Did you know that in Germany there is an air squad called “Viva Zapata”?

In its fuselage and badges it carries the image of the Mexican revolutionary

Did you know that in Germany there is an air squad called "Viva Zapata"?

The stories of aviation are quite peculiar. Even many of its symbols and memories can only be understood from aeronautics itself. One of these stories is propagated in Germany by the air interceptor squadron that carries the image of the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata on its fuselage and insignia, as an emblem of daring, perseverance and combativeness. With the authorization of the Mexican government since 1971, the German pilots of this squadron are officially called “Zapatas”. 

At the end of the Second World War (1939-1945), Germany was divided physically and ideologically into two countries, its western region being aligned with American interests and influence. As part of a comprehensive strategy to contain possible interference and potential Soviet aggression, the United States supported the development of military forces in West Germany. Under American tutelage and with the limitations imposed by the peace agreements at the end of the war, this country formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1955, and the following year began to develop an Air Force ( Luftwaffe) integrated to that organization.

The last air squadron of German combat interceptors was created in 1961 under the name of Jagdgeschwader74 (Wing of Combat # 74) abbreviated as JG-74. That reaction unit was initially integrated by two squadrons of Saber F-86K interceptors manufactured in the United States by North American Aviation .

The Neuburg Air Base in Bavaria, south of Germany, is still the headquarters of the JG-74 and its squadrons, which later acquired F-104G Starfighter aircraft in the sixties, Phantom II in the seventies, and from 2006 Eurofighter Typhoon. However, the tradition of both squads remains to this day, and this is where a curious and interesting story begins for our country.


With the authorization of the Mexican government since 1971, the German pilots of this squadron are officially called “Zapatas”

“Crazier” than those of Squadron 201

The Second Squadron of JG-74 (designated 742) received, along with the first Saber aircraft, instruction from North American pilots, who perceived that the Germans were very reckless in the aerial maneuvers, for which they indicated that the Germans under their charge were ” more crazy than the pilots of the Mexican Air Force. ” They referred to the 201 Squadron, whose 38 combat pilots distinguished themselves in the war against Japan in 1945.

The German pilots, undoubtedly impregnated with the good humor of the military aviators, adopted Emiliano Zapata as a coat of arms and baptized the 742 as the Viva Zapata Squadron. Since then, all the aircraft of that air body carry in their fuselage, and sometimes in the wings and tail, an emblem of Zapata, which also appears in the distinctive sector in the flight uniform of the pilots.

On September 9, 1971, the Mexican military attache in Germany formally authorized the 742 Squadron to use the image of the Morelense caudillo on its emblem, as well as to use the air designation of “Zapata” and / or “Zapatas” during its operations.

Thus, the image and memory of the revolutionary leader has flown over Europe for 45 years. The 742 Squadron has participated in defense and aviation security operations, as well as being a regional reference for military operations. And this expression of admiration for Zapata is so peculiar, that perhaps he himself would have let out a good laugh for the German Air Interceptor Squadron 742.

The article “¡Viva Zapata!” By the author José Medina González Dávila, was published in full in Stories and Stories in Mexico number 101:  http://relatosehistorias.mx/la-coleccion/santiago-vidaurri-entre-la-repu .. .

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