- Tuskegee Airmen
Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= Tuskegee Airmen (unofficial)
caption= Emblems of wing
branch= US Army Air Corps
United States Army Air Forces United States Air Force
role= Fighter unit
command_structure= 332d Fighter Group/Air Expeditionary Wing
nickname= The "Red Tails"
motto= "Spit Fire"
World War II
anniversaries=The Tuskegee Airmen (pronEng|təˈskiːgi [See [http://inogolo.com/pronunciation/Tuskegee Pronunciation of Tuskegee] .] ) was the popular name of a group of black pilots who flew with distinction during
World War IIas the 332nd Fighter Groupof the US Army Air Corps.
Prior to the Tuskegee Airmen, no U.S. military pilots had been black. A series of legislative moves by the
United States Congressin 1941 forced the Army Air Corps to form an all-black combat unit, despite the War Department's reluctance. In an effort to eliminate the unit before it could begin, the War Department set up a system to accept only those with a level of flight experience or higher education that they expected would be hard to fill. This policy backfired when the Air Corps received an abundance of applications from men who qualified even under these restrictive specifications, many of whom had already participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, which the Tuskegee Institutehad participated in since 1939. [Benton, Jeffrey C. [http://aupress.au.af.mil/Books/Benton/Benton.pdf "They Served Here: Thirty-Three Maxwell Men".] Air University Press, "Noel F. Parrish",1999, p. 43.]
The U.S. Army Air Corps had established the
Psychological Research Unit 1at Maxwell Army Air Field, 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 teststo quantify IQ, dexterity, and leadershipqualities in order to select and train the right personnel for the right role (bombardier, pilot, navigator). The Air Corps determined that the same existing programs would be used for all units, including all-black units. At Tuskegee, this effort would continue with the selection and training of the Tuskegee Airmen.
. [ Francis 1988, p. 15. Note: It was a lawsuit or the threat of a law suit from a rejected candidate that caused the USAAC to accept black applicants.] Over 250 enlisted men were trained at Chanute in aircraft ground support trades. This small number of enlisted men became the core of other black squadrons forming at Tuskegee and Maxwell Fields in Alabama.
In June 1941, the Tuskegee program officially began with formation of the
99th Fighter Squadronat the Tuskegee Institute, a highly regarded university founded by Booker T. Washington, through the work of Lewis Adamsand George W. Campbell (Tuskegee, Alabama)in Tuskegee, Alabama. [ Thole 2002, p. 48. Note: The Coffey School of Aeronauticsin Chicago was also considered.] The unit consisted of an entire service arm, including ground crew. After basic training at Moton Field, they were moved to the nearby Tuskegee Army Air Fieldabout 16 km (10 miles) to the west for conversion training onto operational types. The Airmen were placed under the command of Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., one of the few African American West Point graduates. His father Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.was the first black general in the U.S. Army.
During its training, the 99th Fighter Squadron was commanded by white and Puerto Rican officers, beginning with Major James Ellison. By 1942, however, it was Colonel Frederick Kimble who oversaw operations at the Tuskegee airfield. Kimble maintained segregation on the field in deference to local customs – a policy the airmen resented. [Francis, Charles E. "The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation" . Boston: Brandon Publishing, 1988. ISBN 0-82831-386-5.] Later that year, the Air Corps replaced Kimble with the director of Instruction at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Major Noel F. Parrish. Parrish, counter to the prevalent racism of the day, was fair and open-minded, and petitioned Washington to allow the Tuskegee Airmen to serve in combat.Fact|date=April 2007
Considered ready for combat duty, the 99th was transported to
Casablanca, Morocco, on the " USS Mariposa" and participated in the North African campaign. From Morocco they travelled by train to Oujdathen to Tunisfrom where they operated against the enemy. Flyers and ground crew alike were largely isolated by the racial segregation practices of their initial command, the white 33rd Fighter Group and its commander Colonel William W. Momyer. The flight crews were handicapped by being left with little guidance from battle-experienced pilots beyond a week spent with Colonel Phillip Cochran. The 99th's first combat mission was to attack the small but strategic volcanic island of Pantelleriain the Mediterranean Sea, in preparation for the Allied invasion of Sicilyin July 1943. The 99th moved to Sicily where it received a Distinguished Unit Citationfor its performance in combat.
