The Mexican 201st Fighter Squadron – Part Three

Editor’s Note –

This unsigned article was obtained by Clarence Simonsen in 1983. It is a reprint of the original from the archives of the Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, at Alabama. It was prepared by the Historical Section, Administration and Service Division, Headquarters, Second Air Force, 20 September 1945. It is reproduced [black text] for the historical and detailed progress of the forming and training of the Mexican 201st Fighter Squadron, including the training in the United States. Small sections from author [Simonsen] information appear in blue type. Hyperlinks, if any, will be in red.

If possible, I will add some pictures found on different Websites as I go along editing Clarence’s story. 

The Mexican 201st Fighter Squadron – [August 1944 to March 1945]

First Mission

The first mission on the morning of 7 June 1945, found 10/10 cloud cover over the target, so 7 P-47s jettisoned their bombs. In the afternoon, 7 more aircraft reported to SAP ‘Outlive” and were directed to bomb troop concentrations near Infanta. Thirteen 1,000 pound bombs were put directly on the target area with results reported as excellent. One bomb landed 300 yards southeast of the target area.

At this date Allied Forces occupied only a very small part of Luzon, including Dagupan, Manila, Bataan and Corregidor. Over sixty-thousands Japanese troops under command of General Yamishita of the 14th Imperial Army controlled and defended the northern section of Luzon.

The squadron flew right along with the 58th Group the rest of the month in ground support missions – often two flown per day – helping the 25th Division in its breakthrough from the Balete Pass and Marikana Watershed area into the Cagayan valley.

They carried two 1,000 pound bombs and strafed when called on. They attacked every type of target in various manners, i.e., by map coordinates, by dry-run vectoring by SAP’s, by bombing on White Phosphorus artillery or motor shells, by vectoring by L-5 spotters, etc. Their missions were abortive on four or five occasions due to weather, failure of SAP to have a target, failure of radio communication with L-5 aircraft, etc.

The 58th Fighter Group history for June 1945 states:

“From 7th thru the 25th June, the 201st flew 31 missions with the 58th fighter Group. The results of the various missions ran the scale from good to excellent, with results of some missions not reported by SAP. During this period some 461 x 1,000 pound bombs were dropped and 113,592 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition expended in a total of 232 sorties.”

During the rest of June, the Mexican Squadron continued to fly ground support missions, and in the period 1-10 July began flying long-range reconnaissance missions to Formosa. In regard to the total number of missions, the final report shows only about forty, while the Statistical summary report shows fifty. It appears the summary presumably includes some training missions in the period 1-7 June 1945.

Using the summary and figuring an average of as shown by mission reports of 2 hours and 15 minutes for ground support and five hours for the Formosa missions, the Mexican squadron had 794 combat hours of which approximately half or 367 hours over the target area. As a comparison of effectiveness, the following average was figured from the Fifth Fighter Command statistics for June 1945, for the same time the 58th Group which was flying the same type of missions with same aircraft.

 

One-third of the group’s figures were used as average for a complete squadron.

 

 

 

                                                                                                              58th F.Gp.                           201st Sqdn.

P-47’s assigned                                                                              27.4                                       17

Daily employed                                                                             10.2                                       9.8

Pilots available                                                                              40.8                                       32

Pilots employed                                                                            10.2                                       9.8

Total sorties                                                                                    307                                        293

Combat hours                                                                                 630.5                                    794

Incomplete sorties                                                                       32                                          40

Tons of bombs dropped                                                             197                                        181

Rounds .50 cal.                                                                               117,053                                104,000

The figures above are of necessity approximations and interpolations, but considering that the 201st was new to combat their record compares favorably with that of the veteran pilots of the 58th Group. The group’s work which included the missions run by the 201st in support of the 25th division was highly commended by the commanding General of that division. There was no separation of a Mexican mission from an American mission as far as the ground forces were concerned, and that is sufficient praise in itself.

The operational loss rate of the squadron was high. There were seven pilots killed – five of them in the final phase of the Formosa missions. But in view of the low rate in the U.S. phase of their training, which should not be considered particularly significant since this was their first experience in long overwater flights. In view of the fact the squadron represented picked men; perhaps a higher level might have been expected? Operating with peak strength of 32 pilots and 17 Thunderbolt P-47D aircraft, the squadron participated in combat during a six-week period in June and July 1945.

