadron 201 flew under their own flag, with their own structure of commanding officers, but assigned to a group within the American structure of command. This was one of the conditions stated by the Mexican government. Squadron 201 was exclusively Mexican, with no mingling of personnel.

Whichever, it does make interesting reading, I enjoyed working it all out! Thanks for the visit and the comment, Have a good day? or night? Whatever!

David Hunt from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on October 14, 2012:

Another fine hub about which I know so little! Just out of curiosity, did the Mexicans fight under their own flag in their own army or in the US Army?

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 14, 2012:

Hi GClark! Nice of you to visit and comment, it is much appreciated!

I'm so glad you liked this article, I also found the topic interesting, especially as I am a British Chilean national. Unfortuantely, most history reviews seem to be slanted someway, I'm not a historian, but I like to tell stories, especially in cases like this one, where so much is forgotten or just never known. Thanks again for the visit and the comment, and have a good day!

GClark from United States on October 14, 2012:

Fascinating and very informative article. I have always loved history and have read a great deal especially about World War II, but have to say this is the first I have heard about Mexico's participation. It is amazing how much gets left out of our education. The Alamo seems to have been given a lot more print for some reason. Thanks for the extra information!

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 14, 2012:

Hi Pavlo, nice to hear from you, and thank you for your visit and the share!

I'm so glad you found this article interesting, so did I when I wrote it! Have a good day!

Pavlo Badovskyi from Kyiv, Ukraine on October 14, 2012:

As you noticed in your hub it needs more contribution. Your contribution to enlighten the truth of history is great! I did not know about it. Amazing facts!! shared

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 14, 2012:

Hi gmarqurdt, many thanks for your visit and comment! I certainly agree about understanding more about the ins and outs of WW2, especially if you consider that both Mexico and Brazil suffered attacks because they were giving preference to the Allies with their strategic raw materials. And after Pearl Harbor, these raw materials went especially towards the US war industries, a fact that many US nationals don't know about. I think the British had a clearer picture of this reality (just my personal view).

Anyway, thank you again and have a good day!

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 14, 2012:

Hi Jools, your visit, comment, vote, etc. are greatly appreciated! Especially as I have been feeling rather low recently!

It was great to have the opportunity to pay a tribute to a fellow Latin American nation. They do deserve it.

Thanks again and have agood day!

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 14, 2012:

Hi PS, many thanks for your visit and comment, I really aprreciate it! As you say, many people are not aware of Mexico's participation, and I find this sad. The internet has plenty of posts commenting on the lack of appreciation towards the minor Allies. They deserve recognition precisely because they were minor, and made such big efforts!

Thank you again for your encouraging words, and have a good day!

Joan Veronica Robertson (author) from Concepcion, Chile on October 14, 2012:

Hi Billy, I thought you would still be celebrating! Saw your beautiful birthday cake on FB by the way. As usual you are the first to comment on this Hub, and I am so grateful for your continued support.

I found this topic so interesting, it brings WW2 even closer to home, doesn't it? And it also provides some understanding of the problem with "braceros" they seem to be welcome at times, and then not so welcome! That's sad. Anyway, thanks again and have a good day!

gmarquardt from Hill Country, Texas on October 14, 2012:

A great contribution to the overall understanding of shared sacrifice by the many nations that fought in World War Two. Well done!

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on October 14, 2012:

Joan, very interesting hub. I for one had no knowledge of Mexico and Brazil's contribution to the Allied effort in WW2. I think I imagined that quite a few of the USAs forces would be hispanic etc but never considered these 2 nations in their own rights as Allies. This is a fine tribute, shared and voted up etc.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on October 14, 2012:

Nice job. Our history offers great lessons to us if we listen and learn. My Father was in WWI and WWII and told me so often of his experiences. So glad you are keeping history alive for us as many do not know of Mexico's participation in that war. So glad you share this.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 14, 2012:

And an excellent contribution it was! Great job, Joan, of highlighting a part of WWII that few people even know about....heck, most people are not even aware that Mexico participated in the war at all. Really, an excellent hub my friend.

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