However, Colonel Momyer told media sources in the U.S. that the 99th was a failure and its pilots cowardly, incompetent or worse, resulting in a critical article in Time magazine. In response, a hearing was convened before the
House Armed Services Committeeto determine whether the Tuskegee Airmen "experiment" should be allowed to continue. Momyer accused the Airmen of being incompetent—-based on the fact that they had seen little air-to-air combat during their time in theatre. To bolster the recommendation to scrap the project, a member of the committee commissioned and then submitted into evidence a "scientific" report by the University of Texaswhich purported to prove that Negroes were of low intelligence and incapable of handling complex situations (such as air combat). Colonel Davis forcefully refuted the committee members' claims, but only the intervention of Colonel Emmett "Rosie" O'Donnell prevented a recommendation for disbandment of the squadron from being sent to president Franklin D. Roosevelt. General Hap Arnold ordered an evaluation of all Mediterranean Theatre P-40 units be undertaken to determine the true merits of the 99th; the results showed the 99th Fighter Squadron to be at least equal to other U.S. units operating the fighter.
Shortly after the hearing, three new squadrons fresh out of training at Tuskegee embarked for Africa. After several months operating separately, all four squadrons were combined to form the all-black
332nd Fighter Group.
The Tuskegee Airmen were initially equipped with P-40 Warhawks, briefly with
P-39 Airacobras (March 1944), later with P-47 Thunderbolts (June-July 1944), and finally with the aircraft that they became most commonly identified with, the P-51 Mustang(July 1944).
27 Januaryand 28 January 1944, "Luftwaffe" Fw 190fighter-bombers raided Anzio, where the Allies had conducted amphibious landings on January 22. Attached to the 79th Fighter Group, eleven of the 99th Fighter Squadron's pilots shot down enemy fighters, including Capt. Charles B. Hall, who claimed two shot down, bringing his aerial victory total to three. The eight fighter squadrons defending Anzio together claimed 32 German aircraft shot down whilst the 99th claimed the highest score among them with 13.Haulman, Dr. Daniel L. "Aerial Victory Credits of the Tuskegee Airmen". AFHRA Maxwell AFB. [http://www.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-070207-059.pdf Air Force] Retrieved: 16 February 2007.]
By the spring of 1944, more graduates were ready for combat, and the all-black
332nd Fighter Grouphad been sent overseas with three fighter squadrons: the 100th, 301st and 302nd. Under the command of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, the squadrons were moved to mainland Italy, where the 99th FS, assigned to the group on 1 May, joining them on 6 June. The Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group escorted bombing raids into Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Polandand Germany.
Flying escort for heavy bombers, the 332nd earned an impressive combat record. Reportedly, the Luftwaffe awarded the Airmen the nickname, "Schwarze Vogelmenschen," or "Black Birdmen." The Allies called the Airmen "Redtails" or "Redtail Angels," because of the distinctive crimson paint on the vertical stabilizers of the unit's aircraft. Although bomber groups would request Redtail escort when possible, few bomber crew members knew at the time that the Redtails were black.Fact|date=April 2007 bomb group, the 477th Bombardment Group (Medium), was forming in the U.S. but completed its training too late to see action. The 99th Fighter Squadron after its return to the United States became part of the 477th, redesignated the 477th Composite Group.
By the end of the war, the Tuskegee Airmen were credited with 109 Luftwaffe aircraft shot down, the German-operated Italian destroyer TA-23 sunk by machine-gun fire, and destruction of numerous fuel dumps, trucks and trains. The squadrons of the 332nd FG flew more than 15,000 sorties on 1,500 missions. The unit received recognition through official channels and was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission flown March 24, 1945, escorting B-17s to bomb the
Daimler-Benztank factory at Berlin, Germany, an action in which its pilots were credited with destroying three Me-262jets, all belonging to the Luftwaffe's all-jet Jagdgeschwader 7, in aerial combat that day, despite the American unit initially claiming 11 Me 262s on that particular mission.Caldwell and Muller 2007, p. 276.] However on examining German records, "JG 7" records just four Me 262s were lost and all of the pilots survived. In return the 463rd Bomb Group, one of the many B-17 groups the 322nd were escorting, lost two bombers.The 322nd themselves lost three P-51s during the mission. The bombers also made substantial claims, making it impossible to tell which units were responsible for those individual four kills.The 99th Fighter Squadron in addition received two DUCs, the second after its assignment to the 332nd FG. [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/numbered_studies/916794.pdf "Air Force Historical Study 82"] , AFHRA Maxwell AFB, 1969. Retrieved: 16 February 2007.] The Tuskegee Airmen were awarded several Silver Stars, 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 8 Purple Hearts, 14 Bronze Stars and 744 Air Medals. In all, 992 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1940 to 1946; about 445 deployed overseas, and 150 Airmen lost their lives in accidents or combat. [ [http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=1356 Tuskegee Airmen] , National Museum of the Air Force.]
