6 Renowned Tuskegee Airmen

6 Renowned Tuskegee Airmen

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As the first Black aviators to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen broke through a massive segregation barrier in the American military. Their success and heroism during World War II, fighting Germans in the skies over Europe, shattered pervasive stereotypes that African Americans had neither the character nor the aptitude for combat. And their achievements laid crucial groundwork for civil rights progress in the decades to come.

In the summer of 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Civilian Pilot Training Program Act to train civilian aviators at colleges and vocational schools in preparation for a national emergency. The law contained a provision that “none of the benefits of training or programs shall be denied on account of race, creed, or color.” At the time, there were only 124 licensed Black pilots in the United States—and none in the Army Air Corps.

'Tuskegee Airmen: Legacy of Courage' premieres Wednesday, February 10 at 8/7c. Watch a preview now.

Of six historically black colleges and universities included in the program, the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama became the most renowned. In January 1941, the War Department, under pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to include black aviators, established at Tuskegee the nation’s first Black flying unit: the 99 th Pursuit Squadron, which was later renamed the 99th Fighter Squadron.

Between 1941 and 1945, nearly 1,000 pilots trained in the Tuskegee program; of those, 450 saw combat during World II in the 99th and 332nd Fighter groups. In aerial battles over North Africa and Europe, these pilots flew more than 1,500 missions, largely as escort planes for the bombers, but sometimes in direct combat. Of the extraordinary men who served as Tuskegee-trained pilots, here are six standouts:

READ MORE: How the Tuskegee Airmen Became Pioneers of Black Military Aviation

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. (1912-2002)

At a time when African Americans faced overwhelming racism and discrimination in the military, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., son of the Army’s first Black general, built a historic career: One of a small handful of African Americans to be admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point since Reconstruction—and the only one there during his own tenure—he went on to command the Tuskegee Airmen, serve in three wars and become a general himself.

After graduating from West Point in 1936, Davis, Jr. was denied access to the Army Air Corp on the basis of race, and initially served as an infantry officer. In 1941, when the War Department began training Black pilots at the Tuskegee Airfield, he became one of the first five pilots to receive his wings. During World War II, he served as commander of both Tuskegee units to see combat: the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group. Under his leadership, they shot down 112 enemy planes, and destroyed or damaged 273 on the ground. His groups lost just 66 of their planes and only about 25 of the bombers under their escort. For leading both units in Europe, Davis earned several honors, including the Silver Star. President Harry Truman later asked him to help draft the military’s landmark desegregation plan.

When Davis was promoted to Brigadier General in 1954, he became the first African American general in the Air Force. In 2002, he was promoted to full general on the retired list in a White House ceremony with President Bill Clinton. In 2019, the U.S. Air Force Academy named its airfield after him.

READ MORE: How Tuskegee Airmen Fought Military Segregation With Nonviolent Action

Daniel Chappie James (1920-1978)

Daniel James, the first Black four-star general in the Air Force, became a member of the Tuskegee Airmen in 1943, but spent World War II stateside as a flight instructor. During the Korean War, he flew 101 combat missions. As a vice commander of the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing in Thailand, James flew 78 combat missions during the Vietnam War.

In 1970, as the commander of the 7272nd Fighter Training Wing at Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya, James had a memorable standoff with Muammar el-Qaddafi, who had recently led a successful military coup of Libya’s government. Qaddafi was attempting to seize the base when he encountered James outside its gates.“ I had my .45 in my belt. I told him to move his hand away. If he had pulled that gun, he never would have cleared his holster,” James said.

The encounter passed without incidence and James succeeded in removing 4,000 people and $21 million in assets from the facility. He died on February 25, 1978, a month after retiring from the Air Force.

WATCH: Executive Order 9981: Desegrating US Armed Forces

Roscoe Brown (1922-2016)

During World War II, Roscoe Brown flew 68 combat missions, downing a German jet outside Berlin during an escort mission in 1945. As a part of the Tuskegee Airmen’s bomber-escort missions in the 99th Fighter Squadron, he was one of three Red Tailed Angels. In 2007, Brown and five other Tuskegee airmen accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the nearly 1,000 black men who went through the Tuskegee Airmen program between 1941 and 1945. Brown also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery and skill.

In an oral history, Brown said: “Many of the bomber pilots [we escorted] said, ‘We saw the Red Tail P-51s and they were our saviors… Many of them did not know—most of them did not know—[we] were African Americans.

After the war, Brown became an educator, social activist and one of the most prominent caretakers of the Tuskegee Airmen legacy until his death at age 94.

READ MORE: The Tuskegee Airmen: 5 Fascinating Facts

Charles McGee (b. 1919)

After graduating from flight training in Tuskegee in 1943, Charles McGee was assigned to the 332nd Fighter group, in which he flew 137 combat missions. By the time he retired in 1973 from the Air Force at the rank of Colonel, he had flown a combined 409 combat missions in World War II, Korea and the Vietnam War—more than any other Air Force pilot. Along with Roscoe Brown, McGee flew the P-51B Mustang and was one of the Red Tailed Angels that escorted heavy bombers over targets in occupied Europe.

To celebrate his 100th birthday in 2019, McGee piloted a private jet from Maryland to Dover Air Force Base, where he was met by 100 service members from the 436th Airlift Wing. McGee is one of the oldest living Tuskegee Airmen.

WATCH: 'Tuskegee Airmen' on HISTORY Vault

Lucius Theus (1922-2007)

Theus is the first and only mission support officer of the Tuskegee Airmen to be promoted to general and the third black Air Force general after Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., and Daniel Chappie James. During World War II, he served as a member of the 332nd Fighter group.

After World War II, he quickly ascended the ranks as an Air Force personnel officer. After a race riot between black and white enlisted men and noncommissioned officers at Travis Air Force Base in 1971, Theus was called in to administer programs to address equal opportunity and communication across races in the military, initiatives that had first been inspired nearly 30 years earlier through the success of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Theus became the first African American combat support officer promoted to the rank of general officer.

READ MORE: Why Harry Truman Ended Segregation in the Military in 1948

Charles Alfred ‘Chief’ Anderson (1907-1996)

Known as the father of Black aviation, Charles Anderson was Tuskegee’s chief civilian flight instructor during World War II. In 1932, after receiving his pilot’s license, he was the only Black flight instructor in the United States.

In the coming years, along with another Black aviation pioneer, Dr. Albert Forsythe, Anderson completed several “firsts” for African American pilots. Among their feats, Anderson and Forsythe made the first transcontinental round trip by black pilots: Atlantic City to Los Angeles in 1933.

In 1941, as the chief aviation instructor at Tuskegee, Anderson gave First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt a flight during her visit to Tuskegee. She had heard, in her words, “that colored people couldn’t fly,” but after their short trip could say, “Well, I see you can fly all right!” Coverage of her visit helped cement support in Washington for the program.

During World War II, Anderson was Tuskegee’s ground commander and chief aviation instructor for the 99th Pursuit Squadron. After World War II, Chief Anderson continued training pilots at Moten Field in Tuskegee.

In 2014, he became the first Tuskegee Airman to be featured on a U.S. postage stamp.


These pioneering Black aviators not only took on the Germans they shattered racist stereotypes and helped advance civil rights.

As the first Black aviators to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen broke through a massive segregation barrier in the American military. Their success and heroism during World War II, fighting Germans in the skies over Europe, shattered pervasive stereotypes that African Americans had neither the character nor the aptitude for combat. And their achievements laid crucial groundwork for civil rights progress in the decades to come.

In the summer of 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Civilian Pilot Training Program Act to train civilian aviators at colleges and vocational schools in preparation for a national emergency. The law contained a provision that “none of the benefits of training or programs shall be denied on account of race, creed, or color.” At the time, there were only 124 licensed Black pilots in the United States—and none in the Army Air Corps.

