During the mid-19th century, there were still many acts of segregation. Although black men had been allowed to vote and rightly think for themselves, many Americans still dismissed them as equals. However, something happened that would change that view for many Americans. It is more than a mere footnote in history. During World War II, in Tuskegee, AL, an all-African American institute was allowed to train black pilots. These men were called, “The Tuskegee Airmen.”
What was so special about these men? One might ask, “What did this group accomplish?” These men accomplished many things in their lifetime; however we will look at a few of their biggest achievements and why they are so important to American history.
On July 19, 1941, the Tuskegee Institute, started by Booker T. Washington, opened its first aviation cadet class. This was also the first pilot class to open for African American students. Historically, this was a major point for all blacks in America. This was an invite to prove their mettle fighting and piloting alongside white men. This program was run by Col. Noel F. Parrish. Many black men were excited and jumped to join the bandwagon. In fact, Lt. Col. Dryden stated, “We had to be number one, whether we were mechanics, cooks, maintenance.. Nurses, pilots or whatever! We had to be number one! That’s was to be expected.” This was the mind set and they proved it.
Altogether, between 1941-46, there were nine-hundred and ninety-two Tuskegee airmen trained for aerial combat and four hundred and fifty of those trained men went overseas. This number may look little compared to the two hundred and fifty thousand trained pilots of the United States’ Army Air Forces Training Command. However this was a big group by segregation of color, in fact it was more of an experiment than training at the time.
The Tuskegee Airmen started with a class of thirteen men who went in, however only five came out completing the first course ever. After successfully completing the primary flying school; these men were taken to the Tuskegee Air Force Base to have advanced flying training. The US government seeing that the Tuskegee airmen had potential and was shorthanded of advanced pilots began to send them overseas. The order came out for the leave of duty in the spring of 1943 just after a year of training.
During World War II, many of the Tuskegee airmen were split up into different squadrons later to put into two main groups called the 99th fighter squadron and 332nd fighter group. They were created because many of the Tuskegee airmen had shown the US government that they were good. So instead of just flying a single engine plane they were retrained with dual-engines, bombers and more. They had become accomplished as a force. Unfortunately, they were still segregated as unit.
The Tuskegee airmen had many different...