The "Escuadron Aereo de Pelea 201" (201st Mexican Fighter Squadron) of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Expedicionaria Mexicana) has the honor of being the only military unit that has fought outside of Mexican Republic.
This Squadron fought in the liberation of the Philippines while assigned to the 58th Fighter Group, under the command of Major Ed Roddy, a fighter ace with 8 kills to his credit while assigned to the 348th Fighter Group under Col. Neal Kearby, 5th Fighter Command, 5th Air Force; (six of its pilots had trained in dive-bombing at NAS San Diego, California in 1944 in USN SBD's).
Mexico joined the allies against the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) after May 28, 1942, when German U-boats had attacked and sunk two Mexican ships without warning, even after the declaration of war Mexico would lose 5 more ships.
With Mexico's entry in the war, its military benefited from the Lend-lease programs, that helped modernized the Mexican Army, Navy and Air Force.
But it was in 1944, that the desicion to send a Mexican military unit was made by Presidente General de Div. Manuel Avila Camacho, choosing the air force to represent the Mexican Armed forces.
After a selection process a group of over 300 personnel was formed to be sent for training in the USA, this group was called Grupo de Perfecionamiento Aeronautico under the command of Col. P.A. Antonio Cardenas Rodriguez (1905-1969), a veteran flyer who had participated in a Mission of observers in North Africa in 1943.
When the group arrived in the US, in July 1944, they were sent to different parts of the country to be trained by specialists to form a fighter squadron, that was to be equipped with the Thunderbolt fighter-bomber. Later they would be reunited at Pocatello AAFB in the state of Idaho. But due to severe weather conditions, the training was moved to the state of Texas, in November 1944 where the GPA completed its training on February 23, 1945.
During their training a selected group of American instructors was formed known as Section I , which was commanded by Capt. Paul B. Miller (24 Aug.1944 - 14 Jan.1945) who was replaced by Lt.Col. Arthur W. Kellong. By November 1944 the section comprised of 23 officers and 31 enlisted men.
Before that date the GPA had by January 1st, 1945, become the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force under Col. Cardenas and the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron under Capt. 1/o. P.A. Radames Gaxiola Andrade (1915-1966). A group of American personnel to include pilots and ground personnel was included in the MEAF, for duties overseas, this group was led by Lt.Col. Kellong (USAAF). Also created was a replacement group of personnel under the command of Major P.A. Rafael J. Suarez Peralta.
The 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron assembles in front of a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter on Porac strip, Clark Field, Luzon
The MEAF arrived in the Philippines in April 1945. They flew their first combat mission after a period of in theater training conducted by the 5th FC and the 58th Fighter Group. They were issued various sub-types of the P-47's from the 58th Fighter Group (some ex-35th and 348th Fighter Groups). To fly their first missions the Mexican pilots were first assigned to American squadrons of the 58th Fighter Group from June 4th to the 7th, when the squadron conducted two missions as a unit but with elements of the 58th Group. For the rest of the month the Mexicans flew ground support missions for American troops that were praised in the following report:
The squadron flew with the 58th Fighter Group the rest of the month on support missions, often two per day helping the 25th Division in its break-through from Balete pass and Marikina Watershed area into the Cagayan Valley.
They attacked every type of target marked in various manners, ie by map co-ordinates, by dry run vectoring, by bombing on white phosphorus artillery or mortar shells and L-5 spotters etc.
The Groups mission including those run by the 201st in support of the 25th Division was highly commended by the Commanding General of the Division.There was no separation of a Mexican mission from an American mission as far the ground forces were concerned and that is sufficient praise in itself.
Not only did the pilots get into combat, but also certain members of the ground personnel who encountered Japanese troops, having some fire-fights and capturing a number of enemy troops as well.
201st Squadron started to receive its own P-47D, under Lend-Lease. In July 1945 the 201st flew 4 "Fighter Sweeps" to the island of Formosa (Taiwan), and in August a dive-bombing mission to the Port of Karenko. The final mission for the squadron was a convoy escort mission in the North Sea of the Philippines where all the pilots took part.
The 201st would lose five pilots in the P.I. in accidents and transferring new aircraft from New Guinea to the Philippines. These losses were pilots in command positions, that would later affect the 201st, when the 58th was moved to Okinawa to continue operations against Japan. It was decided to leave the 201st Squadron in the P.I. and await the arrival of replacements to make good the losses the squadron had. One of the Mexican pilots thought lost at first was rescued by a test pilot out of Biak, New Guinea and C.O. of the 374th Service Squadron Major Larry D. Davis who was years later decorated by the Mexican government.
Also two more pilots were killed in training in the US as part of the replacement training in the Southern part of the USA. One ground personnel also died in a US hospital due to illness contracted in the Philippines and had been evacuated back to the US.
In September 1945 the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force was assigned to the 13th Air Force. With the end of the war it returned to Mexico by November 1945. After its return the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force was disbanded by Presidential degree of 1st December 1945. The 201st Squadron returning to the Mexican Air Force.
The historical tradition of the MEAF is carried on by Escuadron Aereo de Pelea 201 that is today based at Cozumel, Quitana Roo of the present day Mexican Air Force flying the Pilatus PC-7 Turbo-prop COIN/CAS trainers. This unit saw action in the Chiapas rebellion of January 1994.
