The Tuskegee Airmen
They were the only fighter pilots to fight on two fronts. One against the Luftwaffe’s best and the other against America’s worst.
During World War II the military considered Black men to be inferior and unable to master the complicated task of flying a high performance fighter.
“The negro had demonstrated that he was subservient, lackadaisical and did not have the physiological and psychological ability for leadership.”
Like American society the military was deeply segregated. Many in command were determined to keep black men from flying combat aircraft. But in 1941 the War Department and Army Air Corps, under pressure from the White House and the Black press, formed the first all black fighter unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron.
By March 1943 the 99th was ready for action. Shipped to North Africa the it flew its first mission against the island of Pentelleria.
“We thought were going to be fighter pilots flying at eight thousand feet, up and down the coast of North Africa, shoot down five German aircraft; be an ace and come home. But we soon found out we were going to do close tactical ground support.”
The racism and segregation continued, but the young pilots of the 99th soon showed their worth.
“By the end of three weeks of operations we had destroyed 17 aircraft and this was just almost unbelievable that the 99th had this success. It really put to rest the myth that the black-man could not fly and fight.”
By February 1944 the first all-black 332nd Fighter Group was sent overseas. Incorporating the 99th the 332nd FG would forever being remembered as the ‘Red Tails.’
In many ways the fighter pilots of the 332nd FG were the most determined and professional of the entire war.
In their own words: the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, available right now on Aerocinema.com