Painting titled U-129 – Redux

Editor’s note

To make  more sense  of Gloria’s comment yesterday.

While surfing the net, my husband ran across this article and paintings and then showed them to me.  It was a lovely surprise since Luis Noriega Medrano was my dad. I showed the U-129 painting to my mother, who is now 98 and lives in Mexico City, and she thought it was very powerful. Gracias!



Painting titled  U-129

This painting shows replica Aztec God “Xiuhtecuhtli” with a Atlatl spear throwing device in his left hand. The two foot long Atlatl is estimated to be over 15,000 years old, and derived from the Aztec Nahuatl language. Atlatl darts could be thrown with power and precision from a range of 150 feet. Aztec paintings portrayed many gods with the Atlatl in throwing position. The weapon was widely used by Aztec warriors upon the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and was feared by the Spanish, however it could not penetrate metal armour.

Unlike some Latin American countries, Mexico did not support the Axis powers before or during the second world war. Mexico had opposed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and supported the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Mexico even allowed the establishment of a Spanish Republican government in exile in Mexico, which functioned until the death of Franco. After the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Mexico broke off all diplomatic relations with Germany, Japan, and Italy. General Manuel Avila Camacho’s government also seized nine Italian and three German ships in Mexican ports. These 12 ships now became part of the Mexican merchant navy, and in an ironic twist of war, a few would be attacked and sunk by German U-boats.

On 10 April 1942, the Mexican tanker Tamaulipas, was sunk by German U-boat 552, with three Mexican nationals killed. German U-564 attacked Mexican tanker Portero del Liano, sunk on 13 May, with loss of 14 Mexican crew. This had been one of the Italian vessels confiscated by Mexico. Seven days later a second confiscated Italian tanker, Faja de Oro, was sank by U-106, with loss of ten Mexican crew. Mexico demanded an explanation from Germany through the Mexican ambassador to Sweden, and after no response was received, Mexico officially declared war on the Axis powers on 28 May 1942.

On 1 June 1942, orders were issued to the 2nd Air Regiment in Mexico City, to sent a group of pilots to San Antonio, Texas, to transport six AT-6B Texan trainers back to Mexico City. All six arrived at Balbuena airfield at 15:35 hrs., 14 June 1942. The aircraft remained in US Army drab colours with the Mexican concentric triangle near each wing tip. The tail was painted in Mexican three colour bands -green forward, white, and red. The American serials 41-17428 to 17433, remained on some aircraft with the Mexican serial P-75 to P-80 in yellow colour on the tail. On 17 June 1942, Noriega Medrano, Sgt 1st class, Sargento Primero, received his aircraft serial P-80, and was assigned to Tuxpan, Veracruz, for U-boat patrol of the Gulf of Mexico. On the 5 July 1942, north of Tampico, Sgt. Medrano sighted a German U-boat cruising partly submerged near the Mexican shore. Catching the submarine in a crash dive he attacked.

The Submarine was U-129, a type IXC, commanded by Kapitanleutnant Hans Witt, who would become a U-boat ace. Witt was on his first war patrol which left Lorient, France, on 20 May 1942 and lasted 94 days. The front conning tower of U-129 carried the German words  Weftward-ho, Westward-Ho, while the sides of the tower carried the German crest and name of the city of Poertschach, Austria. With three Allied ships to his credit he would now strike 40 miles off the Mexican coast. On 27 June 1942, he struck twice, sinking the Mexican tanker Tuxpan, with a loss of four crew, then a few miles away sank the Choapas, with loss of three crew. On 5 July, Sgt. Noriego Medrano sighted the partly submerged U-129 cruising near the Mexican shore, 25 miles north of Tampico. His AT-6 was fitted with a N-3B optical bomb sight and carried two M-30,  100 lb bombs on its wing racks. He dropped his bombs and reported one landed 45 feet from the front, and the other struck three feet from the U-boat conning tower.

A large oil slick was observed and the Mexican press reported their first U-boat sunk. The American press responded with an editorial cartoon showing Uncle Sam’s face in the map of U.S., and the fist of Mexico striking the German U-boat. The caption read – “I can use that punch, Good Neighbor.”

Postwar German U-boat records reported U-129 made four emergency dives on 5 July 1942, after spotting aircraft. The U-boat received no reported damage and continued patrols until 18 August 1944, sinking 29 ships. Sgt. Noriega Medrano continued patrols until 24 July 1942, when he was posted back to Mexico City.  

History had repeated itself, like the Aztec Atlatl darts which could not penetrate the Spanish metal armour, the Mexican 100 lb. bombs were unable to damage the German U-129.

Clarence  Simonsen  


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