Did Mexico participate in World War II?
The relationship between Mexico and the United States immediately before World War II was often tense. President Cardenas's decision to nationalize the petroleum industry in March 1939 only exacerbated the difficulties. Given its historical experience with US intervention from the mid-nineteenth century, Mexico ollowed a strong noninterventionist foreign policy in the postrevolutionary decades. Mexico, therefore, rarely pursued a leadership position in Latin American regional affairs, let alone had any inclination to become involved in international conflicts. When the Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States declared war on the Axis powers, the US government viewed South America as a potential source of strong German influence and infiltration. Therefore, the border regions and the desolate areas of Baja California were considered to pose potential threats to the US security, one possibility being Japanese infiltration along the Pacific coast.
Unlike Brazil, which allowed the United States to use its territory as a base of operations for US Air Force flights to Africa, which provided crucial logistical support for Allied forces against the Germans in North Africa, Mexico did not ally itself with the United States. Instead, it maintained a low- key but modestly collaborative attitude toward its northern neighbor. The Secretariat of National Defense increased its focus on the northern military regions and brought former president and general Lazaro Cardenas back on active duty to take charge of a regional military command. Mexico also accepted $39 million in lend-lease credits from the United States for improved training and weaponry. Near the end of the war, Mexico declared war on the Axis powers for attacking its oil tankers, which were transporting crude to the United States. It joined the United States by sending a small, expeditionary air force unit, the 201st Squadron, to participate in combat in the Philippines in 1945. It received a commendation from General Douglas MacArthur, commander of United States Forces in the Pacific. That squadron became highly revered in Mexico, and many of its officers achieved top posts in the Mexican Air Force. Mexico's most useful contribution to the US military effort was the provision of human resources to the United States to make up for the loss of workers in unskilled jobs, including those in railroad track maintenance and agricultural harvesting. Mexico also acceded to requests from the United States to increase the production of certain goods that were needed for the war effort and could not be imported from traditional sources, including opium-producing poppies.