The World War II Gallery in the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio includes an exhibit entitled Airmen in a World at War.
According to the Museum:
In the summer of 1945 airmen of the Mexican Air Force flew combat missions along with their American Allies. Mexico’s Escuadrón 201, The Aztec Eagles, equipped with Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter aircraft distinguished themselves in providing close air support to American ground units as well as long-range bombing strikes deep into Japanese held territory.

Mexico declared war on Japan, Germany and Italy on May 28, 1942, after having broken off diplomatic relations with those countries shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The final provocation was the continued violation of Mexico’s territorial waters by German submarines and the sinking of two Mexican oil tankers.

The United States and Mexico entered into numerous wartime treaties and agreements which dramatically changed the diplomatic and social relations of the two countries. These included agreements for the unlimited reciprocal use of airfields and facilities as well as the establishment by the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) of a number of bases in Mexico to train personnel. Basic pilot training was done at Guadalajara, Mexico after which the students moved to USAAF schools in the United States for advanced individual and unit training.

The President of Mexico, Manuel Avila Camacho, had accepted a U.S. invitation to provide Mexican Air Force units in the war against Japan. By July 1944 enough Mexican Air Force pilots and ground support personnel had been trained to form the first squadron for overseas deployment, the 201st Fighter Squadron (Escuadrón Aéreo de Pelea 201) consisting of 36 pilots and over 264 support personnel. This unit, along with a Mexican Expeditionary Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Expedicionaria Mexicana) headquarters, moved to the Philippine Islands in February of 1945.

Arriving in March of 1945 the Escuadrón 201 was attached to the U.S. 5th Air Force and the 58th Fighter Group which was based at Porac, Luzon. The 58th Fighter Group merged the Escuadrón 201 into combat operations and provided invaluable support to the new unit during its first combat missions. In early July 1945 the 58th Fighter Group deployed to Okinawa and the now fully operational Escuadrón 201 assumed full responsibility for air operations in its area. It provided not only close in ground support to the advancing U.S. 25th “Tropic Lightning” Division and Philippine Army units on Luzon but also strenuous and dangerous seven hour long-range fighter strikes on strategic Japanese targets on the island of Taiwan.

The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were quickly followed by Japan’s unconditional surrender. Had the war continued, other Mexican squadrons as well as replacement pilots and personnel would have followed the Escuadrón 201 footsteps for the invasion of Japan.

During its operational history the Escuadrón 201 had flown 795 combat sorties, had accumulated nearly 2,000 hours of combat flying, and had sadly lost seven pilots. At the end of the war the Escuadrón 201 was awarded the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, individual decorations and awards from the United States, and, the most treasured award, the Mexican Far East Service Medal (Servicio en el Lejano Oriente). The Escuadrón 201 remains the only military unit in the history of Mexico to engage in combat outside of its national borders.
According to the Museum:
It was a great honor in Japan to become a naval aviator. Early in World War II, Imperial Japanese Navy pilots went through a rigorous and at times brutal cadet program. Later, as these experienced airmen became casualties of war, hastily trained pilots replaced them.

Imperial Japanese Navy Petty Officer’s Service Uniform
This is the uniform of a senior petty officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The blue chrysanthemum on the sleeve marks him as a naval aviator. (Donated by Masajiro Kawato and the Nakata War Museum)

Imperial Japanese Naval Pilot’s Suit
This is a replica of a typical summer flying suit for an Imperial Japanese Navy fighter pilot during WWII. The kapok-filled life vest is genuine and contrasted with the air-filled Mae West life vest that was used by the USAAF. Kapok is made from the buoyant fiber covering the seeds of the ceiba tree. (Donated by Masajiro Kawato and the Nakata War Museum)

Prayer Belt
Also known as a “Belt of a Thousand Stitches,” it was supposed to protect its wearer from harm. Mothers, wives, and sisters made the belts by petitioning other women to add one stitch each until there were a thousand.
According to the Museum:
Regia Aeronautica
Italian pilots enjoyed success in the invasion of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 and during the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1938, but suffered heavily while flying inferior aircraft against the Allies in World War II. Although the Regia Aeronautica carried out limited operations over England and the Soviet Union, most of its pilots fought in the Mediterranean region.

After the armistice in 1943, some pilots fled north to form the Republican Air Force and continued to fight for Mussolini. The majority of the Regia Aeronautica, however, took up arms against the Axis, flying over 4,000 missions between September 1943 and May 1945.

Regia Aeronautica Officer’s Service Uniform
This is a service uniform for a Regia Aeronautica captain who was a fighter pilot. The two hash marks on the upper right sleeve indicate he suffered two war wounds. His decorations reflect his earlier service in Abyssinia and in the Spanish Civil War.

Regia Aeronautica Flying Uniform
This was a typical summer flying outfit for a Regia Aeronautica pilot in North Africa in 1942, although some airmen wore khaki shorts in place of the flying trousers for a measure of relief from the heat. This lieutenant has obtained a pair of comfortable British flying boots. It was a common practice for pilots of both sides to replace issued material with captured flying gear.
According to the Museum:
By the fall of 1944, Luftwaffe (German Air Force) pilots faced the impossible task of defending Germany against the huge, escorted bomber formations of the USAAF by day and the Royal Air Force by night. By this time, many of its best fighter aces had been killed and replaced with inexperienced, poorly trained pilots.