Of six historically black colleges and universities included in the program, the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama became the most renowned. In January 1941, the War Department, under pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to include black aviators, established at Tuskegee the nation’s first Black flying unit: the 99 th Pursuit Squadron, which was later renamed the 99 th Fighter Squadron.

Between 1941 and 1945, nearly 1,000 pilots trained in the Tuskegee program of those, 450 saw combat during World II in the 99 th and 332 nd Fighter groups. In aerial battles over North Africa and Europe, these pilots flew more than 1,500 missions, largely as escort planes for the bombers, but sometimes in direct combat. Of the extraordinary men who served as Tuskegee-trained pilots, here are six standouts:

The Famous Tuskegee Airmen…and Meteorologists

The Tuskegee Airmen were a highly respected fighter group formed in 1941. Prior to 1940, African-Americans were not permitted to fly with the U.S. military. Thanks to advocacy by civil rights groups and others, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed legislation in 1940 which prohibited racial restrictions on voluntary enlistments in the military and allowed African-Americans to serve in all branches of the Armed Forces, including the Army Air Corps (although on a segregated basis). This led to the development and founding of an African-American pursuit squadron to be based and trained at Tuskegee, Alabama.

Courtesy: Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

In March 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was formed, placed under the command of a white officer, Capt. Harold Maddux, and populated with African-American enlisted men. By July 1941, the first class of African-American cadets had entered pre-flight training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the need for trained pilots escalated, and by March 1942, the first class of advanced pilot cadets at the Tuskegee Army Airfield had completed their training.

Courtesy: Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

With this new class of highly trained pilots, segregation policies in place at the time demanded that these groups have their own support staff, which included maintenance crews, weather officers, and others. The 99th Pursuit Squadron included five enlisted men who were trained as weather observers. Although some of these men were college-educated, there was still a need for trained meteorologists to provide forecasts and briefings for operations.

Even as late as July 1940, there were only 62 qualified weather officers in the entire U.S. Army, as the field of meteorology and weather forecasting as a science was just beginning to take off. In the entire country at that time, there were only about 377 meteorologists. This included those in the Army, about 150 with the Weather Bureau (predecessor to the National Weather Service), those in the Navy, those with private commercial airlines, and those in academia. At the time, there were no African-American meteorologists employed by the Weather Bureau available for commissioning or enlisting in the armed forces.

Courtesy: Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

Lieutenant Wallace P. Reed was commissioned as the Air Corps’ first African-American weather officer in February 1942. Lt. (later Capt.) Reed had a background in mathematics from the University of New Hampshire. After completing his training in meteorology, Lt. Reed was assigned to lead the newly-formed Tuskegee Weather Detachment in March 1942. Lt. Reed established an operational weather station on the base, and developed the Detachment so that it was able to provide forecasts and weather briefings for officers and instructors.

Despite the ever-increasing need for weather officers, prejudices and policies of the day prevented many qualified African-American candidates from entering the rigorous training program which would allow them to provide meteorological support services for aviation operations in the military. However, a number of African-American officers did enter and complete the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command (AAF TTC) program for meteorology. Many of these individuals held undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and other technical fields from prominent universities such as Xavier, Lincoln University (Missouri), and the University of Chicago.

Staff of the Tuskegee Weather Station. Credit: Air Power History, Summer 2006

Included among these trailblazing men was Dr. Charles E. Anderson, the first African-American to earn a PhD in meteorology. In an interview conducted in 1992, Dr. Anderson recalled his modest upbringing during the Depression in Missouri and credits his mother’s determination to read to he and his siblings for stimulating his interest in many subjects, including science. Dr. Anderson completed the AAF TTC program in meteorology at the University of Chicago in 1943. From there, he was assigned to the Tuskegee Weather Detachment, and served in the Army until 1948. He later attended MIT, where he completed his PhD in 1960. Dr. Anderson went on to serve in leadership positions in highly regarded meteorology and atmospheric science programs at the University of Wisconsin/Madison and North Carolina State University. The American Meteorological Society gives an award in his name “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the promotion of diversity in the atmospheric or related sciences and broader communities through education and community service.”

Charles E. Anderson, PhD

The Tuskegee Airmen, with the help of their support staff, completed numerous successful missions during World War II, many of which included escorting B-17 bombers on bombing raids over Europe. The heroism and dedication of these soldiers has been extensively written about since that time. In June 1945, the Tuskegee Weather Detachment was discontinued, and in October 1946 the Tuskegee Weather Station was officially closed.

Credit: Air Power History, Summer 2006

Thanks to the persistence, dogged determination and heroism of these men, many pathways were opened in the field of meteorology and other sciences for minorities, women, and others. We as scientists can not only thank these individuals for their service to our country during World War II despite facing obstacles of prejudice and racism, but for their pioneering spirit and determination which has helped to advance the science of meteorology for us all.

Author note: Facts discussed in this article were contained in the following documents and websites:

Red Tails, The Tuskegee Airmen in Photos

Running for his third presidential term, Franklin Roosevelt made a 1940 campaign promise to allow the training of black military pilots. In cooperation with the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, the Army in 1941 created a program to induct and train what would eventually amount to more than 14,000 airmen, of whom about 1,000 would become pilots the others became navigators, bombardiers, radio operators, administrators, weathermen, and other support personnel. Collectively, these “Tuskegee Airmen” built a solid combat record. Click here to check out Air Force Magazine‘s complement to the photoessay on the Tuskegee Airmen, which appears in our March print issue.

The group that became known as Tuskegee Airmen began when the 99th Pursuit Squadron was formed 75 years ago this month at Chanute Field, Ill. This photo is of Pilot Class 43-C at Tuskegee AAF, Ala., taken in 1943. The success of the Tuskegee Airmen at flying and fighting with a variety of combat aircraft in World War II paved the way for racial integration of the armed forces.

March print issue. All photos from USAF, the Air Force Historical Research Agency, and Toni Frissell via the Library of Congress.

Then-Capt. Benjamin Davis Jr. welcomes some of the first black aviation cadets at Tuskegee. The college landed the contract to host the enterprise because it already had a program to train black civilian pilots, had an airfield, and enjoyed generally good flying weather. Early pilot candidates had to be college graduates, but as the war went on, high school graduates were accepted, then given some college-level instruction before becoming aviation cadets. Less than half of the more than 2,000 pilot candidates who began the training completed the program and earned their Army Air Forces wings.

This 1943 poster was not just a promotional ad but served as a symbol of pride in the African-American contribution to the war effort.

“Red Tail” P-51s of the 332nd Fighter Group take off on a bomber-escort mission in August 1944. Black units flew P-39s, P-40s, P-47s, P-51s, and B-25 Mitchell bombers, but the bomber crews did not see combat. The Tuskegee units saw their first combat in North Africa, then moved to bases in Sicily and then to the mainland of Italy.

Charles McGee—now a retired colonel—named his P-51 Kitten, a nickname for his wife.

White aviation cadets and black maintenance students receive instruction on a P-40’s Allison engine. Though referred to as the Tuskegee program, instruction in maintenance and flying was performed at a number of bases and facilities in the Southeast US.

The Tuskegee program started with white instructors and commanders, but these positions were eventually taken over by blacks with combat experience.

Marcellus Smith of Louisville, Ky., and Roscoe Brown of New York work on a P-51’s Merlin engine.

Davis, commanding officer of the 332nd FG, with Edward Gleed, operations officer. They were photographed at the unit’s Ramitelli, Italy, base.

The iconic red tail identified P-51s of the 332nd FG. The 332nd was the second Tuskegee unit to see battle, following the 99th Fighter Squadron, which merged into it. Although often credited with never having lost a bomber to enemy fighters, in reality some 27 Tuskegee-escorted bombers were shot down—still significantly fewer than other escort groups in Fifteenth Air Force.