Missions completed by the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron
• 53 ground support missions flown in support of American troops in Luzon from 4 June to 4 July 1945,
• 37 training missions from 14-21 July 1945 (including missions of transporting new aircraft from Biak Island, New Guinea),
• 4 fighter sweeps to the island of Formosa, 6-9 July 1945,
• 1 dive bombing mission against the Port of Karenko, Formosa, 8 August1945,
• 1 convoy escort mission in the Sea North of the Philippines, 26 August 1945.
Combat record Combat Missions flown 96 Offensive Sorties flown 785 Defensive Sorties flown 6 Hours flown in Combat 1966:15 Hours flown in the Combat Zone 591:00 Hours flown in Pre-Combat 281:00 Average hours flown per pilot 86:00 Total Hours flown 2842:00 Bombs Dropped 1000 lb 957 Bombs Dropped 500 lb 500 Total rounds of 0.50 cal used 166,922 rds. Aircraft lost in combat 0 Aircraft damaged in combat 5 Pilots killed in combat 0 Pilots killed in accidents 4 Pilots missing 1
Note There is a discrepancy among American and Mexican records on the type and the amount of bombs dropped by the squadron. A translated copy of the summary of all the combat missions by the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron submitted by Capt.2/o. Amadeo Castro Almanza on March 12, 1946 to the American Embassy in Mexico city shows the following type of bombs dropped by the unit:
1,000 lb: 530
500 lb: 500
The 201st Mexican Squadron was given credit for putting out of action about 30,000 Japanese troops and the destruction of enemy held-buildings, vehicles, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, machine guns emplacements and ammunition depots.
Mexican Expeditionary Air Force Personnel Losses
SubTte. P. A. Crisoforo Salido Grijalva , KIFA Texas, USA, 23 January 1945
Tte. P. A. Javier Martinez Valle, KIFA Texas USA, 13 March 1945
SubTte. P. A. Fausto Vega Santander, KIFA P.I., 1 June 1945
Tte. P. A. Jose Espinoza Fuentes, KIFA, 5 June 1945
SubTte. P. A. Hugo Gonzalez y Gonzalez, KIFA USA, 9 July 1945 (Replacement Group pilot)
Tte. P. A. Hector Espinosa Galvan, KIFA New Guinea, 16 July 1945
Capt.2/o. P. A. Pablo L. Rivas Martinez, missing off New Guinea, 19 July 1945. Officially declared dead in 1947
SubTte. P. A. Mario Lopez Portillo, KIFA P.I., 21 July 1945
Tte. P. A. Roberto Gomez Moreno, KIFA USA, 26 September 1945 (Replacement Group pilot)
Sgt.2/o. Radio Operator Francisco Rodriguez Castaneda, died in Santa Fe, New Mexico Military Hospital due to illness contracted in the P.I., 2 November 1945.
American Personnel assigned to the MEAF, 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron in the Philippines
Lt.Col. Arthur W. Kellong, USAAF. Assigned to the command and staff of the MEAF
Lt. Sheridan Kenny Jr., USAAF. Assigned Engineering officers 201st Fighter Squadron
Lt. William L. Kester, USAAF. Operations Officer 201st Fighter Squadron
Lt. Peter Economy, USAAF. Communications Officer 201st Fighter Squadron. Aide de Camp and Interpreter to Col. Cardenas
Lt. Howard B. Riggs, USAAF. Pilot 201st Fighter Squadron
Lt. John J. Haley, USAAF. Pilot 201st Fighter Squadron, 310th Fighter Squadron/58th Fighter Group, later 201st Fighter Squadron
T/Sgt. John S. Tsaguris, USAAF
S/Sgt. Conrad C.L. Cuellar, USAAF
S/Sgt. Grant J. Knechtel, USAAF
S/Sgt. Cornelius Orzatti, USAAF
Sgt. William E. Miller, USAAF
Note American and Mexican records do not record by name the American pilots from the liaison group or that of the 58th Fighter Group that flew in combat with the 201st Fighter Squadron. We only know that they participated in 26 missions.
Mexican Personnel of the Staff of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force assigned to the V. Fighter Command, June-July 1945
Mayor de E.M. Enrique Sandoval Castarrica, A2 section
Mayor Pag. Guillermo Linage Olguin, A4 section
Capt.1/o. P. A. Roberto Salido Beltran, A3 section
Tte.Col. E. M. Alfonso Gurza Farfan, Secret section
Sources and References
HISTORIA OFFICIAL DE LA FUERZA AEREA EXPEDICIONARIA MEXICANA by Tte.Col.del Estado Mayor Enrique Sandoval Castarrica, Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, Mexico D.F. 1946
MIS DOS MISSIONES, MONOGRAFIA AEREA by General Antonio Cardenas Rodriguez, Mexico 1949
TRES DE DIANA by General Francisco L. Urquizo, Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional, Mexico D.F. 1990
TO JOIN THE ALLIES THE MEXICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE by Santiago A. Flores, Air Enthusiast No.46, June-August 1992. With an update published in Air Enthusiast No.73, Jan-Feb. 1998
No Glamour. No Glory! The Story of the 58th Fighter Group of World War II. by J. Kupferer, Taylor Pub.Co., Texas 1989