Society After World War I (03:12)
Black people were called colored. "Birth of a Nation" praised the Ku Klux Klan. The War College Commandant sent a secret memorandum to the Army Chief of Staff about the inferiority of black men.
World War II (04:07)
Two thousand German combat planes blitzed Poland. Congress passed laws to train civilians on piloting. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Urban League pressured the military to allow blacks to serve in all branches.
Black Aviation (03:55)
Inspired by Bessie Coleman, two civilian agencies arose to train blacks in flight. General Henry H. Arnold was convinced that no Negro could learn. Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced the promotions of Benjamin O. Davis and William Hastie; Eleanor Roosevelt supported Tuskegee as a location to train black pilots.
99th Pursuit Squadron (05:52)
In January 1941, the U.S. War Department announced the formation of the all-black unit. Preflight training began at Tuskegee in July and basic flight training began in November. Five men completed the advanced training program and were commissioned as pilots.
Segregated Air Force (05:39)
In 1942, Hitler focused on Stalingrad and interior Germany was a target for Allied attacks. At Tuskegee Army Airfield, the flight-training cycle was established; Ronald Reagan narrated a training film.
Tuskegee Army Airfield (04:52)
The flight-training program was restricted to 10 pilots a class and 52 pilots a year. Pilots had to prove themselves and their abilities in segregated situations.
99th Fighter Squadron (02:49)
In August 1942, Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. became the commander. The squadron was declared combat ready but did not receive an overseas assignment. In 1943, Col. Noel Parrish became the new commanding officer at Tuskegee Army Airfield.
Mediterranean Theater (04:26)
After two years of delays, the 99th went overseas. The squadron's experience in Pantelleria, Italy would result in charges of poor combat performance. Allied forces fought their way to Sicily and the 99th escorted medium bombers.
Sicilian and Italian Campaigns (06:47)
The 99th guarded the Allied fleet from enemy aircraft and conducted strikes against targets in Gala. Davis took command of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 99th was assigned to the 79th Fighter Group; controversy erupted on whether to let the 99th continue in combat.
Italian Invasion (07:02)
Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. readied the 332nd Fighter Group for deployment. The Allies met Luftwaffe opposition at Anzio and the 99th shot down several enemy aircraft. The 332nd went on harbor patrol near Naples; William Melton was the first pilot to encounter the enemy.
Aerial Combat (03:35)
The 99th supported ground troops and strafed enemy positions. In April 1944, the squadron was assigned to the 324th Fighter Group and shared in a unit citation. The 332nd was assigned to the 15th Strategic Air Force.
Italian Campaign Continues (03:06)
In June 1944, the 332nd encountered the Luftwaffe and attacked an enemy destroyer in Trieste Harbor. The 99th joined forces with the 332nd at Ramitelli, Italy; the 332nd escorted bombers to Southern France.
"Red Tailed Angels" (06:22)
Lt. Clarence "Lucky" Lester scored three victories in one battle; the 332nd escorted bombers to Marseille Harbor and Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson became a prisoner of war. The 332nd destroyed 83 German planes on September 9th; four pilots received the Flying Cross.
Aerial Victories (04:49)
On October 12, 1944, the 332nd destroyed nine enemy planes in the air and 26 on the ground. In March 1945, the squadron encountered Me 262 jets and was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation.
Overseas Record (07:07)
The 477th Medium Bombardment Group was denied the right to fight. Frustration and segregation led to the Freeman Field incident. Hannibal Cox refuted the official report that members of the 332nd incited a near race riot in Walterboro S.C.
Racial Discrimination (05:51)
Racism and segregation laws remained part of American society, despite the efforts of black military personnel. Capt. Percy Sutton contemplated death after an incident at a restaurant. President Truman integrated the Armed Forces in 1948.
Prominent Military Leaders (03:05)
Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James was the first black person to receive the rank of four star general. Davis Jr. was proud of his association with the 99th and 332nd.
Fight Against Discrimination (02:49)
Despite adversity, black citizens were determined to become combat pilots and fight in WWII. Tuskegee Airmen Inc. formed in 1972 to preserve the airmen's legacy; Lena Horne was a wartime pinup girl.
Historic Black Airmen (03:41)
Pilots considered what it meant to be a Tuskegee Airman. A college professor refused to acknowledge the existence of black pilots in the war.
Credits: The Tuskegee Airmen (00:24)
Credits: The Tuskegee Airmen
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