The Forgotten Eagles - The 201 Squadron - In English
Uploaded on Jan 4, 2008
This is a short trailer, preview of the soon to be released feature length documentary about the Mexican Airmen who fought bravely along side the Americans in the South Pacific Theatre during World War II. A must see for all ... For more information visit www.eravisionfilms.com
Victor H. Mancilla, Director. Screened recently, with rave reviews, at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.
The Forgotten Eagles - The 201 Squadron - En Español
The Training in the Theater of Operations. The MEAF debarked in the Philippines on May 1, 1945. General George C. Kenney, the Commander of the US Army and Allied Air Forces in the SWPA, wrote about this event in his memoirs: That afternoon Colonel Cardenas, the commander of the Mexican Expeditionary Force, landed at Manila with the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron. After a reception at the pier I took Cardenas over to see General MacArthur, and after the official exchange of greetings, the Mexicans were officially assigned to my command. They then proceeded to Clark Field, where I turned them over to Brigadier General Freddy Smith with instructions to outfit them with P-47s and give them a course of advanced combat training before putting them into action. Both officers and enlisted men were a fine-looking lot and seem anxious to get to work against the Japs as soon as possible. Colonel C?enas with the MEAF personnel established at Fort Stotsenburg in Clark Field, located about 40 NM Northwest of Manila. Some MEAF elements were assigned to the Fifth Fighter Command as Liaison officers. The 201st Squadron established in Porac, in the Clark Field?s area, and was attached to the 58th Fighter Group, Fifth Fighter Command, Fifth Air Force, US Far East Air Forces. The unit remained in this situation until its attachment to the 360th Air Service Group (CR&TC) on 11 August 1945; it was assigned to 13th Air Force along with 360th Air Service Group on 1 September 1945. Advanced combat training in theater was a normal procedure for newly arrived replacements, and it involved ground and flight training. The training program for the 201st Squadron established ground training from 7 to 12 May 1945. The initial two days were lectures from V Fighter Command and Fifth Air Force personnel; the rest included.20 one day of practical demonstrations at the 51st Fighter Sector, and the Ground Pre-Combat Training. The topics of the lectures were: 1. Overall picture on War Fronts 2. SWPA forces 3. Weather in SWPA 4. Fighter Sector orientation 5. Air Sea rescue 6. Escape and evasion 7. Zones of action 8. Friendly ground situation 9. Support Air Party Flying training started until May 17, due to bad weather the previous days. The 201st Squadron used P-47s on loan from the 58th Fighter Group units. Flight training included: 1. Familiarization and orientation 2. Fighter tactics and technics 3. Simulated combat missions 4. Combat missions Advanced flight training finished on June 3, and the 201st Squadron was ready for combat in the SWPA. The pilots had started missions integrated to US formations, increasing the number of Mexican pilots until the formation was completely from the 201st Squadron. However, during most operations of the Mexican Squadron one liaison American pilot was included. In addition, the Squadron flew some more training missions in the SWPA, especially in the air to air arena..21 The Equipment The Lend-Lease agreement permitted the Mexican Squadron to use airplanes, equipment, instructors, and training facilities, in the US. It also contemplated the equipment of the unit overseas, in the same manner that an American unit. Initially the unit received in the Philippines used aircraft and other equipment on loan. The 201st Squadron?s aircraft had US markings in addition to the Mexican marks, and they also have a white band painted in the nose. The 201st Squadron flew the P-47 aircraft, officially known as Thunderbolt, but nicknamed "Jug" due to its bulky shape that resembled a milk jug. It was a big and heavy airplane, weighting almost 7 tons, but powerful and fast. There were many series of this aircraft, of which 15,682 were built. Initially it was used as an air superiority fighter, a role later taken by the P-51 Mustang, an aircraft with better endurance and range. The P-47 could carry up to two 1,000 lb. bombs, and with its eight 0.50" cal. machine guns, it was an excellent aircraft for Close Air Support and air to ground missions in general, specially at short range. The unit started operations with fifteen P-47 D aircraft, and was able to maintain around twelve operational aircraft at all times. Adequate training and integration in the US logistical system contributed to these numbers, in spite of losses. Spare parts were available and the 58th Fighter Group retained the P-47 aircraft, while other units changed to the P-51. Access to higher level maintenance facilities, also contributed to the Squadron operational status. However, there were some limitations..23 The Limiting Factors Several factors affected the training. The time necessary for preparation and the language barrier were critical. Weather in the US and in the SWPA was a factor that caused delays and imposed restrictions. The equipment of the unit as a whole also required a great amount of effort. After the 201st Squadron program started, time for training was critical if the unit was to be sent to combat. The original training plan contemplated that the Squadron would be ready in November 1944; however, more realistic estimates indicated five months of training. It took over seven months before the unit was ready to leave the US, and the training was not completed as established in the program, due mainly to weather. Weather played an important role in the delay of the MEAF training. The Squadron suspended unit training in Pocatello, Idaho due to weather; it had to move, together with the American classes training at Pocatello, to Majors Field, TX. Weather also affected gunnery training at Brownsville Field, TX. Even in the SWPA flying training was delayed because of weather. Language was probably the biggest barrier for pilots and ground personnel, and English classes were added to the training program. The instructors of Section "I" agreed that "The chief difficulty in the training of Mexican personnel was the language difference. This was a particular handicap in the on-the-job training program. Results were not completely satisfactory when the Mexican mechanics were put to work with the base mechanics." The interpreters of Section "I" at Pocatello and Majors Field were a great help. "Some considered that training at Farmingdale (Republic Aviation Corp.) was not as.24 beneficial as training on the line, due to inability of interpreters to speak sufficient Spanish." The language difference also affected pilot training, and probably flight safety. One fatal training accident in the US was probably due to communication problems. A pilot died during a take-off accident, when after receiving clearance to use the runway attempted to get airborne on a short taxiway. The tail wheel and the big engine on the P-47 difficulted forward visibility on the ground. One pilot was eliminated during unit training for his limited knowledge of the English language; a problem that could not be solved completely even with bilingual instructors. The "check sheet" for the ground training in the SWPA recommended: "Since only about 40% of the 201st Squadron personnel are English speaking, the use of posters, photos, maps and other visual aids is indicated. An interpreter will also be present to assist you in presenting your material." Most pilots agree that the P-47 was not an easy plane to fly. Marvin Bledsoe, a P-47 fighter pilot, mentions in his book Thunderbolt that several inexperienced pilots were killed in this aircraft, while others asked for transfers. In addition to that, the very nature of combat training increases risk. One pilot died on air to air gunnery training, when the aircraft went out of control right after he made a firing pass on the target.