Why Does Mexico Fly the Flag Half Staff on May 2nd? What significance is May 28th?


AZTEC EAGLES (Photo credit) Siglo Veinte, November 1945, public domain.

The day Mexico joined World War II (eluniversal.com.mx)

Mexico joined the allies during WWII as a result of  the May 13, 1942 German U-boat sinking two Mexican oil tankers, off the coast of Florida, transporting crude oil to the United States. Thirteen of thirty-five crew members of the  SS Potrero del Llano and eight members of  SS Faja de Oro were killed.

Dec 12: The U.S. sent support with two squadrons of bombers bringing Mexico's aerial support at ten.

Dec 17: "A high ranking military official said that Mexico expected to get 160 military planes of four types...a supply of planes for the Mexican Army's rudimentary air force has long been under negotiation"

MEXICO GETS U.S. PLANES; Two Squadrons of Bombers to Arrive This Month - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

TimesMachine: December 18, 1941 - NYTimes.com

The Mexican constitution mandated that the president obtain permission from the Senate, which would require public support. A former army general, President Avila Camacho knew the army was unprepared, but he also believed that a tactical air unit could be readied quickly.

To sell the idea to the public, the president ordered the FAM to stage an airshow. Near Mexico City on March 5, 1944, more than 100,000 capitalinos watched as AT-6s and A-24Bs blasted a simulated enemy base with live ordnance. The show was a stunning success, and shortly thereafter the president declared that Mexico should fight and that the FAM would lead the nation in the conflict.

World War II: Mexican Air Force Helped Liberate the Philippines

"As a result, on May 28, 1942, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously approved the decree by which it was established that since May 22, 1942, the United Mexican States were in a state of war." May 28, 1942, Mexico declares a State of War. | Ministry of National Defense | | Government gob.mx (www.gob.mx) 

It was the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, George S. Messersmith, who sent the message to President Roosevelt encouraging an arrangement for the U.S. to train the 400 members of Escuadron 201 alongside American pilots. His letter unknowingly foretold a little-known historical fact "for the actual need or help which such air squadrons would be to us."

A unique arrangement was made for the "Aztec Eagles" by Army Maj. Gen. Robert W. Harper according to his memo

  • No U.S. insignia are to be worn by the Mexican trainees
  • They would not be subject to the civil or military law of the United States
  • They would be subject to only to the codes of Mexican law
  • Discipline would be administered by Mexican commanders only, never by U.S. authorities.

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According to the US Air Force website: Mexican Air Force Aircrews > National Museum of the United States Air Force™ > Display (af.mil)

  • July 1944 - the 201st Fighter Squadron (Escuadrón Aéreo de Pelea 201) was formed
    • 36 pilots
    • Over 264 support personnel
  • The Squadron was also known as the Aztec eagles, they trained at
    • Randolph Field - San Antonio
    • Majors FIeld - Greenville, TX
  • January 23, 1945 - Second lieutenant, Cristoforo Salido Grijalva, was killed in training
  • February 1945
    • 201st Fighter Squadron moved to the Philippine Islands
    • Total of 33 pilots and more than 270 support personnel 
  • March 1945
    • Escuadron 201 members were attached to the US 5th Air Force and the 58th Fighter Group, based at Porac, Luzon - Philippine Islands.
    • Escuadron 201 was merged into the 58th Fighter Group combat operations, providing support during the first combat missions.
    • While completing training in air-to-air gunnery in Brownsville - March 10, Lieutenant Javier Martinez Valle a member of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force. was killed in an accident
    • Mexican Expeditionary Air Force (Fuerz Aerea Expedicionaria Mexicana) went to the Philippines via the liberty ship Fairisle at San Fransisco, joining 1,500 U.S. troops bound for the Philippines. (March 27)
  • April 1945
    • U.S.S. Fairisle arrives in the Phillippines April 30, 1945
    • 201st was assigned to the U.S. Fifth Air Force
  • May 1945
    • Escuadron pilots began flying combat orientation missions
    • Escuadron pilots were assigned to various other squadrons
    • Soon after the "Aztec Eagles" began flying as a unit with initial targets, in the Marikina watershed east of Manila.  The U.S. 2th Infantry Division had been encountering fierce resistance
      • buildings
      • vehicles
      • artillery
  • June- August 1945
    • 53 ground support missions flown in support of American troops in Luzon from June 4 - July 4
    • 37 training missions: July 14-21  
    • 1 dive bombing mission against the Port of Karenko, Formosa, August 8,  
    • 1 convoy escort mission in the Sea North of the Philippines, August 26
  • Sept-Dec 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. 
    • The Mexican Expeditionary Air Force was disbanded by Presidential degree of 1st December 1945. The 201st Squadron returning to the Mexican Air Force.

Detailed accounts of heroism by the Escuadron 201 members and MEAF are found here:  World War II: Mexican Air Force Helped Liberate the Philippines

Statistics of  Escuadron 201 

  • Airmen flew 795 combat sorties
  • Performed 96 missions along with the Allies in WWII 
  • Launched 252 general-purpose bombs
  • Flew 1,966 hours in combat zones.
  • Chapultepec Park is dedicated to Escuadron 201. The 201st Squadron: Mexico's Greatest Generation The Daily Chela
  • Mexico City Metro Line 8 station Metro Escuadrón 201 is named after the squadron, it was opened on July 20, 1994.
  • The Aztec Eagle pilots flew Republic P-47D-30-RA Thunderbolt single-seat fighter aircraft carrying out tactical air support missions

"The outstanding work made my those men (Escuadron 201) demonstrated that good things can only be achieved with leadership, teamwork and sacrifice, fighting side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder," said Lt. Col. Jose Nunez, Mexico's Foreign Liaison Officer from the Air Force Security Assistance Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, during the exhibit opening ceremony.

Further details

*"El Universal was born on October 1, 1916 at the initiative of the engineer Félix Fulgencio Palavicini, who was part of the Constituent Congress of Querétaro....At the corner of Madero and Motolinía, in the center of the capital, the first newsroom and the workshops of the newspaper were located, equipped with a Goss press. On this machine was printed the first Political Constitution of the United Mexican States in 1917."

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