SSgt. James McGee working in Italy on a P-39 Airacobra.

Tuskegee Airmen leaving a parachute hut in Ramitelli.

Second Lt. Andrew Marshall was brought down by flak while flying over Greece on Oct. 6, 1944. Partisans hid Marshall from German troops and helped him get back to his squadron.

During the African campaign, Davis, then commander of the 99th FS, met with Mediterranean Allied Air Forces chief Lt. Gen. Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz and Secretary of War Henry Stimson (l-r).

Four Ramitelli-based Red Tails in formation.

As Tuskegee Institute was gearing up to begin its military training program, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt paid a visit in March 1941. Here, she is posing in a Piper Cub piloted by “Chief” Charles Anderson, the top instructor in the civilian flight training course that formed the core of the military program then taking shape.

An armorer loads .50-caliber ammo belts on a P-51 being readied for action against German targets in September 1944.

A modern-day P-51 decorated as a Red Tail flies over Langley AFB, Va., in a 2004 Heritage Flight display.

Leo Gray—today a retired lieutenant colonel—in 1945.

First Lt. Charles Hall points to a freshly painted kill marking on his P-40L Warhawk—the first aerial victory for the Tuskegee Airmen, earned while escorting B-25 Mitchell bombers over Sicily.

Capt. Wendell Pruitt leaves a ring with crew chief SSgt. Samuel Jacobs for safekeeping before a 1944 mission.

William Campbell (l) and Thurston Gaines Jr. suit up at Ramitelli in March 1945.

A ground crew installs a fuel tank on a P-51 for a long-range escort mission.

A restored P-51 “Red Tail” named Tuskegee Airmen in a 2009 photo.

After flying instruction, advanced students went on to learn fighters. Pilot production continued throughout the war, eventually training 685 fighter pilots and 245 bomber pilots. Some 355 Tuskegee pilots deployed overseas, and 81 were killed, some because of accidents. Of those shot down, 31 were prisoners of war. A handful of Tuskegee Airmen deployed to the Pacific Theater as liaison pilots.

Lt. Woodrow Crockett (left) and Gleed (right) plan a mission at Ramitelli in March 1945. Gleed’s flight jacket was later displayed at the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

Davis Jr. receives the Distinguished Flying Cross from his father, Brig. Gen. Benjamin Davis Sr., in September 1944. The elder Davis was the first black general in the US Army, and his son became the first black general in the US Air Force. Tuskegee Airmen earned 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses. The Tuskegee Airmen organization recognizes anyone who served with the Tuskegee units or bases between 1941 and 1949 as one of their number. President Harry Truman issued the executive order integrating the US military on July 26, 1948, but most of the services were slow to comply. The Air Force, created in 1947, had already announced it would integrate and became the first to do so, in 1949. Besides Davis, two other Tuskegee Airmen—Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. and Lucius Theus—became Air Force generals. James became the first black four-star general in the service.

World War II Edit

After graduating from West Virginia State College and completing WVSC's civilian pilot program in 1940, Edwards went to Tuskegee where he became a pilot. He was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group. He was trained on P-40 and P-51 aircraft and assigned to Oscoda Army Air Field. He was killed in a training exercise when his P-40 suffered a catastrophic failure upon takeoff May 7, 1943. His death was the first for the 332nd Fighter Group. [1]

Edwards hometown, Steubenville, OH is known as the "City of Murals". There is a mural (located along Washington Street in Steubenville) dedicated to Jerome Edwards and his brother John Ellis Edwards. Both were Tuskegee airmen. [3] He and his brother also have their names engraved in the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial located in Sewickley Cemetery in Sewickley, Pennsylvania. [5]

Awards Edit

Edward and Willie Edwards were his parents. [6] He had a brother (John) and sister (Gwendolyn). His parents moved to Steubenville, Ohio. [7]

Jerome Edwards and his brother John Ellis Edwards both went to Steubenville High School and after graduation both attended Virginia State College. The college then became one of the first black colleges to enroll pilots in a Pilot Training Program. Both brothers were Tuskegee Airmen after completing training in Tuskegee. [1]


Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II as the 332nd Fighter Group and 477th Bombardment Group of the US Army Air Corps. There are also sometimes referred to as the Red Tail Angels or Red Tails, unofficial terms that were used during the War to describe the mostly unknown group of Airmen because of the distinctive red paint used on the tails of their fighter aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first unit of African American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, African Americans were still subjected to Jim Crow laws in portions of the United States and the American military itself was racially segregated. Legal and social prejudice prevented the Airmen from flying combat missions. Despite their adversities, the Tuskegee Airmen flew with distinction: In 2007, 350 Tuskegee Airmen and their widows were awarded a collective Congressional Gold Medal, [5] and the airfield where they trained has been designated as Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. Although some sources claimed the Airmen had a perfect record in their 15,000 missions as bomber escorts, [6] [7] a report released in 2007 stated they lost 25 bombers. [8]

At the conclusion of World War II in 1945, the United States Army sold off military surplus and for $1 ($14.4 today) Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana bought a P-51C aircraft, which it parked on its campus in front of the engineering building. [9] The P-51C was essentially left alone in Montana, except for an occasional coat of silver paint. In 1965, when the University wanted to add a parking lot, restorer Lloyd Creek bought it from the University for $1, provided that he could remove it from the campus in 24 hours of notification in winning the bid. To move the P-51C promptly to Billings, Montana necessitated the removal of the wings, which were sawed off with a circular saw. When the aircraft arrived in Billings, the wings were reattached to the fuselage. [9]

In 1970, frustrated with restoration efforts, Creek donated the P-51C to the CAF, which disassembled the aircraft and shipped it to the organization's home base in Texas. While awaiting restoration, the aircraft endured a hurricane which exposed numerous parts of the aircraft to seawater damage. Several CAF volunteers attempted to rehab the aircraft in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Texas, Council Bluffs, Iowa, and finally in the late 1980s at the home of the Southern Minnesota wing of the CAF, which had just completed the restoration of the North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, Miss Mitchell. After noting the P-51C was in need of restoration, Don Hinz channeled his energy and talents into the emerging Red Tail project. [9] The aircraft is now one of only four existing P-51C Mustangs in existence. [10] As one of the four flying Mustangs, it is worth $2.5 million. [11]

The Commemorative Air Force, which has approximately 9,000 members and a fleet of 156 aircraft, is an educational association with the purpose to pay tribute to American military aviation through flight, exhibition and remembrance. It has been collecting, restoring and flying vintage historical aircraft for more than half a century. [12] In the 1990s, the CAF's Minnesota Wing began restoring a P-51 that many branches of the CAF organization had attempted to restore but found the task beyond their capabilities. The P-51C once served Capt. Andrew "Jug" Turner. [13] Pilot Don Hinz, a retired United States Navy commander based at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Minnesota, heard of the project and enlisted some experts as well as named the effort "The Red Tail Project".