The P-47 monument at Santa Lucia Air Base with seven death masks in 1994

The P-47 monument at Santa Lucia Air Base, with seven death masks, 1994.

The squadron was divided into four flights [Esquadrillas] which were lettered “A” to “D”. A well published photo shows four pilots from “A” flight with the artwork of the Mexican Eagle in flight holding an arrow in its feet. The bottom reads Aguilas Aztecas [Aztec Eagles] and this is imposed over the National Mexican aircraft wing markings.

Escuadrilla A

 

Top left 1st Lt. Fernando Hernandez Vega #240391, top right the Escuadrilla “A” Commander Capt. Roberto Legorreta Sicilia # 259420, bottom left 1st. Lt. Graco Ramirez , bottom right Garrido #249329, 1st. Lt. Carlos Varela Landeni #261629.

 

Flight Escuadrilla “A”

“A” flight was commanded by Capt. Roberto Legorreta Sicilia #259420, pilots Tte. P.A. Fernando Hernandez Vega #240391, [one of the original pilots who took training at San Diego in Feb. 1944], Carlos Varela Landeni #261629, Graco Ramirez Garrido #249329, [one of the original pilots who took training at San Diego in Feb. 1944], Jose Luis Pratt Ramos #313429, Miguel Urlarte Aguilar #313661, and David Ceron Bedolia #313441.

 

 

 

Flight Escuadrilla “B”

“B” flight was commanded by Tte. P.A. Carlos Garduno Nunez #261829, [one of the original pilots who took training at San Diego in Feb. 1944] pilots – Julio Cal Y Mayor Sauz #271859, [one of the original pilots who took training at San Diego in Feb. 1944], Reynaldo Perez Gallardo #290271, Sub. Tte. P.A. Miguel Morsno Arregla #313610, Praxedis Lopez Ramos #313433, Fausto Vega Santander #313453, and Angel Sanchez Rebollo #313426.

 

Flight Escuadrilla “C”

“C” flight was commanded by Tte. P.A. Hector Espinosa Galvan #259485, pilots – Joaquin Ramirez Vilchis #259444, Carlos Rodriguez Corona #281312, Amador Samano Pina #259489, Sug. Tte. P.A. Paul Garcia Mercado #313607, Guillermo Garcia Ramos #313437, and Manuel Espinosa Gonzalez #192604.

Pilot Tte. P.A. Joaquin Ramirez Vilchis was a former commander of a cavalry Unit at Jalisco, and came from a very prominent Mexico City family.

 

Flight Escuadrilla “D”

“D” flight was commanded by Tte. P.A. Amadeo Castro Almanza # 259792, pilots – Jacobo Estrada Luna #280682, [one of the original pilots who trained at San Diego in Feb. 1944], Jose Luis Barbosa Cerda #277687, Sub. Tte. P.A. Mario Lorez Portillo #313434, Roberto Urias Aveleyra #331751, Jaime Zeniso rojas #313423, Justino Reyes Retana #305961.

 

 p47mex3

 

The Mexican pilots at Porac, Pampanga, a satellite field eight miles south of Clark Field.

This 1992 letter from American pilot John O’Keeffe describes Porac.

 1992 letter from American pilot John O’Keeffe

Mexican pilots were briefed each evening for the next day’s missions. Breakfast was at 7:15 am, take-off was at 8:00 am, and the average ground support mission lasted 2 hrs. 15 min. Lunch was at 11:45 am, with second mission take-off at 13:00 hrs. As stated in above letter, the main meal was served at 15:15 hrs, which became a very formal mess dinner. Much like Mexico, the hot afternoon was time for the pilots to relax, while the mechanics and armorers worked on the aircraft.

Simonsen sketch

 

This Simonsen sketch was completed in 1992, after my interview with Col. Carlos Garduno at his home. It was intended as research for a future painting? Drawing is not to scale, including numbers.

