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Aztec Eagle

P-47D of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force 

n by E. Alfonso Velasco Jr

Mexico declared war on the Axis powers after the sinking of two Mexican oil-tankers (Potrero de Llano and Faja de Oro) by German U-boats in May, 1942. 

The USA and Mexico had had an agreement in place for unlimited reciprocal use of airfields and facilities since April 1941 and after Mexico had declared war the USAAF established a number of training bases in Mexico to train personnel. Basic pilot training was done at Guadalajara after which the students moved to USAAF schools for advanced training. 

By July 1944 enough Mexicans had been trained to form three squadrons. One of these, Expeditionary Squadron 201, had finished training and was commissioned for active service in February 1945. Arriving in the Philippines in March, it commenced operations as a part of the Fifth Air Corps USAAF flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. 

One of the airmen of that unit happened to be my uncle, Justino Reyes Retana.

The squadron flew with the 58th Fighter Group the rest of the month on support missions, often two per day helping the 25th Division in its break-through from Balete pass and Marikina Watershed area into the Cagayan Valley. It continued to operate against Japanese forces in the Philippines, and later over Formosa, until the end of the war. The Squadron was commended by General McArthur, and because it was a highly visible example of Mexico's war effort, it received a hero's welcome when the personnel returned home in November 1945.

Missions completed by the 201st Mexican Fighter Squadron:


Combat record of Escuadron Aereo de Pelea 201, Fuerza Aerea Expedicionaria Mexicana

Combat Missions flown


Offensive Sorties flown


Defensive Sorties flown



Hours flown in Combat


Hours flown in the Combat Zone


Hours flown in Pre-Combat


Average hours flown per pilot


Total hours flown



Bombs dropped 1000 lb


Bombs dropped 500 lb


Total rounds of 0.50 cal used

 166,922 rds. 


Aircraft lost in combat


Aircraft damaged in combat



Pilots killed in combat


Pilots killed in accidents


Pilots missing



201st Sqdrn. Plane in Flight. A rare wartime in-flight view of plane 44-33721/18 (subject of my diorama) of Mexico's 201 Escuadrón over the Philippines. This is one of the finest examples of the definitive wing/tail markings of the squadron.

SubLT (P.A.) Justino Reyes Retana, pilot of Escuadrilla "D" . My uncle and now 
retired Coronel of the Fuerza Aerea Mexicana (F.A.M.) 
who served with the 201st Squadron flying P-47 D´S. To the right with his wife his wife Susana Heredia.

201st Squadron Fuerza Aérea Expedicionaria Mexicana (F.A.E.M.) members with aviation artist Jack Fellows. From left to right: Jack Fellows, Carlos Garduño Nuñez, Jaime Cenizo Rojas, Angel Sánchez Rebollo, Justino Reyes Retana Fernández, Miguel Moreno Arreola, Reynaldo Pérez Gallardo, Joaquín Ramírez Vilchis, Julio Calimayor Sauz.

My model

The kit used was an Academy 1/72 P-47D "Eileen" with additional details from Verlinden and Eduard. 

The fit and finish of the Academy P-47 kit was pretty good and accurate for the scale. Assembly was straightforward. However, it's when applying the various extra resin & photoetch parts that things got interesting!

I cut the engine covers in order to accommodate the Verlinden´s Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine. Also in order to see the details of the quad .50 M2 Brownings the wing panels had to be open and replaced by Verlinden´s photoetch panels and parts.

As always, I found Verlinden and Eduard products very good and realistic. 

For painting, the main color used was Alclad polished aluminum which I found very good indeed. Other color areas and the diorama base  were painted using various paints such as Tamiya, Model Master, Floquil.

The decals were somehow a problem because of the difficulty of finding good "realistic" Mexican insignias and emblems. I had to use some of the original model, some from a very old and very bad Revell-Lodela model and make some on my own.

The diorama parts include various items such as Verlinden´s tarmac, Airfix ground personnel, Heller ground personnel and an cannibalized P-47 D wing making it appear as the downed Japanese bomber tail in which the Squadron´s mascot " Pancho Pistolas" was painted.

I encountered a problem with the ground personnel. Because of the material used on these small figures (vinyl), getting rid of the ejection pin marks was difficult.

Weathering was achieved using a kit of pastels and dry-brush technique and the very good Rustall kit for the steel planks/tarmac. I used Future floor wax on the steel planks to create a realistic "wet look" to them.

The payoff

All in all, the diorama was very satisfactory to me... and for a bunch of Squadron 201 survivors my uncle included!

Of all the models I have made since my A-10 Warthog, none have satisfied me more than this. I really enjoyed searching all over the place for the most accurate documentation and photographs. But most of all, I cherish the warm and great conversations and war experiences held with my uncle and his Squadron 201 pals while enjoying a bottle - Did I say bottle !? - I mean a cup of tequila.

I believe the making of this project has made me a little more fan of  the history of the P-47 and the involvement of the Mexican Squadron 201 in WW II.



This diorama is dedicated to all the valiant and proud Mexican aviators military men and woman who served México in W.W.II.

Special thanks due to my uncle Col. Justino Reyes Retana and his wife Susana for trusting me with this long forgotten scale model.


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