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Mexico: The Mexican Military in World War II
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > History and Traditions of the Armed Forces > The Mexican Military in World War II


General Manuel Ávila Camacho, who came to office in 1940 and was the last general elected president of Mexico, continued Cárdenas's and Obregón's efforts to institutionalize the army and remove the military from politics. In February 1942, soon after the Japanese attack on United States forces at Pearl Harbor, the Joint Mexican-United States Commission on Continental Defense was established. The commission coordinated planning for the defense of Mexico and the adjacent southwestern United States. The sinking of two Mexican tankers in the Gulf of Mexico by German submarines provoked Ávila Camacho to declare war on the Axis powers in May 1942. In response to the Mexican government's expressed desire to fight the Japanese, a Mexican air squadron was readied for duty in the Pacific theater. After a year's training in the United States, Squadron 201 of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force arrived in the Philippines in April 1945. Flying P-47 Thunderbolt fighters, the Mexican pilots participated in bombing and strafing runs to support ground forces and in long-range reconnaissance missions over Taiwan. Of thirty-two pilots in the expeditionary squadron, seven were killed.

The immediate postwar years were a peak period of United States influence on the Mexican armed forces. The Mexican military reorganized, using the United States armed forces as a model. The military training program incorporated United States army field manuals. United States arms transferred to Mexico just after World War II were the country's last major acquisitions of military hardware for a period of three decades, however. In the mid-1970s, the government accepted the need for a larger, modernized army because of growing concerns over potential threats to its oil resources.

Last Updated: June 1996

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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