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Independence... Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail!
Ralph Waldo Emerson

History of The Tuskegee Airmen

The true story of the Tuskegee Airmen is far broader than one of just aviation and the first American Black Military Pilots and Crewmen to serve during WWII. It is one of this country's shining examples of unwavering human spirit, courage and enduring determination smack in the face of some of the most overwhelming personal odds. In an Experimental Training Program designed to fail from the start, Cadets at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Tuskegee, Alabama went through hell to earn their wings. Cadets endured blatant disrespect, injustice and double standards throughout their training only to prove to themselves, the U.S. Army Air Corp, and their country that they most certainly could pilot aircraft if only given a fair chance. With the great support of Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd President), not only would they become pilots, but would soon become arguably the most skilled aviators—and most feared by the German pilots who fought them—during World War II. However, that is still just part of their story.

What they didn't know at the time was that their personal sacrifice and achievements would forever break new boundaries for both the military and the entire nation. While they battled the Germans in Europe, and racism at home, it would have been difficult for them to imagine that their courage and determination to overcome adversity would soon fuel positive and far-reaching change back home. Their example would ripple throughout the following decades and would be recognized as the birth of the Civil Rights Movement in this country. While many of these veterans came back to the States to start families, careers and go on to become community leaders, many airmen stayed on in the Military to make a career at what they did best, fly aircraft.

In June 2007, inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen, 23 year old Barrington Irving broke a world aviation record by becoming the youngest—and first black—pilot ever to fly solo around the world. The legacy of these courageous airmen is still felt to this day, inspiring new generations of motivated and critical thinking individuals who have a dream of their own to become the best. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen resonates with all who have heard of these pioneers as an inspiring triumph of the human spirit.

Of the milestones, awards and distinctions earned by the Tuskegee Airmen, they themselves define their greatest achievements as "The Four Hurrahs."

First Hurrah: Graduating from Flying School at Tuskegee Army Air Field and being assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron and subsequently to the 332nd Fighter Group.

Second Hurrah: The 332nd Fighter Group escorted over 200 bombing missions over Europe during World War II and established a record that would never be equaled.

Last Hurrah: Winning the 2 May 1949 "First Ever" United States Air Force Weapons Meet to become the "First Top Guns". This would not have been possible without the dedication of our Maintenance Personnel. They were the "Best" in the United States Air Force and James Harvey's Crew Chief, Staff Sergeant Buford Johnson, was the "Best of the Best".

Final Hurrah: Receiving the "Congressional Gold Medal" on 29 March 2007.

COMBAT RECORD OF THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

The so-called "Studies" conducted by the Army War College, depicted the Negro Soldier as lacking in "physical courage" and "psychological characteristics" which made him "Inherently Inferior" to the White Soldier. Therefore, the Negro could not fly or operate heavy equipment. However, the NAACP, the Negro Press and a couple of forward thinking Congressmen, put pressure on the War Department to form a Tactical Unit for Negroes. The War Department finally gave in and designated the 99th Pursuit Squadron to be manned by Negro Pilots graduating from Tuskegee Army Air Field. A "Designed To Fail" program was instituted for Negroes desiring to be pilots in the Army Air Corp. We overcame all of the obstacles (there were plenty) that were placed in our path, to become the "Best Fighter Group" in the Army Air Corp and subsequently the United State Air Force.

DECORATIONS AND STATISTICS OF THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

COMBAT MISSIONS
Total Missions - 12th Air Force 1,267
Total Missions - 15th Air Force 311
Total Sorties - 12th Air Force 6,381
Total Sorties - 15th Air Force 9,152
Grand Total Missions 1,578
Grand Total Sorties 15,533
Total Number of Pilots Sent Overseas 450
Total Number of Pilots Graduating From Tuskegee 994
Total Pilots Killed In Action 66
Prisoners of War 32
COMBAT RECORD
Destroyed Damaged Total
Aircraft (aerial) 111 25 136
Aircraft (ground) 150 123 273
Barges and Boats 16 24 40
Boxcars, Other Rolling Stock 58 561 619
Buildings and Factories 0 23 23
Gun Emplacements 3 0 3
Destroyers 1 0 1
Horse Drawn Vehicles 15 100 115
Motor Transports 6 81 87
Power Transformers 3 2 5
Locomotives 57 69 126
Radar Installations 1 8 9
Tanks on Flat Cars 0 7 7
Oil and Ammunition Dumps 2 0 2
AWARDS
Legion of Merit 1
Silver Star 1
Soldier Medal 2
Purple Heart 8
Distinguished Flying Cross 95
Bronze Star 14
Air Medal and Clusters 744
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