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About the Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee AirmenDuring WWII racial segregation was a cultural legacy legally sanctioned and practiced by White Americans. The results were manifested in the social, political, and military milieu of the times and it is against this backdrop that the formation of the “Tuskegee Experiment” was born. The “Experiment” consisted of training 966 Black military men at an “isolated training complex” called Tuskegee Institute.

Under the auspices of Benjamin O. Davis, the 99th fighter squadron (which consisted of 966 Black Military Aviators) would be trained to serve in a legally segregated Army Air Corp. Unit. This historical decision was designed with NO immediate combat Plans for this Tuskegee Unit, but nevertheless required that the Tuskegee pilots have at least “50 hours of flying time –which was three times the amount of flying time that most white pilots had at the time they were stationed overseas.”

In 1943, with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, the National Urban League, the NAACP and the Negro Press, President Roosevelt, and the War Department were finally persuaded to ship the 99th Tuskegee Airmen Squadron to Casablanca in French Morocco.

In June of that same year, the Tuskegee Airmen flew their first combat Mission over Pantelleria Island and won. One month later, Tuskegee Airman Charles Hal would make history as the first “colored airman to shoot down a German plane.” Other Tuskegee airmen maintain, “you can not talk about the Tuskegee War Heroes without mentioning John Rodger. He was the best diving pilot in the Mediterranean Theatre…” briefed by the British in reference to the Figher PlaneGermans holding up the Army’s advancement in Italy, John dropped bombs in the headquarter windows of the enemy.

“Despite such victories Colonel Benjamin Davis was summoned to Washington to defend the false allegations that the “Tuskegee Experiment had failed” and that the “colored men should be brought home immediately.” The War Department wisely referred the case to the Advisory Committee and there the charges quietly disappeared.

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.By the end of the Second World War, the Tuskegee Airmen had damaged and/or destroyed approximately 500 enemy aircraft; received over 150 distinguished flying awards and Colonel Benjamin O. Davis became the first Afro-American General in the Army Air Corp. Still none of these accomplishments paved the way for Tuskegee Airmen to obtain jobs in the field of aviation after the war. “The only jobs in the field of aviation that were offered to us, after the war, were being the Janitors of the aircraft” maintained Tuskegee Airman Bill Thompson.

Today the Tuskegee Airmen’s phenomenal standards of excellence, perseverance, and patience have paved the way for the nationally diverse culture that both our Military and Government celebrate. Such significant roles, in our society, will always be remembered.


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