The Tuskegee Airmen Story
DURING WORLD WAR II
Tuskegee Institute and Moton Field were included training sites for the US government's 1939Civilian Pilot Training Program(CPTP) implemented to increase the number of civilian pilots in order to enhance military preparedness for a possible global conflict. In 1939, the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) had a total of only 4,502 pilots and refused to accept any African Americans in any capacity, whatsoever.
In mid-1941, USAAC responded to public outrage over the1925 Army War College studyand a law suit by Howard University student Yancey Williams by agreeing to conduct an "experiment" at Tuskegee establishing the first all-black flying unit, the 99th Fighter Squadron (FS). For every pilot, there were 10-15 ground crew and support personnel needed to create an all-black, totally segregated flying unit. All had to perform at an exceptional level to succeed. The Army fully expected this experiment to confirm the War College findings that blacks: "lacked the intelligence to master complex machinery";..."were cowardly";..."lacked leadership skills";..."were inferior to whites"; etc.In short, the Tuskegee Airmen were expected to failthis "experiment".
Even after successfully completing all training and achieving a "combat ready" status, certain racist factions of USAAC command blocked the 99th from combat. The 99th finally deployed in April 1943 as a segregated part of the all white 33rd Fighter Group commanded by COL W. Momyer. Momyer did not want the 99th to succeed so he sent them into their first battle with no support. The 99th's first combat mission resulted in the surrender of the garrison at Pantelleria from air attack alone. The achievement of a feat such as this was unprecedented.
Momyer responded by limiting the 99th to ground support missions preventing any opportunity to engage enemy aircraft. Less than 60 days later he requested the Pentagon disband the 99th because they had not shotdown enough enemy aircraft. 99thcommanderCOL B.O. Davis, Jr.had to appear before a Congressional hearing to defend his squadron's performance. Davis was successful. The 99th stayed in combat and excelled.
The 99th's undeniable and resounding success prompted the USAAC to send (3) more all-black Tuskegee units, the 100th, 301st, 302nd FS, into combat. These (4) Squadrons were joined together to form the all-black 332nd Fighter Group under COL Davis. The 332nd Fighter Group used distinctive red markings on the tail sections oftheir aircraft. They became known as the "Red Tails". The 332nd Tuskegee Airmen "Red Tails" went on tobecome one of the most decorated Fighter Groups of WWII.
In addition to their unprecedented success at Pantelleria, the "Red Tails": once shot down a record (5) enemy aircraft in less than (4) minutes; shot down (3) German jets in a single day; sank a German Destroyer using machine gun fire alone; flew the longest bomber escort mission of WWII; had the best WWII bomber escort record placing them in high demand by the Allied bomber crews who called them the "Red Tailed Angels".
That 1941 USAAC "experiment" was profoundly successful and is now known as the Tuskegee "Experience"
Next HBC-TAI meeting:
October 20, 2018
@ 1 PM
Tuskegee Airmen, INC.
The Howard Baugh Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. P.O. Box 482 Petersburg, VA 23803 firstname.lastname@example.org