The Tuskegee Airmen were 13 black cadets and officers who were brought into the U.S. Airforce in 1941. They went to a training facility in Tuskegee, Alabama, to learn how to fly.
Taking Their Shot
The military was segregated during World War II, and many lacked confidence in black people’s ability to fly planes. They doubted whether or not the black cadets could understand the complicated planes.
Unfortunately, it took quite a bit of effort on the airmen’s part to win people over. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s visit to the base was a step in the right direction.
One of the officers asked if she would like to go up in the plane and she gladly accepted. Their next move came quickly when they were sent overseas to Europe.
Fighting Italian’s and German’s
In Europe, the Tuskegee Airmen got to test their skills against Italian and German pilots. Then, in 1943, they went up against Italian fighters in the skies over Tunisia.
Lt. Charles B. Hall shot down a German pilot while flying an old P-40. Even with their efforts, they still faced political criticisms. They were paired with another group who led the complaints.
Of course, the commander did not mention that the 99th was purposefully left out of meetings and was based far front the front lines. He also failed to mention that they only flew the older model airplanes.
However, the 99th continued on and went to Italy.
Cooperative in Italy
The 99th started to make headway in Italy. Their counterparts there actually included them in briefings and allowed them to be equal partners in missions. In 1944, they had shot down 12 German planes.
They went with the 332nd Fighter Group to escort the heavy bombers. They were given P-47s and p-51s to fly. These missions were incredibly successful. So much so that the 332nd was requested for missions.
They had Red tails painted on their planes, and often the bombers they were escorting had no idea they were black. The Tuskegee pilots flew over 15,000 flights, shot down 111 German planes, and obliterated 1,000 railcars, vehicles, and aircraft on the ground.
Their successes in the war helped lead the U.S. Military to end segregation and integrate in 1948. The 332nd is still flying today, with both black and white pilots working together.