The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II
The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted to become America's first black military pilots. Each one possessed a strong, personal desire to serve the United States of America to the best of his ability. Each one accepted the challenge and proudly displayed his skill and determination while suppressing internal rage from humiliation and indignation caused by frequent experiences of racism and bigotry, at home and overseas.
The black airmen who became single-engine or multi-engine pilots were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) in Tuskegee Alabama. The first aviation cadet class began in July 1941 and completed training nine months later in March 1942. From 1942 through 1946, nine hundred and ninety-four pilots graduated at TAAF, receiving commissions and pilot wings. Black navigators, bombardiers and gunnery crews were trained at selected military bases elsewhere in the United States. These airmen fought two wars - one against a military force overseas and the other against racism at home and abroad.
The combat record of the Tuskegee Airmen speaks for itself:
- over 15,000 combat sorties (including 6000+ for the 99th prior to July '44)
- 111 German airplanes destroyed in the air, another 150 on the ground
- 950 railcars, trucks, and other motor vehicles destroyed
- 1 destroyer sunk by P-47 machine gun fire (Lt. Pierson's flight)
- sixty-six pilots killed in action or accidents
- thirty-two pilots downed and captured, POWs
- 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses earned
- 744 Air Medals
- 8 Purple Hearts
- 14 Bronze Stars
(From the website, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. http://tuskegeeairmen.org/pages/18/index.htm