On Friday, June 25, 2021, California congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Escuadrón 201. The Mexican Expeditionary Air Force Squadron 201 fought in the Pacific during World War II. “The Congressional Gold Medal is reserved only for those who have made significant contributions to our nation, and the airman of Escuadrón 201 certainly fit the bill,” Sánchez wrote in her press release.
The Mexican fighter squadron is the only Mexican military force to be deployed for combat outside of México. México and Brazil were the only two Latin American nations to participate in combat during World War II.
On May 28, 1942, then-Mexican president Manuel Avila Camacho declared war on the Axis powers after Nazi U-boats sank two Mexican oil tankers, one off the coast of Florida. The air force squadron was deployed soon after.
The Mexican airman trained in San Antonio before being deployed to the Philippines. Their flight training was conducted by the women pilots of the Women’s Airforce Services Pilots (WASP). From Texas they redeployed to Idaho for training on the fighter plane that was assigned to them. They flew single-engine P-47 Thunderbolts providing close ground support to Allied troops engaged in combat against the Japanese forces. The Mexican expeditionary force consisted of about 300 men, including about 30 pilots. Nicknamed the Aztec Eagles, the squadron received accolades for their “ferocity” against the enemy.
Unfortunately, the Mexican pilots experienced discrimination while training in America.
The fighter squadron arrived in the Philippines on April 30, 1945. They were assigned to the US Fifth Airforce and deployed to flush out entrenched Japanese forces.
After the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II, the Mexican airmen returned to México as heroes.