Due to the rigid pattern of racial segregation that prevailed in the United
States during World War II, 966 Black military aviators were trained at an
isolated training complex near the town of Tuskegee, Alabama, and at
Tuskegee Institute, Four Hundred and fifty Black fighter pilots under the
command of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., (who was later to become the U.
S. Air Force’s first Black Lt General) fought in the aerial war over North
Africa, Sicily, and Europe: flying P-40, P-39, P-47, and P-51 type aircraft.
These gallant men flew 15,553 sorties and completed 1578 missions with the
12th Tactical U.S. Army Air Corps and the 15th Strategic U. S. Army Air Corps.
They were called the “Schwartze Vogelmenschen” (Black Birdmen) by the
Germans who both feared and respected them. White American bomber
crews reverently referred to them as “The Black Redtail Angels” because of
the identifying red paint on their tail assemblies and because of their
reputation for not losing bombers to enemy fighters as they provided fighter
escort to bombing missions over strategic targets in Europe. The 99th
Fighter Squadron, which had already distinguished itself over North Africa,
Sicily and Anzio, was joined by three more Black squadrons – the 100th,
301st, and the 302nd – redesignated as the 332nd Fighter Group. From
Italian bases they destroyed enemy rail traffic, coastal surveillance stations
and hundreds of vehicle in air-to-ground strafing missions. Sixty-six of these
pilots were killed in aerial combat while another 32 were shot down and
captured as prisoners of war.
These Black airmen came home with 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses,
numerous Legions of Merit, and The Red Star of Yugoslavia. For every Black
pilot there were ten other civilian or military Black men and women on
ground support duty. Many of these men and women remained in the
military service during the post-World War II era and spearheaded the
integration of the armed forces of the United States with the integration into
the U.S. Air Force in 1949. Their successes and achievements are evidenced
by the elevation of three of these pioneers to flag rank: the late General
Daniel “Chappie” James, our nation’s first Black Four-Star General; Lt.
General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., USAF, retired; and Major General Lucius
Theus, USAF, retired. In addition, major achievements are attributable to
many of those who returned to civilian life and earned positions of leadership
and respect as businessmen, corporate executives, religious leaders, lawyers,
doctors, bankers, educators and political leaders.
THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN ORGANIZATION
Nearly 30 years of anonymity ended in 1972 with the founding of TUSKEGEE
AIRMEN, INC., (TAI) at Detroit, Michigan. Organized as a non-political, non-
military and non-profit national entity, TAI exists primarily to motivate and
inspire young Americans to become participants in our nation’s society and it’
s democratic process, to support young men and women pursuing
excellence, with special attention to those interested in careers in aviation or
aerospace, and to keep alive the history of achievement and knowledge of
the importance of the original Tuskegee Airmen. There are over 50 chapters
of TAI located in major cities and military installations throughout the United
States and the Far East. The membership of TAI consists of veterans,
civilians, and active duty officers and enlisted personnel from all branches of
the military, and is open to anyone interested in supporting the goals and
objectives of the national organization and it's chapters.