Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tuskegee Airmen 5

video
This scene is based on a true life episode where Eleanor Roosevelt makes a special request to fly with one of the Tuskegee pilots to show her faith in their ability
This is mentioned in a history from african americans.com

The controversial decision to establish a training school for African American pilots at the Tuskegee Institute took place on January 16, 1940.
The first all-African American flying unit in the U.S. military, Tuskegee Airmen served during World War II. The squadron was commissioned by the War Department under increased pressure from the NAACP and other organizations seeking to provide opportunities for African Americans in the armed forces. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr.commanded the Tuskegee Airmens first graduating class. They flew over fifteen hundred missions and destroyed hundreds of enemy aircrafts without ever losing a bomber to hostile fire.
In the face of strong resistance from the military establishment and most officials in the War Department, a relentless effort was carried on by a number of Black organizations and individuals, including sympathetic Whites, to persuade the government to accept Blacks for training by the Air Corps in military aviation. After considerable debate on the subject, the government agreed to establish a program in which African American applicants would be trained in all aspects of military aviation and sent into combat as a segregated unit.
In January 1941, under the direction of the NAACP, a Howard University student, Yancey Williams, filed suit against the War Department to compel his admission to a pilot training center. Almost immediately following the filing of the suit, the War Department under pressure from northern congressmen, and with an order from the Commander-in-Chief, Franklin Roosevelt, announced that it would establish an aviation unit near Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, in cooperation with the institute for the training of Negro pilots for the Army. This unit was to be called the 99th Pursuit Squadron.
The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, was a strong supporter of the Tuskegee Airmen. She even "inspected the troops" and took a ride with a recent graduate. The first pilot class, completed the training and received their wings on March 7, 1942. The five graduates were: Captain Benjamin O. Davis, 2nd Lieutenant Lemuel R. Custis, 2nd Lieutenant Charles DeBow, 2nd Lieutenant George S. Roberts, and 2nd Lieutenant Mac Ross. The Red Tails Enter Combat The Tuskegee Airmen we nick-named "Red Tails" because of the distinctive red paint on their tails. Airplanes in Tuskegee, Alabama where the group trained were painted with red markings to identify students. When the unit moved to North Africa, replacement aircraft were often bare metal with no paint except for basic identification numbers. It was decided that the colors of the trainer aircraft of Tuskegee would carry over into combat. A simple "A" on the side of the fuselage would designate the 99th Pursuit Squadron, "B" the 100th, "C" the 301st, and "D" for the 302nd. The Airmen had an illustrious record in combat. Over Italy in 1944, Lt. Gwynne Pierson, Lt. Windell Pruitt and four other Tuskegee Airmen, flying P-47s, attacked a German Destroyer (TA-27) in Trieste Harbor. Accurate machine gun fire hit the powder magazine and sank the ship. Thus Pierson and Pruitt are credited with the destruction of an enemy ship using only machine gun fire. Captain Charles B. Hallwas credited as the first African American to shoot down an enemy aircraft. The 450 Tuskegee Airmen assigned to the African/European Theater flew 1578 missions - 15,553 combat sorties while fighting the Germans, both in North Africa and Italy; the unequaled record of not having lost a single bomber, while they were escorting, due to enemy aircraft action. Bomber crews saw the "Red Tails" as a welcome sight. The contributions of the 477th Bombardment Group and their struggle to achieve parity and recognition as competent military professionals, leading to the War Department's evaluation of it's racial policies and the ultimate desegregation of the military. A total of 926 pilots graduated from Tuskegee Army Flying School over the years. Class 46-C was the last class to finish training at the school and graduated on June 29, 1946. Shortly thereafter the "Tuskegee Experience" ended with the closing of Tuskegee Army Air Field. Tuskegee set the tone for leadership in the newly formed Air Force. Excellence was expected and results were positive. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.would become a general and command several air wings as well as Air Force bases. He would lead a new generation of African Americans who were professional soldiers and great leaders. Another Tuskegee graduate was Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr., the first USAF African American 4-star general. After he was promoted to 4-star grade on Sept. 1, 1975, James was assigned as Commander in Chief North American Air Defense Command and Aerospace Defense Command, a position he held until his retirement on Feb. 1, 1978. He died 24 days later. Chappie served in WWII as well as the wars in Korean and Vietnam.

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