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Spotlight on Aviation - The Tuskegee Airmen

Spotlight on Aviation - The Tuskegee Airmen

The group referred to as the Tuskegee Airmen was comprised of African-American pilots who fought during World War II. They were formally known as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Air Force. Often referred to as "red tails" after their painted planes, these fighters would accompany bombers and serve in a protective role during missions. Both in the air and on the ground, they had to fight segregation and racism. They paved the way for the desegregation of the military and have continued to gain recognition and respect to this day.

Because of racism and the Jim Crow laws of the day, most of the military was segregated during World War II. And because there were few commercial black pilots at the time, many officers doubted whether African-Americans were actually capable of doing this difficult job. When it came to their personal history, very few of the airmen had actual training in air travel.

This group's goal was not to bomb or attack the enemy but to escort the bombers. They flew aircraft such as the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and the Bell 9-39 Airacobra, but the most common aircraft that this group used was the now-famous P-51 Mustang, which often sported a red tail. Many bombers were protected by the "red-tailed angels." The group went on approximately 1,500 missions, with only 25 bombers being recorded as lost. Their success was unprecedented, shocking many of their commanding officers. They had a sparkling war record and received many accolades, such as Purple Hearts, Distinguished Flying Crosses, Legions of Merit, Silver Stars, and more.

The Tuskegee Airmen were ground breaking military personnel which showed that all people, regardless of race or color, were capable of doing any job. This helped paved the way for the civil rights movement a few years later.