Memorial Day and Mexican Immigrants

Today is Memorial Day and many of you are remembering the sacrifices made by American soldiers in war. Although many try to ignore this inconvenient fact, immigrants have fought valiantly alongside the American soldier helping to keep the nation safe from its enemies. This is important to remember during this time where Donald Trump demonizes Mexicans and other immigrants. Throughout American history, there have been many times Mexicans have stood up for America. Not only Mexican immigrants and Mexican citizens, but many Mexican-Americans, or Hispanics, who contribute to the safety of the United States yesterday, today and into the future.

If you accept what Donald Trump tells America about immigrants, especially Mexican immigrants, you would assume that Mexicans have no place in Memorial Day celebrations. You would be wrong, because not only did México, as a country, step up to aid America during World War II, but many Mexican citizens fought alongside Americans against fascism. In World War II, the United States and México came together to defeat a danger to America and to the world.

In 1942, the Joint Mexican-U.S. Defense Commission was formed to coordinate the defense of the Americas. This was because of the Treaty of Reciprocal Military Transit Rights adopted on April 1941. Besides creating the Inter-American Defense Board and the land-lease agreements for radar installations along with the use of Mexican airfields, the cooperation included the deployment of the Mexican fighter squadron – Escuadrón 201 – to the Philippines, and it also allowed Mexican citizens to be inducted in the U.S. military. Mexican citizens could be inducted into the United States military as a result of the agreements between to the two nations, and many did.

It is important to note, that unlike other allies like Canada, México always required its military personnel to operate under Mexican command while in México or deployed under the Mexican flag. For example, radar operators were Mexican citizens working alongside American citizens who were technical advisors, but subordinate to the Mexican command. However, the Mexican citizens who were inducted into the U.S. military operated under the command of the United States command. These Mexican citizens were soldiers, just like all other Americans during World War II.

As the Memorial Day remembrances are held today, it is important to note that 250,000 Mexican citizens, living in the United States, were inducted into the U.S. military. They volunteered to defend America. Of these, about 14,000 fought in combat, suffering over 1,000 casualties. [1]

About one thousand Mexican citizens gave their lives for America. These were volunteers.

To be clear, the 250,000 Mexicans were under no obligation to enlist in the U.S. military. They were not U.S. citizens or residents. They could have continued to work in the fields or returned to México. They chose to fight with America.

But it wasn’t just Mexicans who volunteered, México also contributed to the war effort by allowing American aircraft access to airfields for refueling and logistics as the aircraft were deployed to the Panama Canal. México also provided much needed copper, mercury, oil, and zinc to the allies. [2]

México also benefited the United States, and this is especially relevant to today’s Trump hostility towards Mexicans and immigration, through Mexican labor for the war effort. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Avila Camacho in 1942 signed an agreement that provided Mexican labor to the war effort in the farms, feeding the country and the soldiers and keeping the supplies running on the railroads. [3]

It was Mexican immigrants, working as guest workers (braceros), who allowed the United States the ability to focus on fighting the Nazis and Japan. Without the Mexican labor, the United States’ war effort would have been hampered by the lack of man power, lack of resources and the need to feed the country and the military. They worked the fields and the railroads which were instrumental in the war effort.

But most important to today’s dialog, without Mexico’s active role in the war effort, the United States would have been forced to bolster its southern borders against a possible military threat by Nazi Germany, Japan, or a combination of them and México.

Some readers will be tempted to minimize the sacrifice made by Mexicans in defense of the United States as too little or ineffective. Those readers should note that seven Mexican citizens have been awarded America’s highest honor for bravery during war, the Medal of Honor. [4]

The Medal of Honor proves that Mexicans have and will continue to stand for and with the United States and its citizens when America needs a helping hand from its neighbor.

Keep these inconvenient facts in mind as Donald Trump and cohorts continue to pretend that Mexicans have no place in America today.

Footnotes:

1. Child, John; “Unequal Alliance: the Inter-American Military System, 1938-1978”; A Westview Replica Series, American University, a revision of the author’s thesis, pg 58.
2. Deare, Craig; “A Tale of Two Eagles: The US-Mexico Bilateral Defense Relationship Post Cold War”; Rowman & Littlefield; March 13, 2017, pg 57.
3. ibid, pg 57-58.
4. Author’s personal research available at braceros.org

Advertisements