History Bits: The Aztec Eagles

The Aztec Eagles (Águilas Aztecas) was a Mexican air fighter squadron that provided air support to the Allies in the South Pacific during World War II. Before the formation of the Aztec Eagles, the relationship between the United States and Mexico was not in a good place.

Learn about how the relationship between the two countries improved during World War II and led to the formation of the Aztec Eagles. The historical and educational information below is suitable for middle graders and up. 

1800s: Mexico and the United States
The US was expanding its territory during the 19th century under the idea of the Manifest Destiny, which was the belief that the US, as a nation, was destined to expand across North America. Determined to expand its territory, the US began having conflicts with Mexico because American setters kept moving into Mexico's northern territories.
The Mexican-American War started in 1846 and ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The US won the war. Mexico lost Texas, the vast territory that became Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
The Mexican- American War and its result damaged the relationship between the US and Mexico for a very long time.

1930s: The Good Neighbor Policy
It was not until the 1930s that the US and Mexico started to renew an amicable, yet not fully trustworthy, relationship. The administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented the Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America. The US promised to be a "good neighbor" and make fair trade deals with Latin America. Furthermore, the US would not intervene and interfere in Latin American domestic affairs. 

World War II
World War II lasted from 1939 until 1945. During this unfortunate time in history, the US and Mexico strengthened their relationship.
In 1942, a German submarine torpedoed the Mexican oil tanker Potrero del Llano. The Mexican government protested the attack. Nazi Germany's response was to sink another Mexican tanker. As a result, Mexico declared war on the Axis powers and joined the Allies.
After these incidents, the US and Mexico began to support each other against their enemies. The US sent military aircraft to the Fuerza Aérea Mexicana (FAM). Mexico sent goods, minerals, and farm labor to the US. 

The Monterrey Summit   

In 1943, President Roosevelt met with Mexican President Manuel Ávila Camacho at the historic Monterrey Summit. President Roosevelt called for even more collaboration between the countries. President Ávila Camacho responded with his famous broadcasted speech Good Neighbors – Good Friends: Mexico the Bridge between Latin and Saxon Cultures.
President Camacho pointed out: "We deserve to live together free of the perpetual threats which derive from those who seek supremacy."
And he concluded saying:
"I repeat to you, Mr. President, together with the sentiments of solidarity of my country and our wish for success of our common cause, the desire that the relations between Mexico and the United States of America may develop — always — along the channels of mutual esteem and unceasing devotion to liberty."
President Manuel Ávila Camacho . C.C. License.

The presidents kept collaborating. Mexico sent one Mexican air force squadron to fight the Axis powers. It was the first time in Mexico's history that Mexican troops were sent to fight overseas. In exchange, President Roosevelt allowed the Mexican air force squadron to train in the US. 

The Aztec Eagles (Águilas Aztecas)

The Mexican air force squadron included more than three hundred volunteers, of which 38 were first-rate pilots. For three months, they trained at Pocatello Air Force Base, in Idaho, and Foster Army Air Field and Majors Field, both in Texas.
In 1944, the squadron became the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Expedicionaria Mexicana), and its flight component the Air Force Squadron 201 (Escuadrón Aéreo de Pelea 201). The members of Air Fighter Squadron 201 decided to call themselves the Aztec Eagles (Águilas Aztecas). 

The Aztec Eagles in the Philippines

During 1945, the Aztec Eagles provided air support to the Allies in the South Pacific as part of the US Fifth Air Force and the 58th Fighter Group. Assisting the liberation of Luzon, ferrying new aircraft from Biak island to the Philippines, and participating in Very Long Range fighter sweeps over the South China Sea were among their most important missions. The Aztec Eagles flew 1,996 hours in combat and completed 96 combat missions. 

Mexican P-47D Thunderbolt flying over the Philippines (1945). W.C. License.


Major General Basilio J. Valdez, Secretary of Defense and Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army, decorated the Aztec Eagles with the Philippine Liberation Medal at an official ceremony at Clark Field. General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the Allied Forces in the South Pacific, praised them. President Ávila Camacho received them proudly and decorated them with medals at Mexico City's national square. 
Air Fighter Squadron 201 display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. C.C. License.

Book recommendation and source
The School the Aztec Eagles Built by Dorinda Makanaōnalani Nicholson

Middle graders and up learn all the details about the formation, training, and missions of the Aztec Eagles with this phenomenal historical and educational book. They also find out how the Aztec Eagles built a school in Teopoztlán, Morelos, Mexico.   


Good Neighbors — Good Friends: Mexico The BridgeBetween Latin and Saxon Cultures (1943) by Manuel Ávila Camacho, President of the Republic of Mexico. 


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