God Bless George Lucas

Mexico's World War II Escuadron 201 story awaits film glory

By Andy Porras
Published on LatinoLA: February 28, 2012

God Bless George Lucas

Ten years after beginning what he designated as his "his passion project," - the making of "Red Tails" - the movie finally soared into America's theaters, even those in the South.

Lucas searched unsuccessfully to find a typical Hollywood film distributor for marketing a movie about a chapter in African American history with an all African American cast directed by an an African American.

In the process, this story of the famed Tuskegee Airman cost Lucas $58 million of his personal fortune to produce his epic tale, prior to distributing it himself. For those not aware, once upon a time, African Americans could neither vote nor fly a military airplane; the Tuskegee pilots helped push the way for integration of all armed forces.

Lucas and company, by the way, were not totally surprised that Hollywood's honchos could care less about this story that helps the country understand its own history a tad better. In the land of make-believe, like in the rest of Corporate America, it seems the only thing that matters is profit.

That said, let's look at another project, one pleading for someone with lots of dinero to develop a full feature film about Mexico's El Escuadr??n 201.

El Escuadr??n 201 (or squadron #201) was a part of the Fuerza A?®rea Expedicionaria Mexicana -- "Mexican Expeditionary Air Force" -- that became part of the Allied war effort during World War II.

During their period, the squadron coined their own nickname Aguilas Aztecas, or "Aztec Eagles". They were attached to the 58th Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) throughout the liberation of the main Philippine island of Luzon in the summer of 1945. The Mexican pilots flew Republic P-47D-30-RA Thunderbolt single-seat fighter aircraft carrying out tactical air support missions and almost instantly becoming part of the American and Mexican war sagas.

In reality, The 201 had more than 300 volunteers. Thirty of them were experienced pilots and the rest were ground crewmen -- electricians, mechanics, and radiomen. Formation of the 201 came following an attack by German submarines against Mexican oil tankers that were transporting crude oil to the United States. These attacks prompted then-Mexican President Manuel Avila Camacho to declare war on the Axis powers.

Shortly thereafter, the 201 arrived in the U.S. for special training in armament, communications and tactics at various Texas military installations, including Randolph in San Antonio, Foster Army Air Field in Victoria and Majors Field in Greenville, where they undertook advanced training in combat air tactics, formation flying and gunnery. They also trained at Pocatello Army Air Base in Idaho.

Prior to leaving for the Philippines, the 201 received further instructions and physical examinations at Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg, California. Soon thereafter, on March 1945, they left for the Philippines aboard the troop ship S.S. Fairisle.

The 201 initially flew missions with the 310th Fighter Squadron, using borrowed U.S. planes until they were issued 25 new P-47D-30-RA aircraft, marked with both the USAAF and Mexican Air Force logos. They flew more than 90 combat missions, totaling more than 1,900 hours of flight time while participating in the Allied effort to bomb Luzon and Formosa pushing the Japanese out of those islands.

During its time in the Philippines, five squadron pilots perished. Among the missions flown by the squadron were 53 ground support missions flown in support of the U.S. 25th Infantry Division together with the Philippine soldiers under the Philippine Commonwealth Army.

Mexico released a movie back in 1945, produced by Jaime Salvador, with an all-Mexican cast and totally in Spanish and in 2006, a documentary in English, directed by Mexican filmmaker Vicor Mancilla called The Forgotten Eagles was premiered at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival. Little was heard of the film soon thereafter.

Will a Latino Lucas step to the plate and remind America of the many, many military contributions men and women with Spanish surnames have made? The 201 is but a mere nugget of countless of heroic adventures found in the Hispanic history of this country's armed forces.

Meanwhile, the two remaining pilots of the 201 would probably appreciate an effort be made on behalf of all their compatriots who took part in such a remarkable mission.

More at: http://www.201prod.com/gallery201-1.html

About Andy Porras:
Porras, a veteran journalist, is recuperating from a triple-bypass heart surgery in his Sacramento home.
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