“Enriched by Our Past – Prepared for Our Future”
Due to the rigid pattern of racial segregation that prevailed in the United States during World War II, nearly 1,000 black military aviators were trained at an isolated complex near the town of Tuskegee, Alabama. Under the command of Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., 355 Black fighter pilots fought in the aerial war over North Africa, Sicily and Europe. These gallant men flew 15,553 sorties and completed 1,532 missions in P-39, P-40, P-47 and P-51 aircraft.
They were called ‘Schwartze Vogelmenshen’ (Black Birdmen) by the Germans who both feared and respected them. Due to the identifying ‘red paint’ on their tail assemblies, white American bomber crews reverently referred to them as the “Red-Tailed Angels.” All told, these black flyers were credited with 112 air kills, 325 additional aircraft were destroyed on the ground and even a torpedo boat, during a strafing mission, was so heavily damaged by machine gun fire that it was permanently put out of service. Their awards and decorations included 715 Air Medals, 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, one (1) Silver Star, and three (3) Distinguished Unit Citations. On 29 March 2007, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen.
For every black pilot, there were ~10 other civilian or military black men and women on ground support duty. Many of these men and women remained in the military after World War II and spearheaded the integration of the U. S. Air Force in 1949. Three of these airmen were ultimately promoted to General; the late General Daniel ‘Chappie’ James, the late Major General (Ret) Lucius Theus, and the late General (Ret) Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., whose father, B. O. Davis, Sr. is listed on a U. S. Postage Stamp as the “Pioneer of Military Integration.”
In 1972, the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. (TAI) was founded. Organized as a non-military and non-profit entity, the TAI exists primarily: (1) to honor the accomplishments and to perpetuate the history of the Tuskegee Airmen who participated in air and ground crew operations and in support roles in the Army Air Corps during World War II; and (2) to introduce young people across the nation to the world of aviation and science through local and national programs such as the Young Eagles and TAI youth programs and activities.
Currently, there are over fifty (50) TAI chapters located in major cities and regions throughout the United States. While the membership is comprised principally of veterans and various active and reserve military personnel: membership is swelling due to a number of civilians who demonstrate a sincere interest in helping the organization achieve its goals and objectives.