Controversy over the escort record
While it had long been said that the Redtails were the only fighter group who never lost a bomber to enemy fighters, [ [http://www.pingry.k12.nj.us/about/articles/2002-nov-11-tuskegee.html Lt. Col. Thomas E. Highsmith, Jr.; speech at The Pingry School,
8 November 2002] suggestions to the contrary, combined with Air Force records and eyewitness accounts indicating that at least 25 bombers were lost to enemy fire [ [http://www.sptimes.com/2008/01/26/Worldandnation/An_uneasy_question_fo.shtml An uneasy question for the Tuskegee Airmen] ] , resulted in the Air Force conducting a reassessment of the history of this famed unit in late 2006.
The claim that no bomber escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen had ever been lost to enemy fire first appeared on
24 March 1945, in the " Chicago Defender", under the headline "332nd Flies Its 200th Mission Without Loss." According to the 28 March 2007Air Force report, however, some bombers under 332nd Fighter Group escort protection were shot down on the very day the "Chicago Defender" article was published. [ [http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-04-01-tuskegee-airmen_N.htm "Report: Tuskegee Airmen lost 25 bombers."] "USA Today", 1 April 2007. Retrieved: 1 April 2007.] [ [http://www.comcast.net/news/national/index.jsp?cat=DOMESTIC&fn=/2006/12/11/539246.html Article ID:539246] Comcast.net news. Retrieved: 11 December 2006.] ["Ex-Pilot Confirms Bomber Loss, Flier Shot down in 1944 was Escorted by Tuskegee Airmen". "Washington Post", 17 December 2006, p. A18.] [AP Story 29 March 2007] The 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, was released in March 2007 and documented 25 bombers shot down by enemy fighter aircraftwhile being escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen. [http://aimpoints.hq.af.mil/display.cfm?id=17731 "Report: Tuskegee Airmen lost 25 bombers."] "The Associated Press", 2 April 2007. Retrieved: 10 April 2007.]
The controversy continued to attract news media attention in 2008. A "
St. Petersburg Times" article quoted a historian at the Air Force Historical Research Agency as confirming the loss of up to 25 bombers. Disputing this, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington said he researched more than 200 Tuskegee Airmen mission reports and found no bombers were lost to enemy fighters. Bill Holloman, a Tuskegee airman who taught black studies at the University of Washingtonand now chairs the Airmen's history committee, was reported by the "Times" as saying his review of records did confirm lost bombers, but "the Tuskegee story is about pilots who rose above adversity and discrimination and opened a door once closed to black America — not about whether their record is perfect". [Levesque, William R. [http://www.sptimes.com/2008/01/26/Worldandnation/An_uneasy_question_fo.shtml "An uneasy question for the Tuskegee Airmen."] " St. Petersburg Times", 26 January 2008.]
One mission report states that on
26 July 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." A second report, dated 31 August 1944, praises group commander Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. by saying he "so skillfully disposed his squadrons that in spite of the large number of enemy fighters, the bomber formation suffered only a few losses." [cite web|url=http://www.diverseeducation.com/artman/publish/article_6872.shtml|title=Historians Question Record of Tuskegee Airmen|publisher=www.diverseeducation.com|accessdate=2008-06-19|last=Banerji|first=Shilpa]
Far from failing as originally expected, a combination of pre-war experience and the personal drive of those accepted for training had resulted in some of the best pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Nevertheless, the Tuskegee Airmen continued to have to fight
racism. Their combat record did much to quiet those directly involved with the group (notably bomber crews who often requested them for escort), but other units were less than interested and continued to harass the Airmen.
All of these events appear to have simply stiffened the Airmen's resolve to fight for their own rights in the US. After the war, the Tuskegee Airmen once again found themselves isolated. In 1949, the 332nd entered the annual All Air Force Gunnery Meet in Las Vegas, Nevada and won. After segregation in the military was ended in 1948 by President
Harry S. Trumanwith Executive Order 9981, the 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 Centerin Maryland [cite news | publisher = Gazette.net: Maryland Community Newspapers Online | url = http://www.gazette.net/stories/020708/prinnew170059_32361.shtml | title = County’s first black-owned airport becomes training ground | date = February 7, 2008 | author = Andy Zieminski] .
