The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black airmen/pilots who flew during World War II. These men were challenged at every turn, due to the stereotype given of African-Americans in this country. The stigma that many African-Americans were dumb, could not learn, the task of aviation would be too hard, etc. These distinguished men shattered all stereotypes of African-Americans in aviation going forward.
Those who possessed the physical and mental qualifications were accepted as aviation cadets to be trained initially as single-engine pilots and later to be either twin-engine pilots, navigators or bombardiers. Most were college graduates or undergraduates. Others demonstrated their academic qualifications through comprehensive entrance examinations.
No standards were lowered for the pilots or any of the others who trained in operations, meteorology, intelligence, engineering, medicine or any of the other officer fields. Enlisted members were trained to be aircraft and engine mechanics, armament specialists, radio repairmen, parachute riggers, control tower operators, policemen, administrative clerks and all of the other skills necessary to fully function as an Army Air Corps flying squadron or ground support unit.
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. Thirteen started in the first class. Five successfully completed the training, one of them being Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., a West Point Academy graduate. The other four were commissioned second lieutenants, and all five received Army Air Corps silver pilot wings.
944 pilots graduated from TAAF. 450 of the pilots trained from TAAF served overseas. To say these valiant men were treated with respect and comradery is wishful thinking. Many of these highly capable and intelligent men had to face and deal with bigotry and racism, at home and overseas from their white comrades. The term "fighting two wars" is very adequate here.
Since World War II, the survivors of the Tuskegee Airmen have been honored and recognized for their contributions during that difficult time. President George W. Bush presented the Congressional Gold Medal collectively, to about 300 survivors on March 27, 2007.
Other distinguished honors: Tuskegee Airfield is now a National Historic Site, The Congressional Gold Medal is on display at the Smithsonian Institution, A commemorative postage stamp initiative is underway to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, among other honors.
Now these men will have the honor to take a salute on Inauguration Day from their Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama.
On January 20, about 200 members of the airmen will attend the Inauguration, says retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Russ Davis, head of the nonprofit Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Transition sources told the New York Daily News that 1940s vintage cars also will be available to drive them in the parade to the White House, where they will take a salute from Obama after watching the swearing from upfront seats for all of them on the Capitol lawn.
There are no words to describe that these men will be HONORED, as well as our new Commander-in-Chief, just none.
Footnote, my personal story happened last summer during one of my times off from campaigning for Obama, in Gary, Indiana, during the Fourth of July parade, Tuskegee Airmen survivors in the area rode in the local parade. We had purchased a poster and got four signatures. This poster is now in a frame and hanging on the wall in my husband's office.
History, their is nothing else like it.
Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.
Tuskegee Airmen on wiki