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Sun, May 03, 2009

AF Museum Receives Artifact Donation From Mexican Air Force

The Mexican air force foreign liaison officer stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio presented National Museum of the U.S. Air Force officials with World War II artifacts representing the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron April 29. Mexican air force Lt. Col. Daniel Mojica presented a pilot's uniform, hat and boots along with a reproduction of unit colors, insignia and research materials on behalf of the Mexican air force, called Fuerza Aerea Mexicana or FAM.

The 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron, or Aztec Eagles, the only Mexican military force to have served outside of their country's borders, were attached to the U.S. Army Air Forces 58th Fighter Group during the summer of 1945 in the Philippine Islands. They flew the P-47D Thunderbolt single-seat fighter aircraft for tactical air support missions. The squadron was composed of more than 300 volunteers -- 36 were pilots and the rest were ground support personnel.

The idea for the donation came about after the "Airmen in a World at War" exhibit opened in the museum's Air Power Gallery in 2007. The exhibit showcases uniforms, decorations and other artifacts from both Allied and Axis powers during World War II, including the United States, Britain, Brazil, Italy, Germany and Japan.

Additional research indicated that members of the Mexican air force also participated in the war. Mexico's joining the allied war effort was a reaction to German U-boat activities in the Gulf of Mexico. On behalf of the museum, retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rafael Ramos communicated with the Mexican foreign liaison office at Wright-Patterson AFB about obtaining items associated with the Aztec Eagles to add to the exhibit.

"It took a lot of effort, but they were finally able to get a uniform," Colonel Ramos said.

The uniform contains original patches and pilot's wings with a corresponding hat and boots. Accompanying the donation was an official copy of the unit colors for the Mexican expeditionary air force especially produced for the exhibit. A print of the painting "Strike of the Aztec Eagles" by Jack Fellows signed by the surviving members of the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron was also included.

"I am happy that we can donate these things to this wonderful museum," said Coloenel Mojica who worked with the Mexican air attache in Washington, D.C., and the ministry of defense in Mexico to bring these items to the museum.

"But, I think the remaining veterans of the 201st squadron will be the most excited," he said. "They were pushing for it and they will enjoy it when the exhibition is open."

"Although Mexico's contribution to the air war was limited, it was nonetheless very significant," said Terry Aitken, the museum senior curator. "Mexico joined with the other allied nations and fought bravely against the axis powers."

"We are deeply appreciative of this donation. These items will especially resonate with our visitors, many of whom are Hispanic," Mr. Aitken said. "We are eagerly looking forward to completing the exhibit because we want to show our visitors a part of history they may have never been aware of before and one of which we can all be proud." [ANN Thanks Sarah Parke, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force]



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