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Mexico's Involvement in World War II

Updated on May 6, 2016

Mexico's Impressive Aztec Heritage

Majestic Aztec Pyramid, known as El Castillo (The Castle)
Majestic Aztec Pyramid, known as El Castillo (The Castle) | Source

Mexico, an Allied Nation during WWII?

When people comment or read about the Allies in World War II, they are generally referring to Britain, the US, Canada, Holland, Belgium, 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 armed forces in action during this world-wide conflagration: Mexico and Brazil, both of which joined the Allied forces during 1942. This article refers to the participation of Mexico.

Mexico's Heritage, the Avenue of the Dead

The Impressive Avenue of the Dead. Imagine it teeming with people!
The Impressive Avenue of the Dead. Imagine it teeming with people! | Source

Introductory Events

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, an area as yet relatively free from the effects of the War.

As a result, a Conference of Foreign Ministers of the countries belonging to the Western Hemisphere was convened and took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 15-28 January, 1942. The participants unanimously agreed to break off diplomatic relations with Germany, Italy and Japan.

As a participant of the Conference, Mexico broke off relations and proceeded to strengthen her bonds with the US, a complex issue due to the not always felicitous relations between these two important States of the Northern Hemisphere.

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

Acapulco, of International Fame

The famous Acapulco beaches, an international resort
The famous Acapulco beaches, an international resort | Source

Gulf of Mexico and US Coast

U-boats Attack 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 during the month of 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 14 of May.

SS Faja de Oro was sailing in ballast from Pennsylvania back to Tampico when she was sighted and sunk by U-106 on the 21 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.

Santa Lucia Bay and Condesa Beach, Acapulco

A magnificent view of some of the Acapulco scenery
A magnificent view of some of the Acapulco scenery | Source

Noteworthy Result of Mexico's Entry to WWII

  • Many Mexicans volunteered and joined the US armed forces, acquitting themselves well in different battle fields. These participants can be numbered in the thousands; some estimates go as high as 400,000.
  • Mexican troops fought valiantly in Europe and in the Pacific and can show the medals that 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 US vital 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 the provision of food for the general population of the US.
  • The most significant contribution was the arming and training of Flight Squadron 201.

Esquadron 201

The Aztec Eagles take flight!
The Aztec Eagles take flight! | Source

Escuadron 201, Known as the "Aztec Eagles"

Some time would pass before this Squadron could participate more actively, due to the initial lack of development of Mexico’s 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 of which 30 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.

The Aztec Eagles, ready to go!

Members of the Aztec Eagles group
Members of the Aztec Eagles group | Source

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 a dive bombing attack over Formosa (Taiwan). The bombing attack was against the port of Karenko, in August 1945.

It is on record that the Aztec Eagles were commended by General Douglas MacArthur.


Luzon, on the northern tip of the Philippines

The Battle of Luzon, Baleta Pass

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 | Source

Why is This Participation Generally Overlooked?

It is unfortunate that Mexico’s significant contributions are often ignored. There are numerous stories of heroism and interviews of combat survivors to be found on the web. The following is but a sample list, there are many more:

  • Silvestre Herrera, European battlegrounds, recipient of the Medal of Honor
  • Carlos Faustino, pilot from Squadron 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 and posthumously received six medals, including the bronze star, the Purple Heart and the combat infantry badge
  • 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 Silver Star Medal

The Cathedral of Mexico

A Colonial style Cathedral, impressive in its own right!
A Colonial style Cathedral, impressive in its own right! | Source

Some Conclusions.

Writers of historic articles have placed great value on the participation of Mexico and of both Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans as a contribution to the final victorious outcome of the Allied forces in World War II.

One particular statement that provided food for thought was a projection of the difficulties that would have resulted without the participation of Mexico and her nationals: more coastline to guard against the destruction of ships carrying Allied cargoes, less harvesting of indispensable food for American citizens, more difficulties in obtaining very necessary raw materials for the wartime industries, and so on.

Teotihuacan, Piramide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun)

Teotihuacan, Piramide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun), Mexico's Heritage
Teotihuacan, Piramide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun), Mexico's Heritage | Source

Final Words

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

By writing this article, I am offering my personal tribute to the Mexican war effort during WWII.

© 2012 joanveronica (Joan Robertson)

The Plaza Bellas Artes, Mexico City

Traditional buildings in Mexico City, related to an Art Museaum
Traditional buildings in Mexico City, related to an Art Museaum | Source

Present Day Mexico City

A partial view of present day Mexico City
A partial view of present day Mexico City | Source

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      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.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      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.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      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.

    • gmarquardt profile image

      gmarquardt 4 years ago from Hill Country, Texas

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

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile image

      Pavlo Badovskyi 4 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      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

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • GClark profile image

      GClark 4 years ago from United States

      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!

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      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?

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • rlbert00 profile image

      rlbert00 4 years ago from USA

      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.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

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

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      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!

    • joanveronica profile image
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      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      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.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      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.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • cprice75 profile image

      cprice75 4 years ago from USA

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

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 4 years ago

      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.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      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.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • botipton profile image

      Bo Tipton 4 years ago from Cecilia, KY

      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

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

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

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Joan,

      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.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 4 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      joanveronica,

      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

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 3 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

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

    • profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago

      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.

      K.

    • joanveronica profile image
      Author

      Joan Veronica Robertson 3 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      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!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 14 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      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.

    • gerimcclym profile image

      Geri McClymont 14 months ago from Colorado

      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.

    • profile image

      Terry olson 3 months ago

      Nice to know

    • profile image

      yesnia oseguera 2 months ago

      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

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