Many of the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen annually participate in the Tuskegee Airmen Convention, which is hosted by Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. [ [http://www.tuskegeeairmen.org/ Tuskegee Airmen Inc.] ]
In 2005, four Tuskegee Airmen (Lt. Col. Lee Archer, Lt. Col. Robert Ashby, MSgt. James Sheppard, and TechSgt. George Watson) flew to Balad, Iraq, to speak to active duty airmen serving in the current incarnation of the 332nd, reactivated as first 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 Forceand US Central Command Air Forces, in an e-mail to the Associated Press.
Legacy and honors
29 March 2007, about 350 Tuskegee Airmen and their widows were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold MedalLibrary of Congress. [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c110:2:./temp/~c110J3sEbQ:: Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That the Rotunda of the Capitol is authorized to be used on 29 March 2007, for a ceremony to award a Congressional... (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by Senate)] , 7 March 2007. ] at a ceremony in the US Capitol rotunda. [Price, Deb. [http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070329/NATION/703290308 "Nation to honor Tuskegee Airmen."] "The Detroit News", 29 March 2007. Retrieved: 29 March 2007.] [ [http://www.house.gov/list/press/ny15_rangel/CBRStatementTuskegeeBillSigned04112006.html "Tuskegee Airmen Gold Medal Bill Signed Into Law". ] Office of Congressman Charles B. Rangel. Retrieved: 26 October 2006.] [Evans, Ben. [http://thetandd.com/articles/2007/03/30/news/doc460c7d58cd40f058827045.txt "Tuskegee Airmen awarded Congressional Gold Medal."] "Associated Press", 30 March 2007. Retrieved: 30 April 2007.] The medal will go on display at the Smithsonian Institution; individual honorees will receive bronze replicas. [AP Story, 29 March 2007.]
The airfield where the airmen trained is now the
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. [Official NPS website: [http://www.nps.gov/tuai/ Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site] ]
In 2006, California Congressman
Adam Schiff, and Missouri Congressman William Lacy Clay, Jr., have led the initiative to create a commemorative postage stamp to honor the Tuskegee Airmen. [ [http://schiff.house.gov/HoR/CA29/Newsroom/Press+Releases/2006/Schiff+Votes+to+Honor+Tuskegee+Airmen.htmSchiff Votes to Honor Tuskegee Airmen] ]
The 99th Flying Training Squadron flies
T-1A Jayhawks and, in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, they are in the process of painting the tops of the tails of their aircraft red.
1 August 2008, the City of Atlanta, Georgia officially renamed a portion of State Route 6, in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen. The road is a highway that serves as the main artery into Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Wings for This Man" (1945), a propaganda short about the Tuskegee Airmen, was produced by the First Motion Picture Unitof the Army Air Forces. The film was narrated by Ronald Reagan. [imdb title|id=0816708|title=Wings for This Man]
The Tuskegee Airmen" (1996) starring Laurence Fishburnewas produced and aired by HBO. [imdb title|id=0114745|title=The Tuskegee Airmen]
* The Tuskegee Airmen (1997) are represented in the
G.I. Joeaction figure series. [ [http://www.mastercollector.com/neat/gijoe/hasbro/1997joes.html 1997 G.I. Joe Classic Collection] ]
* "The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys who Flew the B-24s over Germany" (2001) book by Stephen Ambrose describes the Tuskegee Airmen in a tribute to their achievements. [Ambrose 2001, p. 27.]
Hart's War", a 2002 film about a Tuskagee Airman accused of murdering another American serviceman in a German POW Camp.
* "Silver Wings and Civil Rights: The Fight to Fly" (2004) documentary was the first film to feature information regarding the "
Freeman Field Mutiny," the struggle of 101 African-American officers arrested for entering a white officer's club. [imdb title|id=0396864|title=Silver Wings & Civil Rights: The Fight to Fly] [ [http://www.fight2fly.com/ Siver Wings and Civil Rights: The Flight to Fly] ]
*"Red Tails" is a film being developed by
George Lucas. The story follows the events surrounding the Tuskegee Airmen, who were African Americanpilots during World War IIrenowned for their bravery. George Lucas discussed with Samuel L. Jacksonbeing an actor in and possibly directing the film, and also sent him the script to review. Jackson praised the script, and suggested Lucas could mentor him through parts of directing such as special effects, though Jackson is not yet committed to either role. The film has been under development by George Lucas since 1990.Vejvoda, Jim. [http://movies.ign.com/articles/900/900274p1.html "Jackson Eyeing Red Tails."] IGN, 18 August 2008. Retrieved: 25 August 2008.] [http://www.theherald.co.uk/features/features/display.var.2419323.0.Master_of_his_own_universe.php "Master of his own universe."] " The Herald (Glasgow)", 15 August 2008. Retrieved: 25 August 2008.] John Ridleypenned the most recent screenplay draft. Lucas says the film is close to production as of August 2008. [http://itn.co.uk/news/3166cbaac0aa9bc33d380f4c904a107b.html "Lucas on Indy, Star Wars and Red Tails."] "Independent Television News", 14 August 2008. Retrieved: 25 August 2008.] Location scouting was taking place as of June 2008 in Pragueand Italy, and filming may begin as soon as late 2008 or early 2009.Vejvoda, Jim. [http://movies.ign.com/articles/882/882483p1.html "Red Tails Director Scoop."] IGN, 17 June 2008. Retrieved: 25 August 2008.]