Originally, the restoration was attempted at Fleming Field. [14] After soliciting the assistance of outside contractors from North Dakota, the aircraft was airborne in May 2001. The P-51C, which was named "Tuskegee Airmen", [15] was included in numerous air shows to tell the history of the pilot group. [16] [17] From May 2001 to May 2004, the aircraft flew before more than an estimated three million people. [18] By 2004, Hinz envisioned an educational program based on the restored aircraft. In a May 2004 show in Red Wing, Minnesota the camshaft drive of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine failed. Although Hinz successfully landed the aircraft between two houses in a residential suburb, both wings were ripped off and the body was badly damaged. [3] A tree damaged in the crash fell on Hinz, causing head trauma from which he did not recover. [19] [20] [21]

The Tuskegee Airmen decided to restore the aircraft. The five-year restoration occurred at Tri-State Aviation in Wahpeton, North Dakota. [22] In 2007, Gerry Beck, one of the primary restorers, was in a fatal collision of his P-51A and a P-51D during AirVenture 2007. [10] [23] Beck was the owner of Tri-State Aviation, but about a half dozen other CAF volunteer aviation mechanics contributed to the effort to pick up where he left off. [10] [11] The rebuilding continued with the mounting of the engine in 2008 and the mating of the wing in 2009. On July 22, 2009, [12] four days before AirVenture 2009 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the P-51C had its first flight. Then, it was flown to Wisconsin for its public debut. After the show it returned to Minnesota with a 6 AT-6 escort. [24] The aircraft has also served a tribute via military flyovers for fallen Tuskegee Airmen. [25]

In 2011, the volunteer-driven organization changed its name from the "Red Tail Project" to the "CAF Red Tail Squadron" and also completed construction of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit as an additional tool to help tell the story of these pilots and their support personnel (who are also known as Tuskegee Airmen). The Mustang and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit appear together at air shows, and the Traveling Exhibit also goes to schools and other youth-oriented venues. [26]

After the 2004 crash, the restoration became the impetus for a nationwide fund raising effort and attracted the attention of Adam White, an independent film maker who was, at the time, filming a documentary on vintage aircraft restoration called The Restorers. He was attracted to both the aircraft and the cause, and his 2007 historical documentary, Red Tail Reborn won Emmy Award recognition in his home state of Ohio, where it was first broadcast in February 2007, and, subsequently released on DVD in March of that year. [27] [28] Narrated by Michael Dorn of Star Trek fame, himself a pilot and warbird owner, the film documents the difficulties of the restoration of the P-51C and the travails of the Tuskegee Airmen. The following year PBS picked up the film in its Black History Month programming. [11] White also completed a sequel, Flight of the Red Tail, a 12-minute film released in 2009. [29]

The restoration, completed in 2009, cost $1 million. [30] In 2005, the Red Tail Project, which is not for profit, [31] sought to raise about $2 million to fund the initial restoration. [32] The organization held several types of events to raise funds. [33] Since then, community-based organizations adopted the project. [34] For example, in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where the aircraft was restored, each August, the "Red Tail Run" is held. This motorcycle and vehicle run, which starts at the Harry Stern Airport, raises money for the project. [35] [36] In 2008, the organization hired Fund Raising Strategies, a fund raising specialist firm, to develop a direct mail fund raising program. [37]

The CAF Red Tail Squadron endeavors to preserve the legacy of the airmen through aviation education. [38] In addition to the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen the Squadron RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, utilized for tours and private showings for schools and groups around the country, the Squadron curates and provides educational resources for interested persons. These resources include a "Virtual Museum" which is an online repository of items belonging to or used by Tuskegee Airmen, including a catalogue of public memorials and artwork. [39]

The "RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit" was introduced at EAA AirVenture 2011. It consists of a 53-foot (16.2 m) long semi trailer and tractor. The trailer, which has colorful graphics on all four sides, has expandable sides and houses a 40-foot (12.2 m) long, curved IMAX movie screen plus comfortable seating for 30 guests it is also climate controlled. An original IMAX movie called RISE ABOVE, developed and filmed specifically for the Red Tail Squadron and the unique movie screen, is shown. [40] The traveling exhibit goes to air shows with the Red Tail Project Mustang and spends 40 weeks per year at schools and places where young people congregate. The idea is to take the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, and how they overcame so many obstacles by setting goals and working to meet them, directly to the students who can benefit from hearing about the Airmen's experiences. The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is sponsored by the Texas Flying Legends Museum. [41]

Tuskegee Airmen History - Research Paper Example

From the days approaching he first world war onwards, African American men had tried to become involved in the emerging discipline of air training, but the path was initially blocked by the planning bureaucrats when they tried to apply. The reason given in 1917 was that “No colored aero squadrons were being formed at the present time,. but, if later on, it was decided to form colored squadrons, recruiting officers would be notified to that effect.” Francis and Caso, 1997, p. 37) The uncomfortable truth of that era was that the War Department simply did not believe that African American men had the talent and ability to benefit from training as pilots.

Besides this wholly unjustified prejudice concerning the qualities of African Americans, there was also a deep-seated commitment to segregation of white and African American people in all walks of life. The military could not conceive of an inter-racial force combining these different groups, as we have today in the modern navy, airforce and army, and so the only possible idea in their minds was a segregated unit for non-white groups. From the beginning of its existence, the U.S. Air Force was considered a profession only for the brightest and best students.

It combined a highly technical training in all the skills needed for flight, with a demand for courage and exceptionally good judgement in difficult circumstances. Most airmen were graduates of respected colleges, and of course the general exclusion of African American students from most white colleges and universities made it difficult for this group to obtain even the basic prerequisites for entry. The Tuskegee Institute filled this gap by designing the first advanced courses specially tailored to prepare African American students for a career in flying.

Civilian pilots and other trainees were recruited, and the types of training provided covered quite a range, including preparation for roles as airplane mechanic, aircraft armorer, aircraft supply and technical clerk, instrument and weather forecasting. (Francis and Caso, 1997, p. 55) One of the reasons for this expansion into African American training institues was the increasing need for qualified staff, but another was the efforts of teaching staff and potential trainees, especially in the Southern States to be allowed to take up an equal position along with other groups in defending their country in the case of war.

The Second World War made it abundantly clear that the country needed to be equipped for defence and action in Europe and elsewhere, and this is perhaps what encouraged the planners to provide the resources for training. Despite the logical reasons for the Tuskegee programs, many people in government and in society at large remained to be convinced that African Americans could take up such vitally complex and difficult roles as flying in combat. A significant factor in overcoming these reservations was a visit by the President’s wife, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, to fly with Charles Alfred Anderson.

“Thanks to his skill and obvious abilities, the First Lady returned to the White House convinced about the Blacks’ capabilities not only to fight in the Air Corps, but to fight as well in the Army and in the Navy.” (Francis and Caso, 1997, p. 31) While permission to train for the Air Corps was pushing ahead, things were not quite so positive in


Origins Edit

Background Edit

Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African-American had been a U.S. military pilot. In 1917, African-American men had tried to become aerial observers but were rejected. [6] African-American Eugene Bullard served in the French air service during World War I because he was not allowed to serve in an American unit. Instead, Bullard returned to infantry duty with the French. [7]

The racially motivated rejections of World War I African-American recruits sparked more than two decades of advocacy by African-Americans who wished to enlist and train as military aviators. The effort was led by such prominent civil rights leaders as Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, labor union leader A. Philip Randolph and Judge William H. Hastie. Finally, on April 3, 1939, Appropriations Bill Public Law 18 was passed by Congress containing an amendment by Senator Harry H. Schwartz designating funds for training African-American pilots. The War Department managed to put the money into funds of civilian flight schools willing to train black Americans. [6]

War Department tradition and policy mandated the segregation of African-Americans into separate military units staffed by white officers, as had been done previously with the 9th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry, 24th Infantry Regiment and 25th Infantry Regiment. When the appropriation of funds for aviation training created opportunities for pilot cadets, their numbers diminished the rosters of these older units. [8] In 1941, the War Department and the Army Air Corps, under pressure — three months before its transformation into the USAAF — constituted the first all-black flying unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron. [9]

Because of the restrictive nature of selection policies, the situation did not seem promising for African-Americans, since in 1940 the U.S. Census Bureau reported there were only 124 African-American pilots in the nation. [10] The exclusionary policies failed dramatically when the Air Corps received an abundance of applications from men who qualified, even under the restrictive requirements. Many of the applicants already had participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, unveiled in late December 1938 (CPTP). Tuskegee University had participated since 1939. [11]

