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AP English 11
7 May 2000
The Tuskegee Airmen
On July 19, 1941 the U.S. Air Force created a program in Alabama to train African Americans as fighter pilots(Tuskegee Airmen1). Basic flight training was done by the Tuskegee institute, a school founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881(Tuskegee Airmen 1). Cadets would finish basic training at Tuskegee's Moton Field and then move on to the Tuskegee Army Air Field to complete his transition from training to combat aircraft. The early Tuskegee squad were taught to fit in with the famous 99th fighter squadron, tagged for combat duty in North Africa. Other Tuskegee pilots were commissioned to the 332d Fighter Group which fought alongside with the 99th Squadron based out of italy. By the end of the war, 992 men had completed training at Tuskegee, 450 were sent overseas for combat . During the same time, almost 150 died while in training or on combat missions. Additional men were trained at Tuskegee for aircrew and ground crew .
The Mustang pilot spotted the string of Bf-109's heading toward the crippled B-24. The pilot, a Lt. Weathers, dropped his wing tanks, and turned into the German formation. He gave the leader a burst with his .50 calibers and it nosed up, smoking, and soon went hurtling down to the ground. The pilot radioed the others in his flight and heard "I'm right behind you." But when Weathers looked back for himself, all
he could see was the nose cannon of another Bf-109, pointing right at him. He dropped flaps and chopped throttle, instantly slowing his Mustang, and the Bf-109 overran him. A few bursts, and Lt. Weathers had his second kill of the day. Two more e/a were still in view and seemed like easy pickings, but the voice of the Group CO echoed in the pilot's mind, "Your job is to protect the bombers and not chase enemy aircraft for personal glory." Weathers returned to the bomber(Tuskegee Experiment 1,2).
Two things were unusual about this American fighter pilot. First, he had passed up a sure kill. Second, he was Black. He flew with the only U.S. Fighter squad involved in World War Two that could claim to have never lost a bomber they were escorting. The Group was the 332nd Fighter Group, "The Redtails," the famed all African American outfit that fought both American racism and Nazi militarism. Under the leadership and discipline of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, the Redtails had learned that their mission in life was to protect the bombers(Respect and Honor 1).
Prior to WWII, the U.S. Air Force did not employ African Americans in any role. However in 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Air Corps to build an all Negro flying unit. The presidential order caused the Army to create the 99th Pursuit Squadron(Tuskegee Airmen 2). To develop the Negro pilots needed for the new squadron, the Air Corps opened a new training base in central Alabama, at the Tuskegee Institute(Tuskegee Experiment 1).
April 19, 1941 Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Tuskegee and met Charles "Chief" Anderson, the head of the program, Mrs. Roosevelt asked, "Can Negroes really fly airplanes?" He r
Replied: "Certainly we can; as a matter of fact, would you like to take an airplane ride?" Over the objections of her Secret Service agents, Mrs. Roosevelt accepted. The agent called President Roosevelt, who replied, "Well, if she wants to do it, there's nothing we can do to stop her(Roosevelt Rides 1)." With Mrs. Roosevelt in the back seat of his Piper J-3 Cub, Chief Anderson took off and flew her around for half an hour. After landing, Mrs. Roosevelt turned to the Chief and said, "I guess Negroes can fly," and they posed together for a photo that has gone down in history. Not long after Mrs. Roosevelt's return to Washington, they announced that the first Negro Air Corps pilots would be trained at Tuskegee Institute(Rooosevelt 2).
In the spring of 1941, the first African American enlisted men began training to become maintainers and the first thirteen pilot candidates began training. The progress was slow; it was not until September 2, that Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., became the first Negro to solo an aircraft as a U.S. Army Air Corps officer(First 1). On March 7, 1942, young black pilots stood at attention on Tuskegee's airstrip, for induction into the U.S. Army Air Corps. Eight days later the 100th Fighter Squadron was established as a part of the 332nd Fighter Group(Tuskegee Airmen 2).
May 31, 1943, the 99th Fighter Squadron arrived