Luftwaffe Fighter Pilot
The mannequin on the left wears typical flight gear for a Luftwaffe fighter pilot in late 1944. Of particular interest are the white plastic zippers on the inseam of his flying trousers (or “Channel pants”). Increasing shortages of material caused by Allied bombing forced clothing manufacturers to replace metal with plastic.

German Fighter Pilot Service Dress
This mannequin represents the service dress for a Luftwaffe fighter pilot with the rank of Hauptmann (or captain). The “day fighter clasp” above the left breast pocket identifies him as a fighter pilot. On his left breast pocket is a pilot’s badge (an eagle over a laurel wreath), an Iron Cross First Class, and a black wound badge.

Officer’s tropical service cap typically worn by Luftwaffe pilots in the Mediterranean Theater. Enlisted Luftwaffe personnel wore woolen eagles on their right breast like the one displayed here. Officers wore eagles made of aluminum bouillon like the one on the mannequin.
According to the Museum:
Brazil entered the war on Aug. 22, 1942, after German submarines sank several of its merchant ships in the Atlantic Ocean. Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB) aircrews had already begun training with U.S. personnel and conducting antisubmarine flights off the coast of Brazil. By the end of 1944, this important mission was the sole responsibility of FAB aircrews flying U.S.-supplied aircraft.

From the fall of 1944 to the end of the war, an all-volunteer group of 48 Brazilian fighter pilots flew as a squadron attached to the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 350th Fighter Group, 12th Air Force, in Italy. Designated the 1º Grupo de Aviação de Caça (1º GAC), these P-47 Thunderbolt pilots amassed an impressive combat record that included the destruction of over 1,300 motor vehicles, 250 railway cars, and 25 bridges.

Força Aérea Brasileira Officer’s Service Uniform
This Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB) officer’s service uniform represents a first lieutenant in Italy.
Força Aérea Brasileira Flying Uniform
Brazilian pilots in Italy wore the same U.S.-issued flying clothing and equipment as their USAAF counterparts. Even so, their patches and distinctive white caps readily identified them as members of the 1º GAC.

Senta a Pύa Emblem
Senta a Pύa! loosely translated means “fight with a spur,” which is a phrase derived from rooster fighting. This expression became the war cry of the 1º GAC and it was incorporated into their unit emblem. This emblem was worn as a patch on their flight suits and also painted on their P-47s.
According to the Museum:
At the beginning of World War II in 1939, most pilots serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF) were British-born. As the war continued, airmen came from many different countries. Foreign-born RAF pilots sometimes flew as independent units and other times they were mixed in with British-born aircrews. They included members of the British Commonwealth, such as Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, along with volunteers from the United States and occupied countries such as Norway, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

RAF Group Captain’s Service Uniform
This officer is wearing the standard service uniform for an RAF pilot. The stripes on his lower sleeves identify him as a group commander.

RAF Flying Uniform
Flying clothing worn by RAF aircrews varied to a great degree depending on the mission and the personal preference of the individual. Fighter pilots often wore a prized Irvin jacket over their service uniform, like the mannequin on display. Worn over the flying clothing is an inflatable life vest should he go down over water.

RAF Emergency Whistle
Attached to the life vest, this whistle could be used to signal nearby rescuers or other airmen in the water.

RAF Life Vest Light
This emergency light was attached to the life vest with a clip. Its battery provided about 12 hours of light to help searchers find a downed airman.

Eight-Day Clock
This eight-day clock was used in the Spitfire fighter. When fully wound, it operated for up to eight days without rewinding.
According to the Museum:
During World War II, U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) aircrews fought in a vast global war from the hot, dry deserts of North Africa to the dangerously frigid wilderness in Greenland, Iceland, and Alaska. The type of flying clothing and service dress they wore varied greatly due to environmental considerations, aircraft type, crew position, and personal preferences.

B-29 Navigator
Aircrews in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) generally wore light flying gear due to the warmer climate and the lower altitudes where they usually flew. The B-29 navigator on display is wearing khaki summer service dress, which many aircrews wore on missions. While early B-29 operations were conducted at high altitude, by early February 1945 they had switched to lower and warmer altitudes between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. Furthermore, the B-29 was pressurized and had an effective heating system for crew comfort.

This navigator is carrying his bag containing maps, charts, a slide rule, and other instruments, and over his left breast pocket is a navigator’s wing badge. On his head is the famous and widely-used “50 mission crush cap,” which was a service cap with the stiffener removed. Army regulations approved this modification to allow flyers to wear radio headphones over the cap.

Aerial Gunner
This experienced 5th Air Force staff sergeant in winter service dress is on the way home after the surrender of the Japanese. He has five horizontal overseas stripes, each one indicating six months of overseas service, and one diagonal service stripe, which indicated three years of service in the USAAF. He is identified as an aerial gunner by the wings above his left breast pocket, and on this pocket is a marksmanship badge for aerial gunnery and machine gun proficiency. Above his right breast pocket is a “ruptured duck” patch, which was worn while traveling home after being discharged from active duty service.

Fighter Pilot
Aircrews in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) generally flew at higher altitudes and wore warmer clothing than their counterparts in the Pacific. While many aircrews in the ETO wore flying suits, this fighter pilot also has the famed A-2 flying jacket for added warmth. He has a yellow Mae West life jacket in case of a water landing, and his face mask provides oxygen needed at high altitude. To communicate, he has a flying helmet that holds his radio headphones and a throat microphone around his neck.
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