Testing Edit

The U.S. Army Air Corps had established the Psychological Research Unit 1 at Maxwell Army Air Field, Montgomery, Alabama, and other units around the country for aviation cadet training, which included the identification, selection, education, and training of pilots, navigators and bombardiers. Psychologists employed in these research studies and training programs used some of the first standardized tests to quantify IQ, dexterity and leadership qualities to select and train the best-suited personnel for the roles of bombardier, navigator, and pilot. The Air Corps determined that the existing programs would be used for all units, including all-black units. At Tuskegee, this effort continued with the selection and training of the Tuskegee Airmen. The War Department set up a system to accept only those with a level of flight experience or higher education which ensured that only the most able and intelligent African-American applicants were able to join. [ citation needed ]

Airman Coleman Young, later the first African-American mayor of Detroit, told journalist Studs Terkel about the process:

They made the standards so high, we actually became an elite group. We were screened and super-screened. We were unquestionably the brightest and most physically fit young blacks in the country. We were super-better because of the irrational laws of Jim Crow. You can't bring that many intelligent young people together and train 'em as fighting men and expect them to supinely roll over when you try to fuck over 'em, right? (Laughs.) [12]

First Lady's flight Edit

The budding flight program at Tuskegee received a publicity boost when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt inspected it on March 29, 1941, and flew with African-American chief civilian instructor C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson. Anderson, who had been flying since 1929 and was responsible for training thousands of rookie pilots, took his prestigious passenger on a half-hour flight in a Piper J-3 Cub. [13] After landing, she cheerfully announced, "Well, you can fly all right." [14]

The subsequent brouhaha over the First Lady's flight had such an impact it is often mistakenly cited as the start of the CPTP at Tuskegee, even though the program was already five months old. Eleanor Roosevelt used her position as a trustee of the Julius Rosenwald Fund to arrange a loan of $175,000 to help finance the building of Moton Field. [14]

Formation Edit

A cadre of 14 black non-commissioned officers from the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments were sent to Chanute Field to help in the administration and supervision of the trainees. A white officer, Army Captain Harold R. Maddux, was assigned as the first commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron. [17] [18]

A cadre of 271 enlisted men began training in aircraft ground support trades at Chanute Field in March 1941 until they were transferred to bases in Alabama in July 1941. [19] The skills being taught were so technical that setting up segregated classes was deemed impossible. This small number of enlisted men became the core of other black squadrons forming at Tuskegee Fields in Alabama. [20] [21]

While the enlisted men were in training, five black youths were admitted to the Officers Training School (OTS) at Chanute Field as aviation cadets. Specifically, Elmer D. Jones, Dudley Stevenson and James Johnson of Washington, DC Nelson Brooks of Illinois, and William R. Thompson of Pittsburgh, PA successfully completed OTS and were commissioned as the first Black Army Air Corps Officers. [17]

In June 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was transferred to Tuskegee, Alabama and remained the only Black flying unit in the country, but did not yet have pilots. [18] The famous airmen were actually trained at five airfields surrounding Tuskegee University (formerly Tuskegee Institute)--Griel, Kennedy, Moton, Shorter and Tuskegee Army Air Fields. [2] The flying unit consisted of 47 officers and 429 enlisted men [22] and was backed by an entire service arm. On July 19, 1941, thirteen individuals made up the first class of aviation cadets (42-C) when they entered Preflight Training at Tuskegee Institute. [18] After primary training at Moton Field, they were moved to the nearby Tuskegee Army Air Field, about 10 miles (16 km) to the west for conversion training onto operational types. Consequently, Tuskegee Army Air Field became the only Army installation performing three phases of pilot training (basic, advanced, and transition) at a single location. Initial planning called for 500 personnel in residence at a time. [23]

By mid-1942, over six times that many were stationed at Tuskegee, even though only two squadrons were training there. [24]

Tuskegee Army Airfield was similar to already-existing airfields reserved for training white pilots, such as Maxwell Field, only 40 miles (64 km) distant. [25] African-American contractor McKissack and McKissack, Inc. was in charge of the contract. The company's 2,000 workmen, the Alabama Works Progress Administration, and the U.S. Army built the airfield in only six months. The construction was budgeted at $1,663,057. [26] The airmen were placed under the command of Captain Benjamin O. Davis Jr., one of only two black line officers then serving. [27]

During training, Tuskegee Army Air Field was commanded first by Major James Ellison. Ellison made great progress in organizing the construction of the facilities needed for the military program at Tuskegee. However, he was transferred on January 12, 1942, reputedly because of his insistence that his African-American sentries and Military Police had police authority over local Caucasian civilians. [28] [29]

His successor, Colonel Frederick von Kimble, then oversaw operations at the Tuskegee airfield. Contrary to new Army regulations, Kimble maintained segregation on the field in deference to local customs in the state of Alabama, a policy that was resented by the airmen. [25] Later that year, the Air Corps replaced Kimble. His replacement had been the director of training at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Major Noel F. Parrish. [30] Counter to the prevalent racism of the day, Parrish was fair and open-minded and petitioned Washington to allow the Tuskegee Airmen to serve in combat. [31] [32]

The strict racial segregation the U.S. Army required gave way in the face of the requirements for complex training in technical vocations. Typical of the process was the development of separate African-American flight surgeons to support the operations and training of the Tuskegee Airmen. [33] Before the development of this unit, no U.S. Army flight surgeons had been black.

Training of African-American men as aviation medical examiners was conducted through correspondence courses until 1943, when two black physicians were admitted to the U.S. Army School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field, Texas. This was one of the earliest racially integrated courses in the U.S. Army. Seventeen flight surgeons served with the Tuskegee Airmen from 1941-49. At that time, the typical tour of duty for a U.S. Army flight surgeon was four years. Six of these physicians lived under field conditions during operations in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. The chief flight surgeon to the Tuskegee Airmen was Vance H. Marchbanks Jr., MD, a childhood friend of Benjamin Davis. [33]

The accumulation of washed-out cadets at Tuskegee and the propensity of other commands to "dump" African-American personnel on the post exacerbated the difficulties of administering Tuskegee. A shortage of jobs for them made these enlisted men a drag on Tuskegee's housing and culinary departments. [34]

Trained officers were also left idle, as the plan to shift African-American officers into command slots stalled, and white officers not only continued to hold command, but were joined by additional white officers assigned to the post. One rationale behind the non-assignment of trained African-American officers was stated by the commanding officer of the Army Air Forces, General Henry "Hap" Arnold: "Negro pilots cannot be used in our present Air Corps units since this would result in Negro officers serving over white enlisted men creating an impossible social situation." [35]

Combat assignment Edit

The 99th was finally considered ready for combat duty by April 1943. It shipped out of Tuskegee on April 2nd, bound for North Africa, where it would join the 33rd Fighter Group and its commander, Colonel William W. Momyer. Given little guidance from battle-experienced pilots, the 99th's first combat mission was to attack the small strategic volcanic island of Pantelleria, code name Operation Corkscrew, in the Mediterranean Sea to clear the sea lanes for the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The air assault on the island began May 30, 1943. The 99th flew its first combat mission on June 2nd. [36] The surrender of the garrison of 11,121 Italians and 78 Germans [37] due to air attack was the first of its kind. [38]

The 99th then moved on to Sicily and received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for its performance in combat. [39]

By the end of February 1944, the all-black 332nd Fighter Group had been sent overseas with three fighter squadrons: The 100th, 301st and 302nd. [40]

Under the command of Colonel Davis, the squadrons were moved to mainland Italy, where the 99th Fighter Squadron, assigned to the group on May 1, 1944, joined them on June 6th at Ramitelli Airfield, nine kilometers south-southeast of the small city of Campomarino, on the Adriatic coast. From Ramitelli, the 332nd Fighter Group escorted Fifteenth Air Force heavy strategic bombing raids into Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Germany. [41]