 The 201st Mexican Squadron began training operations in theatre on a variety of hand-me-down aircraft from other Fifth Air Force Units. Many of these fighters were old “razor-back” veterans [above] which retained the USAAF markings. On these aircraft the Mexicans slowly added individual nicknames and most important the white nose cowl “petal” marking was first adopted and identified as ‘Mexican.’ Some of these loaned aircraft carried black numbers known as in-unit numbers, which first appeared on a white horizontal stripe on each side of the cowling. This horizontal stripe soon developed into the white petal nose marking design, with the numbers appearing on each side in the central part of the petal. The loaned aircraft numbers were 1 to 17. The American serial number [which was on original camouflage paint] was masked over with tape and the vertical tail and upper fuselage  painted white, between the three color vertical rudder stripes and the black theatre stripe.

 [It is believed the white painted tail section only appeared on a few of the loaned camouflage P-47 aircraft]? A few also received the new wrap-around invasion “Threatre” stripes. This was a period of in-complete markings on the Mexican aircraft. [It is further believed that some early borrowed P-47 ‘razor-back’ aircraft carried the Mexican insignia in all four wing positions]?

When the 20 new P-47D-30-RA fighters arrived, the ground crew proudly set to marking them in standard scheme. The U.S. national insignia [star and bars] appeared on the fuselage, surrounded by the “Theatre Stripes” two 24 to 36 inch black wrap-around stripes that appeared on the rear fuselage and main wings.

In my 1992 interview with Col. Gardune he made it very clear the U.S. ‘Star and Bar’ did  appear one upper and one lower wing. It has been stated in some publications, the Mexican national insignia appeared in all four wing positions. [This has been confused over the years, due to the fact it is believed a few of the early P-47’s carried the four position wing insignia?]

On the Lend-Lease P-47D’s the white nose ‘petal’ Mexican design was applied, along with the standard Mexican national three-color vertical rudder stripes. The in-unit numbers ran from 1 to 25 and appeared in black on each side of the nose in the middle of the white petal area. Some aircraft carried the in-unit number in a white horizontal band that was painted across the top of the vertical fin.

Aviation History May 2003

Aviation History May 2003.

The cover page and inside cover story by Sig Unander Jr. contain an outstanding painting of the Mexican P-47D Thunderbolt in action by artist Jack Fellows.

 

 Wing marking of US.Star and Bar confirmed  in letter

Wing marking of U.S. Star and Bar confirmed  in letter.

 

Pancho Pistolas

In late February 1993, I received my issue of Air Classics magazine, Vol. 29, Number 3. It contained a fine history of the 201st Mexican fighter pilots against the Japanese in the Philippines, by Dennis A. Cavagnaro. The above uncredited photo appeared with the story, showing 2nd Sgt. Manuel Alcantara with a wrecked Japanese Zero wing at Clark Field, Luzon, Phillipines. The man was formerly with an American parachute division and received his honourable dishcharge to join the 201st squadron. The image of “Pancho Pistola” would become the squadron mascot, and this form of nose art sparked my interest. This image was mailed to Col. Carlos Garduno and Gilberto de la Rosa on 22 February 1993.

In a letter dated 3 May 1993, [see below] Professor Alfonso Cuellar Ponce de Leon, President of the Mexican Association of Veterans states- the above Japanese wing was painted by the official artist 2nd Sgt. Jose Sanchez Garcia.

 

 letter about Pancho Pistola

Ten years pass and the same photo image appears in the article by Sig Unander Jr.,”Aviation History” May 2003, page 24. This time the Mexican man is identified as 2nd Lt. Miguel Moreno Arreola, pilot and artist who painted the “Pancho Pistolas” on the Japanese fighter wing. Miquel Moreno Arreola flew with “B” squadron,  serial number 313610.

The question remains – which is the correct name for the artist who painted the “Pancho Pistola”?

 

On 14 May 1993, I obtained the full nominal roll of all the Officers and Enlisted personnel in the 201st Mexican Squadron, sent by Professor Alfonso Cuellar Ponce de Leon.

Listed in the section “Operations Intelligence” you will find a Cabo [Typist] Manuel Alcantar Torres #350717. Is this the ex-American paratrooper who appears in the photo with Japanese wing tip and mascot?

The list contains a total of 51 Officers and 236 personnel, for total – 287.  This list also contains ten surnames of the 287,  which all have a Mexican surname of “Garcia.”

2nd Sgt. Pedro Guerra Garcia # 350210 was first attached to “D” flight as an armorer, then posted to “B” Flight as armorer to the P-47D of Lt. Reynaldo Perez Gallardo. He painted the one and ‘only’ nose art of Pancho on the 201st squadron aircraft. [photo required]

2nd Sgt. Jose Sanchez Garcia #236863, was employeed in the equipment for personnel section on the Base and listed as the ‘official painter’ and squadron artist. Was he the man who painted the Japanese fighter wing found in the junk yard, which became the squadron gate sign and mascot?

 In addition to their combat record, the 201st Squadron personnel were a valuable social contact with the Spanish speaking Filipinos.

From 1 to 10 July 1945, the 201st flew five missions with 49 aircraft, with the loss of five pilots. All were lost on routine and operational flights, no aircraft were lost in combat and no ememy aircraft were destroyed.

On 9 August 1945, the 201st moved to Clark Field, and were about to rejoin the 58th Fighter Group on Okinawa for the invasion of Japan. The next day they flew their last mission of WW II, providing air cover for a U.S. convoy bound for Okinawa. On the evening of 26 August, Captain Gaziola interupted their movie to announce, two atom bombs had been dropped on Japan, and they had surrendered. These bomb strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had just saved many Mexican lives.

The 201st shipped out of Manila on 23 October 1945, arrived at San Pedro, California on 13 November, returning to Mexico City on 18th, to a full hero’s parade.

The 18 November 2015, marks the 70th Anniversity of their return to Mexico City.

For a number of reasons, the 201st Squadron Mexican combat P-47D aircraft remained in the Philippines with the American Forces. In November 1945, the United States Government re-issued 25 brand-new P-47D-35-RA aircraft to the Mexican 201st Squadron.

A new era was about to begin, which would include post-war Mexician nose art and markings.

The first request for a Disney insignia came from the U.S. Navy, [Officer-Cadet Burt Stanley] by letter in early 1939. The request was passed on by Walt Disney to head caricature artist Hank Porter, and completed for the U.S.S. Wasp, an aircraft carrier base in San Diego. A second Disney insignia was completed by Porter and delivered to the U.S. Navy in March 1940.

 with the Mosquito fleet

This Disney insignia [above] and story was published in the April 1941 issue of Popular Mechanics, and soon after Disney received over 200 requests for unit insignia. Disney assigned [and paid] a five-man artistic staff to create each of the requests. The team was headed by Hank Porter [hired by Disney in 1936] and story director Roy Williams. In the next four years this team would design and mail out over 1,200 insignia to all Allied countries, mostly Air Force units. These requested designs featured all the Disney movie cartoon characters, with Donald Duck appearing the most in over 400 insignia.

no 21 staging unit

 

In 1941, Donald was also a major participant in the Disney Latin American venture, which produced two feature films. “Saludos Amigos” and “The Three Caballeros” were the major films, with a short released from Saludos Amigos, titled Lake Titicaca. Donald was the American naïve tourist introduced to Latin American by Jose Carioca, a parrot from Brazil and Panchito a gun packing Mexican rooster. This marked a new era for Disney studios with the very first mix of cartoon and live action people. In one wild dance scene Donald, Jose, and Panchito all chase after Aurora Miranda against a surrealist background.

The Three Caballeros was designed as a sequel to the popular Saludos Amigos, where Donald was joined by caballeros Joe Carioca and Pistol Panchito. The film was released in June 1945, and became a major hit. I’m sure the 201st Mexican personnel enjoyed the films and the mascot became a natural, they were the real Pistol Panchitos.

Mexican 201st Squadron related research material:

Scale Aircraft Modeling: Vol. 14, #6, March 1992, Latin American Thunderbolts by Dan Hagedorn. [Very good post war nose art info.]

Air Enthusiast #49, 1993, Mexico and the Dauntless, no author listed. [Very detailed info. on Douglas A-24B Dauntless, in Mexican Air Force.]

Fall 1991, and summer 1992 issues of P-47 “Jug Letter”, Simonsen request for info. letters.

Air Classics Vol. 29, #3, March 1993.

Aviation History May 2003.

 

Written by Clarence Simonsen

 

Editor’s note

More pictures found on the Internet

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6 thoughts on “The Mexican 201st Fighter Squadron – Part Three

    1. I had a vague idea, but Clarence Simonsen’s research was impressive to say the least.
      Thanks for liking my blog. I have many more.

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