Carlos Garduno and Capt. Miguel Moreno Arreola, and ground crewman former Capt. Manuel Cervantes Ramos.
Miguel Moreno Arreola by Rudi William
"We're very proud to have served with the Americans veterans in World War II," said Miguel Moreno Arreola
, another who fought with the Mexican Fighter Squadron 201, the "Aztec Eagles," during the war.
, who finished pilot training on June 3, 1944, remembers arriving at San Antonio's Randolph Field, which, he
said, at that time, was the best school for pilot training.
"Sometimes something nice happens," Arreola
said with a big smile.
"When I was waiting for my training, a beautiful lady arrived and said, 'Are you Arreola?' I said, 'Yes I am.' And she
said, 'I'm your instructor.' "I was totally surprised because I never thought that a woman would be giving me training."
was one of 34 out of 36 pilots to pass the examinations.
"We left from San Francisco on March 27, 1945, and arrived in Manila on April 30 and (were) attached to the 58th Group," said Arreola, who started out as a wingman and later became a commander.
"Then they sent us about 70 miles north to one of the big islands.
We arrived May 1, 1945, and raised our battle flag the second day there.
"We flew some very dangerous missions from Clark Field in the Philippines to Formosa, now called Taiwan," continued Arreola
, who flew 36 missions, including two over Formosa, during his
six months in the Pacific.
"We saw more frequent airplanes from Japan on that 650-mile trip than ever before.
But they didn't want to have combat with us, because they knew our P-47s were better than their Mitsubishis.
We could fly higher and faster."
said the Aztec Eagles didn't find out until Aug. 8, 1945, that the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6.
"We didn't know what it destroyed, or if it destroyed anything," he
"Then on Aug. 9 they dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki."
After the war ended, the Mexican pilots were sent to Okinawa and placed on standby.
said the Aztec Eagles dedicated a monument in Manila on Sept. 25, 1945, honoring the five pilots who were killed.
They left the Pacific and returned home triumphantly on Oct. 21, 1945.
They were greeted as national heroes in Mexico City on Nov. 18 by huge crowds, including President Camacho.
"I said to the president, the mission is over," said Arreola
, who got out of the air force and flew civilian airliners in Mexico for 36 years.
"That's one of the best memories I have."
But today, the enormous crowds are gone and in most cases, the Aztec Eagles are all but forgotten.
"Now, we receive more attention in the United States than in our own country," Arreola