Flying escort for heavy bombers, the 332nd earned an impressive combat record. The Allies called these airmen "Red Tails" or "Red-Tail Angels," because of the distinctive crimson unit identification marking predominantly applied on the tail section of the unit's aircraft. [42]

A B-25 bomb group, the 477th Bombardment Group, was forming in the U.S., but was not able to complete its training in time to see action. The 99th Fighter Squadron after its return to the United States became part of the 477th, redesignated the 477th Composite Group. [42]

Active air units Edit

The only black air units that saw combat during the war were the 99th Pursuit Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group. The dive-bombing and strafing missions under Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr. were considered to be highly successful. [43] [44]

In May 1942, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was renamed the 99th Fighter Squadron. It earned three Distinguished Unit Citations (DUC) during World War II. The DUCs were for operations over Sicily from May 30th - June 11, 1943, Monastery Hill near Cassino from May 12-14, 1944, and for successfully fighting off German jet aircraft on March 24, 1945. The mission was the longest bomber escort mission of the Fifteenth Air Force throughout the war. [39] [45] The 332nd flew missions in Sicily, Anzio, Normandy, the Rhineland, the Po Valley and Rome-Arno and others. Pilots of the 99th once set a record for destroying five enemy aircraft in under four minutes. [43]

The Tuskegee Airmen shot down three German jets in a single day. [46] On March 24, 1945, 43 P-51 Mustangs led by Colonel Benjamin O. Davis escorted B-17 bombers over 1,600 miles (2,600 km) into Germany and back. The bombers' target, a massive Daimler-Benz tank factory in Berlin, was heavily defended by Luftwaffe aircraft, including propeller-driven Fw 190s, Me 163 "Komet" rocket-powered fighters, and 25 of the much more formidable Me 262s, history's first operational jet fighter. Pilots Charles Brantley, Earl Lane and Roscoe Brown all shot down German jets over Berlin that day. For the mission, the 332nd Fighter Group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation. [41]

Pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group earned 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses. Their missions took them over Italy and enemy occupied parts of central and southern Europe. Their operational aircraft were, in succession: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft. [43]

Tuskegee Airmen bomber units Edit

Formation Edit

With African-American fighter pilots being trained successfully, the Army Air Force now came under political pressure from the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to organize a bomber unit. There could be no defensible argument that the quota of 100 African-American pilots in training at one time, [47] or 200 per year out of a total of 60,000 American aviation cadets in annual training, [48] represented the service potential of 13 million African-Americans. [N 4]

On May 13, 1943, the 616th Bombardment Squadron was established as the initial subordinate squadron of the 477th Bombardment Group, an all-white group. The squadron was activated on July 1, 1943, only to be inactivated on August 15th of 1943. [34] [49] [50] [51] By September 1943, the number of washed-out cadets on base had surged to 286, with few of them working. In January 1944, the 477th Bombardment Group was reactivated—an all-Black group. [49] [50] [51] At the time, the usual training cycle for a bombardment group took three to four months. [52]

The 477th would eventually contain four medium bomber squadrons. Slated to comprise 1,200 officers and enlisted men, the unit would operate 60 North American B-25 Mitchell bombers. [N 5] The 477th would go on to encompass three more bomber squadrons–the 617th Bombardment Squadron, the 618th Bombardment Squadron, and the 619th Bombardment Squadron. [54] The 477th was anticipated to be ready for action in November 1944. [55]

The home field for the 477th was Selfridge Field, located outside Detroit, however, other bases would be used for various types of training courses. Twin-engine pilot training began at Tuskegee while transition to multi-engine pilot training was at Mather Field, California. Some ground crews trained at Mather before rotating to Inglewood. Gunners learned to shoot at Eglin Field, Florida. Bombers-navigators learned their trades at Hondo Army Air Field and Midland Air Field, Texas or at Roswell, New Mexico. Training of the new African-American crewmen also took place at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Scott Field, Belleville, Illinois. Once trained, the air and ground crews would be spliced into a working unit at Selfridge. [56] [57]

Command difficulties Edit

The new group's first commanding officer was Colonel Robert Selway, who had also commanded the 332nd Fighter Group before it deployed for combat overseas. [58] Like his ranking officer, Major General Frank O'Driscoll Hunter from Georgia, Selway was a racial segregationist. Hunter was blunt about it, saying such things as, ". racial friction will occur if colored and white pilots are trained together." [59] He backed Selway's violations of Army Regulation 210-10, which forbade segregation of air base facilities. They segregated base facilities so thoroughly that they even drew a line in the base theater and ordered separate seating by races. When the audience sat in random patterns as part of "Operation Checkerboard," the movie was halted to make men return to segregated seating. [60] African-American officers petitioned base Commanding Officer William Boyd for access to the only officer's club on base. [61] [62] Lieutenant Milton Henry entered the club and personally demanded his club rights he was court-martialed for this. [63]

Subsequently, Colonel Boyd denied club rights to African-Americans, although General Hunter stepped in and promised a separate but equal club would be built for black airmen. [64] The 477th was transferred to Godman Field, Kentucky before the club was built. They had spent five months at Selfridge but found themselves on a base a fraction of Selfridge's size, with no air-to-ground gunnery range and deteriorating runways that were too short for B-25 landings. Colonel Selway took on the second role of commanding officer of Godman Field. In that capacity, he ceded Godman Field's officers club to African-American airmen. Caucasian officers used the whites-only clubs at nearby Fort Knox, much to the displeasure of African-American officers. [65]

Another irritant was a professional one for African-American officers. They observed a steady flow of white officers through the command positions of the group and squadrons these officers stayed just long enough to be "promotable" before transferring out at their new rank. This seemed to take about four months. In an extreme example, 22-year-old Robert Mattern was promoted to captain, transferred into squadron command in the 477th days later, and left a month later as a major. He was replaced by another Caucasian officer. Meanwhile, no Tuskegee Airmen held command. [66]

On March 15, 1945, [67] the 477th was transferred to Freeman Field, near Seymour, Indiana. The white population of Freeman Field was 250 officers and 600 enlisted men. Superimposed on it were 400 African-American officers and 2,500 enlisted men of the 477th and its associated units. Freeman Field had a firing range, usable runways, and other amenities useful for training. African-American airmen would work in proximity with white ones both would live in a public housing project adjacent to the base. [68] [59]

Colonel Selway turned the noncommissioned officers out of their club and turned it into a second officers club. He then classified all white personnel as cadre and all African-Americans as trainees. One officers club became the cadre's club. The old Non-Commissioned Officers Club, promptly sarcastically dubbed "Uncle Tom's Cabin", became the trainees' officers club. At least four of the trainees had flown combat in Europe as fighter pilots and had about four years in service. Four others had completed training as pilots, bombardiers and navigators and may have been the only triply qualified officers in the entire Air Corps. Several of the Tuskegee Airmen had logged over 900 flight hours by this time. Nevertheless, by Colonel Selway's fiat, they were trainees. [67] [69]

Off base was no better many businesses in Seymour would not serve African-Americans. A local laundry would not wash their clothes and yet willingly laundered those of captured German soldiers. [67]

In early April 1945, the 118th Base Unit transferred in from Godman Field its African-American personnel held orders that specified they were base cadre, not trainees. On 5 April, officers of the 477th peaceably tried to enter the whites-only officer's club. Selway had been tipped off by a phone call and had the assistant provost marshal and base billeting manager stationed at the door to refuse the 477th officers entry. The latter, a major, ordered them to leave and took their names as a means of arresting them when they refused. It was the beginning of the Freeman Field Mutiny. [70]