Military history of African Americans
*761st Tank Battalion
*555th Parachute Infantry Battalion "Triple Nickle"
*92nd Infantry Division
*93rd Infantry Division
Executive Order 9981
The Port Chicago 50
Red Ball Express
List of African American Medal of Honor recipients
* Ambrose, Stephen Edward. "The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys who Flew the B-24s over Germany". New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-74320-339-9.
* Broadnax, Samuel L. "Blue Skies, Black Wings: African American Pioneers of Aviation". Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2007. ISBN 0-27599-195-4.
* Bucholtz, Chris and Jim Laurier. "332nd Fighter Group - Tuskegee Airmen". London: Osprey Publishing, 2007. ISBN 1-84603-044-7.
* Caldwell, Donald and Richard Muller. "The Luftwaffe over Germany: Defense of the Reich". London: Greenhill Books, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85367-712-0.
* Cotter, Jarrod. "Red Tail Project." "Flypast No. 248", March 2002.
* Francis, Charles F. "The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men who Changed a Nation". Boston: Branden Publishing Company, 1988. ISBN 0-8283-1908-1.
* Hill, Ezra M. Sr. "The Black Red Tail Angels: A Story of the Tuskegee Airmen". Columbus, Ohio: SMF Haven of Hope. 2006.
* Holway, John B. "Red Tail, Black Wings: The Men of America's Black Air Force". Las Cruces, New Mexico: Yuca Tree Press, 1997. ISBN 1-88132-521-0.
* Leuthner, Stuart and Olivier Jensen. "High Honor: Recollections by Men and Women of World War II Aviation". Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989. ISBN 0-87474-650-7.
* McKissack, Patricia C. and Fredrick L. "Red Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II". New York: Walker Books for Young Readers, 1996. ISBN 0-80278-292-2.
* Ross, Robert A. "Lonely Eagles: The Story of America's Black Air Force in World War II". Los Angeles: Tuskegee Airmen Inc., Los Angeles Chapter, 1980. ISBN 0-917612-00-0.
* Sandler, Stanley. "Segregated Skies: All-Black Combat Squadrons of WWII." Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. ISBN 1-56098-154-7.
* Thole, Lou. "Segregated Skies." "Flypast No, 248", March 2002.
* [http://www.starduststudios.com/tuskegee_airmen.htm Images of Tukegee airmen,photos,paintings etc.]
* [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0802782922 "Red-Tail Angels": The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II]
* [http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/international/tuskegee_010814.html Tuskegee reunion: A whopping tale of coincidence]
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114745/ The Tuskegee Airmen (1995)]
* [http://www.shoppbs.org/sm-pbs-the-tuskegee-airmen--pi-1402874.html "The Tuskegee Airmen" (documentary film) Public Broadcasting Service.]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aaworld/reference/articles/tuskegee_airmen.html PBS African American World. Reference Room: "Tuskegee Airmen" (Encyclopædia Britannica)]
* [http://www.aeromuseum.org/Exhibits/travel.html 99th Pursuit Squadron at Chanute Field]
* [http://www.blackaviation.com/blackhistory.html Articles about the Tuskegee Airmen] from the
Chicago Defendernewspaper, 1944, at Black Aviation Enterprises
* [http://tuskegeeairmen.org/ Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. - Official Web Site]
* [http://www.redtail.org/ The Red Tail Project]
* [http://www.army.mil/africanamericans/ African Americans in the U.S. Army]
* [http://www.aaregistry.com/ National Museum of the United States Air Force: Eugene Jacques Bullard]
* [http://www.keplerlabel.com/tuskegee.html/ "The Tuskegee Airmen Mutiny" by Willie Ruff]
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