The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men who Changed a Nation
The history of the United States is steeped in contribution of the Air Force formerly Army Air Corps, in preserving and maintaining freedom. The American airmen have been victorious in all of our nation's conflicts. It is important that we continue to acknowledge the sacrifices and service of these men who perform so admirably. I know the accomplishments of the brave and dedicated Tuskegg Airmen will never be forgotten.
What people are saying - Write a review
When, in 1955, Captain Charles Francis published his important book, he did not think that one day his book would be made into a movie. Neither did he know the impact that it was to have had in telling, for the first time, the story of those Negro officers and enlisted men, who brought about the effective integration of the combat forces of the United States. Today’s total army concept has gone a long way from 1948 when President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, requiring equality of treatment and opportunity in the Armed Forces. This all started when would-be black pilots were called to train and to serve in segregated army support units of World War II.
Thanks to the Tuskegee Airmen, who generated the Civil Rights Movement for equality, the United States of America can now boast of individuals like Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander, Astronauts Buford, McNair, Gregory and Bolden, and General Colin L. Powell.
The late Captain Francis appropriately begins his seminal book (first published in 1955) with the chapter, The Fight for the Right to Fight, bringing the reader to March 7, 1942, in Alabama, at Tuskegee Army Air Field’s lone runway. There, black young pilots stood at attention in a graduation exercise that induced them into the Army Air Corps. Having won the right to fight, they were moved to the European Theater as segregated units in tactical support missions.
Under the leadership of then Captain (now General) Benjamin O. Benjamin., these young pilots had their first taste of combat against the highly fortified Sicilian island of Pantelleria. Their successful assault on the island marked a great first accomplishment: air power alone completely destroyed all enemy resistance.
Having entered Sicily, the Tuskegee Airmen participated in the most famous battles of the Italian peninsula, including the invasion of Salerno and of Anzio, the battles of Montecassino and of Rome; and then, in Southern France, the Balkans, and finally into Germany—all the while completing their missions with heroic deeds, and fulfilling the goals inherent in their struggle for the right to fight.
Although the hero in the book is the late General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., Captain Francis also presents the stories of other soldiers—those who lost their lives in that tremendous conflict.
The battles brought the races together, mixing the blood of all men and women—their lives on the line. Their achievements? Dead or alive, they consecrated their first goal—the attainment of a complete and lasting integration of the United States Armed Forces.
But their second goal—the integration of America, was yet to be achieved. It began, however, “on or about 11 April 1945, at Freeman Field, Seymour, Indiana.”
It started when the returning decorated pilots pressed to enter the Officers Club at Freeman Field. The Military Police ordered the pilots to go to another facility that catered to black officers only.
On refusing to leave, the Military Police placed 101 of the rebellious pilots under arrest. Although later the charges were lifted on most, three who were accused of resisting arrest were referred for trial by Court Martial: Lieutenants Shirly R. Clifton, Marsden A. Thompson, and Roger C. Terry. Whereas Clifton and Thompson were soon exonerated, LT Terry was not exonerated not until 1995.
The Freeman Field Rebellion became, for all intensive purposes, the cornerstone of the Civil Rights movement and served as an example on how to achieve integration through peaceful means. When one considers that America has integrated as it has, one cannot forget how the Tuskegee Airmen did it.
There were many who felt that integration would not work, observed Captain Francis, who then concluded that it advanced beyond the hope of the most optimistic exponents of integration. “Negro officers and enlisted men were given the same privileges as whites and treated as individuals rather than as a race.”
The crowning glory to this attainment can be seen in the many important positions held by Black American
Conrad Cheek, Jack Chin, etc. were in the LAST class to actually graduate. Edward Powell Drummond's name was misspelled, and John E. Woods' name was left off the very short list.
The next class was told, prior to classes, that they would not graduate. Most left. The few who stayed got pilot training but did not officially "graduate".