Mexican Spitfire Pilot in World War II
It is a small church in Normandy. Like many contemporary churches of its time, it has an attached grave yard. The Sassy Churchyard is in Sassy village, which is about six miles (11 kilometers) from Falaise, a small town in Normandy France. The Sassy Churchyard has two recognized burial sites for British Commonwealth personnel that died in World War II. One grave contains the unidentified remains of a Canadian airman and the other is of Pilot Officer Luis Perez Gómez.
In 1943, a young Canadian woman met a gentleman, who she says, “swept” her off her feet by his Tango dancing. Luis Perez Gómez had left Mexico City looking to become a pilot. Poor, Perez had the dream to fly, but lacked the money necessary to finance his dream. World War II was raging and England was still emerging from its darkest hour. The British were in dire need for war material and the pilots to take the fight to Nazi Germany.
As part of the British Commonwealth, Canada in 1939 created a training course for training pilots from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. By the 1940’s, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, as the Canadian training program came to be known, started recruiting U.S. pilots to its training program. The “join the team!” posters asking for pilots for the Royal Canadian Air Force were everywhere.
Knowing little English and only a few Pesos to his name, Perez arrived in Ottawa in late 1942. He enrolled at the Ottawa Technical High School to begin learning English. Perez also volunteered with the Royal Canadian Air Force to learn how to fly. Perez left for the European War Theater in 1944. There he joined the Canadian 443rd Squadron.
On D-Day plus ten (June 16, 1944), a section of four Spitfires from the 443rd Squadron came upon a much larger Luftwaffe fighter group. They engaged the enemy. The four Spitfires, flown by Flight Commander Hugh Russel, Squadron Leader James Hall, Donald Walz and Luis Perez Gómez battled the Nazi’s for air superiority. By the time the air battle was over, the four Spitfires had been shot down by the Germans. Only Walz survived the encounter. Twenty-year-old Perez died at his crash site in Sassy. The Sassy villagers who found his body, feared that the Germans would steal Perez’ identification and personal affects. So, they decided to bury him in their local cemetery as one of their own.
Years later, the Commonwealth War Graves decided that it was best to leave Perez’ body where it had been interned, rather than take it to an official war grave site. The War Graves organization gave him a formal gravestone. In 2004, the residents of Sassy decided to honor their foreign guest by naming the village square: Place Perez-Gomez.
Perez had only been at the front for about six months. Dorothy O’Brien, who had been swept off her feet by the Mexican Tango dancer, found out that Perez had died via a war telegram. Perez had listed her as his next-of-kin.
Luis Perez Gómez (Service number: J/29172) was born in Guadalajara México. Perez has two confirmed kills. As of now, Luis Perez Gómez is the only known Mexican citizen to have died flying for the Canadian Royal Air Force. Besides U.S. citizens fighting under the Commonwealth forces, there is also one Guatemalan, Harold Charles Dent Saenz, of Bomber Squadron 214 who also died during World War II under the British armed forces.
World War II involved many nations and their citizens. México fielded Escradrón 201 in the Philippines and many Mexican men enlisted in the U.S. armed forces to fight against the Axis powers.
From the RCAF Book of Remembrance:
PEREZ-GOMEZ, LUIS F/O(P) J29172//R208835. From Guadalajara, Mexico. Killed in Action. Jun. 16/44 age 20. #443 Hornet Squadron (Our Sting Is Death). F/O. Perez-Gomez was the pilot of Spitfire aircraft # MK607 in a fighter sweep in the Argentan area of France and was last seen flying into cloud at 3,000 feet north of Caen France. Flying Officer Pilot Perez-Gomez is buried in the Churchyard at Sassy, Calvados, France