With the recent success of the movie Redtails I thought I would share some information on the Tuskegee Airmen for Black History month.
In 1939, the government began establishing flight schools at colleges around the nation but refused to do so at any of the Black colleges believing black men didn’t have the calibre to be fighter pilots.
But with mounting pressure from black newspapers, pressure groups and a few sympathetic government leaders including President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor it was decided to try the “Tuskegee Experiment”. So on July the 19th 1941 a flight school was established at the historic Tuskegee University in Alabama.
In June 1943, the Tuskegee Airmen entered into combat over North Africa. The airmen should courage, skill and ddication in combat. They flew more than 15,000 sorties, completing over 1,500 missions during the war.
In spite of adversity and limited opportunities, African Americans have played a significant role in U.S. military history over the past 300 years. They were denied military leadership roles and skilled training because many believed they lacked qualifications for combat duty. Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Civil rights organizations and the black press exerted pressure that resulted in the formation of an all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941. They became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
“Tuskegee Airmen” refers to all who were involved in the so-called “Tuskegee Experiment,” the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air.
The military selected Tuskegee Institute to train pilots because of its commitment to aeronautical training. Tuskegee had the facilities, and engineering and technical instructors, as well as a climate for year round flying. The first Civilian Pilot Training Program students completed their instruction in May 1940. The Tuskegee program was then expanded and became the center for African-American aviation during World War II.
The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. They proved conclusively that African Americans could fly and maintain sophisticated combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen’s achievements, together with the men and women who supported them, paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military.
On November 6, 1998, President Clinton approved Public Law 105-355, which established the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, to commemorate and interpret the heroic actions of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. The new site contains a museum and interpretive programs at the historic complex at Moton Field as well as a national center based on a public-private partnership.
They never lost an escorted bomber to enemy fighters. No other escort unit could claim such a record.
When the war ended, the Tuskegee Airmen returned home with 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, Legions of Merit and the Red Star of Yugoslavia. The group was disbanded in May 1946 but its success contributed to blacks men and women been fully integrated into the military.
Last month Red Tails in the movies and was a huge success. It is the a fictional story inspired by the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Cast includes Cuba Gooding Jr, Tristan Wilds, along with Terrence Howard.
The film’s title comes for the distinctive red painted tails on their planes.
“I’ve been wanting to do ‘Red Tails’ for 20 years, and we’ve finally got the means to showcase the skill of the Tuskegee pilots,” Lucas said. “We’re working on techniques which will give us the first true look at the aerial dogfighting of the era. And our top-notch cast will really make this story special”. – George Lucas