In the wake of the Freeman Field Mutiny, the 616th and 619th were disbanded and the returned 99th Fighter Squadron assigned to the 477th on June 22, 1945 it was redesignated the 477th Composite Group as a result. On July 1, 1945, Colonel Robert Selway was relieved of the Group's command he was replaced by Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr. A complete sweep of Selway's white staff followed, with all vacated jobs filled by African-American officers. The war ended before the 477th Composite Group could get into action. The 618th Bombardment Squadron was disbanded on October 8, 1945. On March 13, 1946, the two-squadron group, supported by the 602nd Engineer Squadron (later renamed 602nd Air Engineer Squadron), the 118th Base Unit, and a band, moved to its final station, Lockbourne Field. The 617th Bombardment Squadron and the 99th Fighter Squadron disbanded on July 1, 1947, ending the 477th Composite Group. It would be reorganized as the 332nd Fighter Wing. [71] [72]

War accomplishments Edit

In all, 992 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941–1946. 355 were deployed overseas, and 84 lost their lives. [73] The toll included 68 pilots killed in action or accidents, 12 killed in training and non-combat missions [74] and 32 captured as prisoners of war. [75] [76]

The Tuskegee Airmen were credited by higher commands with the following accomplishments:

  • 1578 combat missions, [77] 1267 for the Twelfth Air Force 311 for the Fifteenth Air Force [78]
  • 179 bomber escort missions, [46] with a good record of protection, [75] losing bombers on only seven missions and a total of only 27, compared to an average of 46 among other 15th Air Force P-51 groups [79]
  • 112 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air, another 150 on the ground [46] and 148 damaged. This included three Me-262 jet fighters shot down
  • 950 rail cars, trucks and other motor vehicles destroyed (over 600 rail cars [46] )
  • One torpedo boat put out of action. The ship concerned was a World War I-vintage destroyer (Giuseppe Missori) of the Italian Navy, that had been seized by the Germans and reclassified as a torpedo boat, TA22. It was attacked on June 25, 1944 and damaged so severely she was never repaired. She was decommissioned on November 8, 1944, and finally scuttled on February 5, 1945. [80][81]
  • 40 boats and barges destroyed [46]

Awards and decorations included:

  • Three Distinguished Unit Citations
    • 99th Pursuit Squadron: May 30th – June 11, 1943 for actions over Sicily
    • 99th Fighter Squadron: May 12th - 14, 1944: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy <
    • 332nd Fighter Group (and its 99th, 100th, and 301st Fighter Squadrons): March 24, 1945: for a bomber escort mission to Berlin, during which pilots of the 100th FS shot down three enemy Me 262 jets. The 302nd Fighter Squadron did not receive this award as it had been disbanded on March 6, 1945.

    Controversy over escort record Edit

    On March 24, 1945, during the war, the Chicago Defender said that no bomber escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen had ever been lost to enemy fire, under the headline: "332nd Flies Its 200th Mission Without Loss" [85] the article was based on information supplied by the 15th Air Force. [86] [87]

    This statement was repeated for many years, and not publicly challenged, partly because the mission reports were classified for a number of years after the war. In 2004, William Holton, who was serving as the historian of the Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, conducted research into wartime action reports. [85]

    Alan Gropman, a professor at the National Defense University, disputed the initial refutations of the no-loss myth, and said he researched more than 200 Tuskegee Airmen mission reports and found no bombers were lost to enemy fighters. [85] Dr. Daniel Haulman of the Air Force Historical Research Agency conducted a reassessment of the history of the unit in 2006 and early 2007. His subsequent report, based on after-mission reports filed by both the bomber units and Tuskegee fighter groups, as well as missing air crew records and witness testimony, documented 25 bombers shot down by enemy fighter aircraft while being escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen. [86]

    In a subsequent article, "The Tuskegee Airmen and the Never Lost a Bomber Myth," published in the Alabama Review and also by New South Books as an e-book, and included in a more comprehensive study regarding misconceptions about the Tuskegee Airmen released by AFHRA in July 2013, Haulman documented 27 bombers shot down by enemy aircraft while those bombers were being escorted by the 332nd Fighter Group. This total included 15 B-17s of the 483rd Bombardment Group shot down during a particularly savage air battle with an estimated 300 German fighters on July 18, 1944 that also resulted in nine kill credits and the award of five Distinguished Flying Crosses to members of the 332nd. [88]

    Of the 179 bomber escort missions the 332nd Fighter Group flew for the Fifteenth Air Force, the group encountered enemy aircraft on 35 of those missions and lost bombers to enemy aircraft on only seven, and the total number of bombers lost was 27. By comparison, the average number of bombers lost by the other P-51 fighter groups of the Fifteenth Air Force during the same period was 46. [79]

    The historical record shows several examples of the fighter group's losses. A mission report states that on July 26, 1944: "1 B-24 seen spiraling out of formation in T/A [target area] after attack by E/A [enemy aircraft]. No chutes seen to open." The Distinguished Flying Cross citation awarded to Colonel Benjamin O. Davis for the mission on June 9, 1944 noted that he "so skillfully disposed his squadrons that in spite of the large number of enemy fighters, the bomber formation suffered only a few losses." [89]

    William Holloman was reported by the Times as saying his review of records confirmed bombers had been lost. Holloman was a member of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., a group of surviving Tuskegee pilots and their supporters, who also taught Black Studies at the University of Washington and chaired the Airmen's history committee. [85] According to the March 28th 2007 Air Force report, some bombers under 332nd Fighter Group escort protection were even shot down on the day the Chicago Defender article was published. [86] The mission reports, however, do credit the group for not losing a bomber on an escort mission for a six-month period between September 1944 and March 1945, albeit when Luftwaffe contacts were far fewer than earlier. [90]

    Postwar Edit

    Contrary to negative predictions from some quarters, Tuskegee Airmen were some of the best pilots in the U.S. Army Air Forces due to a combination of pre-war experience and the personal drive of those accepted for training. Nevertheless, the Tuskegee Airmen continued to have to fight racism. Their combat record did much to quiet those directly involved with the group, but other units continued to harass these airmen. [91] In 1949, the 332nd entered the annual U. S. Continental Gunnery Meet in Las Vegas, Nevada. The competition included shooting aerial targets, shooting targets on the ground and dropping bombs on targets. Flying the long range Republic P-47N Thunderbolt (built for the long range escort mission in the Pacific theatre of World War II), the 332nd Fighter Wing took first place in the conventional fighter class. The pilots were Capt. Alva Temple, Lts. Harry Stewart, James Harvey III and Herbert Alexander. Lt. Harvey said, "We had a perfect score. Three missions, two bombs per plane. We didn't guess at anything, we were good." [92] They received congratulations from the Governor of Ohio, and Air Force commanders across the nation. [93]

    After segregation in the military was ended in 1948 by President Harry S. Truman with Executive Order 9981, the veteran Tuskegee Airmen now found themselves in high demand throughout the newly formed United States Air Force. Some taught in civilian flight schools, such as the black-owned Columbia Air Center in Maryland. [94] On 11 May 1949, Air Force Letter 35.3 was published, which mandated that black Airmen be screened for reassignment to formerly all-white units according to qualifications. [95]

    Tuskegee Airmen were instrumental in postwar developments in aviation. Edward A. Gibbs was a civilian flight instructor in the U.S. Aviation Cadet Program at Tuskegee during its inception. [96] He later became the founder of Negro Airmen International, an association joined by many airmen. USAF General Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. (then Lt.) was an instructor of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later a fighter pilot in Europe. In 1975, he became the first African-American to reach the rank of four-star general. [97] Post-war commander of the 99th Squadron Marion Rodgers went on to work in communications for NORAD and as a program developer for the Apollo 13 project. [98]

    In 2005, seven Tuskegee Airmen, including Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Carter, Colonel Charles McGee, group historian Ted Johnson, and Lieutenant Colonel Lee Archer, flew to Balad, Iraq, to speak to active duty airmen serving in the current incarnation of the 332nd, which was reactivated as the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group in 1998 and made part of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. "This group represents the linkage between the 'greatest generation' of airmen and the 'latest generation' of airmen," said Lt. Gen. Walter E. Buchanan III, commander of the Ninth Air Force and US Central Command Air Forces. [99]

    As of 2008 [update] no one knew how many of the original 996 pilots and about 16,000 ground personnel were still alive. [100] In August 2019, 14 documented original surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen participated at the annual Tuskegee Airmen Convention, which is hosted by Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. [101] [102]

    Willie Rogers, one of the last surviving members of the original Tuskegee Airmen, died at the age of 101 on 18 November 2016 in St. Petersburg, Florida following a stroke. Rogers was drafted into the Army in 1942 and was part of the 100th Air Engineer Squad. Rogers also served with the Red Tail Angels. He was wounded in action, shot in the stomach and leg by German soldiers, during a mission in Italy in January 1943. [103] In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the 300 surviving Tuskegee Airmen, but Rogers was not present. He was given a medal in 2013 after he revealed his previously undisclosed involvement. His pastor Rev. Irby said Rogers was a "passionate oral historian."

    Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, 24, had gone missing while flying a P-51 Mustang, 28 May 1944 – 4 May 1945 fighter, escorting a reconnaissance flight to Prague from Italy, on 23 December 1944. He was on his 68th mission and had previously been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. On 27 July 2018, his remains, which had been recovered in Austria a year earlier, were conclusively identified and confirmed to his daughter – included with them was a ring inscribed from her mother to her father and dated 1943. The day prior to the announcement, his wing-man, 2nd Lt. Robert L. Martin, had died at 99, in Olympia Fields, Illinois. Dickson's wife Phyllis died on 28 December 2017. The bodies of 26 other Tuskegee Airmen who disappeared in WWII remain unrecovered. [104] [105]

    In 2019, Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend, one of 12 remaining Tuskegee Airmen at the time, died on 21 June in Long Beach at the age of 99. [106] He had flown 142 combat missions in World War II as part of the elite group of fighter pilots trained at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. A public viewing and memorial was held at the Palm Springs Air Museum on 6 July. [107] He had spoken about his experiences in many different events prior to his death, such as in John Murdy Elementary School's "The Gratitude Project" in Garden Grove. [108]

    Tuskegee Airmen Monument

    The Tuskegee Airmen Memorial on the grounds of Colleton County‘s Lowcountry Regional Airport commemorates the heroism of the determined young men who enlisted in world War II to become America’s first black military airmen. Before being sent into action, the now famous Tuskegee Airmen received their final months of combat training here, at what was then the Walterboro Army Airfield.

    The airmen trained each day from dawn to dusk for three months before their overseas deployment. They learned to fly three types of planes: The Air Cobra, the Thunderbolt, and the Kittyhawk. The nose-heavy Thunderbolt – nicknamed “The Jug” – was the most difficult. Five men died flying it during training exercises.

    During the war, 1,000 Tuskegee Airmen flew 1,578 missions which involved over 15,000 attacks. Legend has it that the airmen, also known as the Red Tails, never lost an aircraft they escorted over enemy territory. While this is untrue, the Red Tails had one of the lowest loss records of all escort fighter groups. Although segregation was still widespread in America, many white bomber crews made special requests for the black pilots to be their escorts. In 1948 President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which called for the equal treatment and opportunity of people of all races in the United States Armed Forces. This action led to eventual desegregation in the military. Please read the Tuskegee Experience for more details.

    Tuskegee Airmen: 75 years of history

    Legendary Tuskegee Airmen pilots, famously known as "Red Tails," will return to the place they first learned to fly, Tuskegee, Ala. to celebrate 75 years since they were a part of the first group of African American fighters.

    At least four of the original Tuskegee pilots will travel from Atlanta, Ga. to Alabama for the anniversary commemoration events to take place in Tuskegee and Montgomery on March 22.

    They recently sat down with the Montgomery Advertiser and shared their memories of flying over Europe, fighting Nazi fighters and breaking barriers for black men in America. Look for their stories of heroism next week.

    It was during World War II, on March 22, 1941, when African Americans were first allowed to form the historic fighter pilot group, with the help of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Tuesday, the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation will host a series of events beginning at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field at the Tuskegee Airport and ending in Montgomery's Renaissance Hotel Convention Center, for a gala fundraising event.

    The significance of the Tuskegee Airmen is monumental. Their superior performance eventually eliminated segregation throughout the armed services. At that time, African Americans were deemed unfit both physically and mentally to fly something as complex as an aircraft.

    Thousands of black men, who signed up to fly, in the 1940s, proved the myth wrong.

    In fact, the Tuskegee Airmen, were not only recognized for the red paint on their fighter tail-wings,giving them the nickname, "Red Tails," they became legendary for their near-perfect record of not losing an aircraft against enemy fighters in more than 200 bomber-escort missions. They only lost 27 ships, compared to an average of 46 among other 15th Air Force P-51 groups.

    During 1578 total combat missions for the Fifteenth and Twelve Air Forces, the Tuskegee Airmen destroyed 150 enemy aircraft on the ground and 112 in air-to-air combat.

    The first black flying unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later called the 99th Fighter Squadron, was activated at Chanute Field, Illinois and moved to Tuskegee, where its first pilots were trained. Throughout the course of the war, the 99th would grow to include three other fighter squadrons, the 100th Fighter Squadron, 301st Fighter Squadron and 302nd Fighter Squadron.

    Those squadrons have been preserved and are still active today, located among different military wings around the country, including Montgomery, Ala. Aircraft from each unit are scheduled to fly over Moton Field at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

    A red-winged, F-16 Fighting Falcon from Montgomery's 100th Fighter Squadron at the 187th Fighter Wing, will lead the pack, which tentatively includes a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor from the 302nd Fighter Squadron assigned to the 477th Fighter Group at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska and a Northrop T-38 Talon and F-22 from the 301st Fighter Squadron, which falls under the 44th Fighter Group at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. and headquartered out of the 301st Fighter Wing in Texas.

    Lastly, they are scheduled to be joined by a T-1 Jayhawk from the 99th Flying Training Squadron, which is now a part of the 12th Flying Training Wing based at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

    Later that night, a reception and gala dinner is scheduled at 6 p.m. at Montgomery's Renaissance Hotel downtown to raise money for student scholarships through the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation and will include a silent auction, photos with documented original Tuskegee Airmen, an induction ceremony, dinner and speakers.

    The event is to signify the landmark anniversary and honor the pilots and support personnel trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field and preserve their dwindling legacy, said Brigadier General Leon Johnson, the National President of Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated and board chair of the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation.

    "Of the over 16,000 men and women who we consider the Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen there are fewer than 1,000 still alive. There were 932 pilots who graduated from the training program and less than 100 of them are still with us. Only 355 of the pilot graduates flew in combat overseas and only 22 of them survive as of today," Johnson said.

    Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Mark Welsh III, and former U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. retired Norton Schwartz are scheduled to attend the evening black-tie gala.

    The Tuskegee Airmen Foundation is a nonprofit organized that began in 2000 to raise funds to support Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated in their youth programs and activities. Last year the Tuskegee Airmen Youth Aerospace and STEM Academy was created to be a lasting memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen.

    Johnson hopes the gala will kick-off their goal to raise $75 million over ten years for the new youth program. If fully funded, the STEM academy would reach more than 10,000 youth in the first five years, he said.

    To attend the gala, visit https://TAF75thAnniversary.eventbrite.com/. Online registration will close March 21, but onsite tickets will be available March 22.

    Ticket prices

    $125.00 – General Public, Chapters Members
    $100.00 - Military Officers / NCO's (Active Duty, Guard and Reserve)
    $75.00 - Military (O4 and below / E4 and below) and Students - must show proof of status

    Watch the video: Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen? Dogfights. History