Washington County history buffs, aviation enthusiasts and students of Mexican-American relations can preview the film, “The Forgotten Eagles,” with the man behind the documentary offering opening remarks on Nov. 20 in Hillsboro.

Sig Unander of Cornelius has over many years made a study of the story of Mexican Fighter Squadron 201, a once little-known World War II footnote. Earlier versions of the film were shown to limited audiences a few years ago, but Unander will present the finished film, set for wide distribution in early 2013, at the Walters Cultural Arts Center’s monthly Spoken Word Lecture Series.

Unander, a scholar and writer, spent years researching the story of the Aztec Eagles fighter pilots who joined with the U.S. Air Force to liberate The Philippines during World War II.

In the process, he has traveled widely, interviewing surviving members of the 201st and delving deeply into the history of Mexican-American relations.

“I have a real love for research,” said Unander, who is fluent in Spanish and was able to mine information resources in the U.S., Mexico and The Philippines, where the 1945 liberation is still celebrated with special recognition given to the young pilots of the 201st.

In 2002, he published a limited edition run of fine art lithographs dedicated to the Mexican fighter squadron and he is completing a book about the Mexican-U.S. alliance and “its impact on binational relations.”

International story

Unander’s work caught the attention of independent Mexican-American documentary filmmaker Victor Mancilla several years ago and the two collaborated on telling the story of the heroic Mexican airmen.

Filming took place over three years and in all three countries, including a shoot featuring a surviving pilot who had an emotional visit to what remains of the airstrip he and his colleagues used in The Philippines. The pilot has since died.

Actor Edward James Olmos provides the introduction and some of the narration for the film, which includes historic photos and rare black-and-white film shot during the war, Unander said.

“The film vividly shows how Mexico and the U.S. became friends and allies during World War II,” said Unander. “Those events helped set the stage for modern relations between the two countries.”by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JOANN BOATWRIGHT -  Sig Unander has spent years digging into the history of the Aztec Eagles, who joined with the U.S. Ai

The film has provided Unander opportunities to rub shoulders with statesmen and elected officials from all three countries, as well as military, aviation and history experts. He also has interviewed wives and other family members of the pilots and others who were children during the occupation and liberation of The Philippines.

“The peoples of both the United States and Mexico owe a debt of recognition to these Mexican heroes who helped usher in a new era of progress and cooperation between our countries and have contributed so much,” Unander wrote.

And, Unander’s work on the story of the Aztec Eagles has led him to his next project, a biography of Claire Phillips, a Portland singer, dancer and actress who ran a canteen in The Philippines during World War II, but was actually a spy.

She is an all-but-forgotten heroine whose story deserves to be told, he said.

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine