Who Were The Tuskegee Airmen?
The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted to become America's first black military airmen, at a time when there were many people who thought that black men lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism. They came from every section of the country, with large numbers coming from New York City, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit. Each one possessed a strong personal desire to serve the United States of America at the best of his ability.
The all black pilot unit was created in June 1941 with the first 13 graduated in 1942. Primary flight training began at Morton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama and later were later transferred to Tuskegee Army Air Field for additional training. Tuskegee was an entirely black airman base which kept them segreated from the white pilots. Over the years of operation they graduated nearly 1,000 pilots.
They consisted of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group. They flew P-39, P-47 and P-51 fighters and the B-25 and B-26 bombers. Combat missions were flown in both the European and African theaters.
Known as the "Red Tail Angels" to the escorted bomber crews due to the distictive red tail paint, and the "Red Tail" Call sign. This markings was a sign of segregation. They were also called Schwartze Vogelmenschen "Black Bird Men" by the Germans whe both feared and respected them.
Red Tail P-51C
They were well known for their accomplishments
- Did not loosing a single bomber while flying escort
- Flew over 15,000 combat sorties with over 1500 missions
- Shot down 111 German aircraft and destroyed another 150 on the ground
- Destroyed 950 railcars, trucks and other motor vehicles.
- Sank 1 Destroyer
They lost 66 pilots and 32 were taken prisoner.
Awards, decorations and recognitions
- 3 Distinguished Unit Citations during the War
- At least 1 Silver Star
- About 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses
- 14 Bronze Stars
- 740 Air Metals
- 8 Purple Hearts
- The Tuskegee Airmen (1996), a film starring Laurence Fishburne, was produced and aired by HBO
- 2006 they were honored with a commemorative postal stamp
- On March 29, 2007, about 300 Tuskegee Airmen (or their Widows) finally received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush.
- On December 9, 2008, they were invited to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama
- 2010 tribute was paid to them in the Rose Parade