Tuskegee Airmen – Facts, History, Pictures and Heroes

Tuskegee Airmen – Thank You

A decade ago I had the good fortune of being asked to study african-american history in the US as part of a class assignment and what I learned about the Tuskegee Airmen over the next few weeks fascinated me profoundly. The Tuskegee airmen proved themselves equals in extra-ordinary fashion and they fought two wars simultaneously. One war was fought valiantly against the Germans during WWII and another against the US, racism, at the same time. The Tuskegee airmen prevailed on both fronts and I would be cheating you of wealth by not sharing their story. The Tuskegee Airmen are true national heroes.

Tuskegee Airmen Plane
The Tuskegee Airmen are a group of African-Americans that formed the 332nd fighter group within the US Army Air Corps during world war two. The 332nd fighter group was created when four seperate african-american squadrons were combined into one unit following a court hearing on the viability of african-american pilots in war. It was widely professed that an african-american didn’t have the skills required to pilot a warplane and critical reviews were written in prominent publications such as Time Magazine. [’by desire’ courtesy: sea turtle]

The four squadrons consisted of the 99th fighter group, which had seen action in the mediteranean during the allied invasion of Sicily but were declared a failure by Col. William W. Momyer, along with three freshly trained fighter groups from the Tuskegee training facilities. The 332nd had every reason to fail but didn’t.

Tuskegee Airmen P51 Mustang
The Tuskegee airmen flew several types of warplane during the war, including P39-Airacobras, P40-Warhawks and P-47 Thunderbolts but became most famous while flying the robust P-51 Mustangs depicted above in the great image by bcmacsac1. The primary role of the 332nd was to escort bombers on bombing missions, which virtually guaranteed receiving enemy attention on each sortie.

German pilots reportedly began calling the Tuskegee Airmen “The Black Birdmen” while the Allies often reffered to them as the redtails due to the distinctive crimson stripe on their planes stabilizers. By the end of the war the Tuskegee airmen were credited with flying over 1500 missions and downing over 100 enemy aircraft. The record remains in dispute but that is of no importance, the 332nd performed admirably and bomber groups often specificaly asked for “redtail” support (often without knowing the pilots were black).

Tuskegee Airmen Receiving Awards from President Bush
Facts – On March 29th, 2007, with president Bush and speaker Nancy Pelosi in attendance as seen in this great image by soldiermediacenter, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal which is the most prestigious honor presented by the United States Congress.

Aproximately 350 Tuskegee Airmen and widows of now deceased Airmen attended the ceremony and the actual medal was placed on display at the Smithsonian Institute, each pilot receiving a bronze copy. A total of 992 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1940 to 1946. 150 lost their lives in combat.

Tuskegee Portrait of Gen. Benjamin O Davis and Colonel George Roberts
History – The 332nd was led in combat by several commanders including 1936 West Point graduate General Benjamin O Davis Jr and major George S “spanky” Roberts as depicted in the Wright Brothers National Memorial portrait above. [image source: dbking] The group motto was ‘Spit Fire’ and they received a distinguished Unit Citation in Germany on March 24th, 1945.

Every year the surviving airmen get together to promote aviation and science through youth programs, to pass on knowledge of their accomplishments and to help provide scholarships to worthy individuals. Visit tuskegeeairmen.org.

Tuskegee Museum
Bcmacsac1 took this picture of a mural at the Palm Springs Museum.

Tuskegee Airmen – Live Well