RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany –
Every February, the U.S. recognizes Black History Month in order to showcase the challenges, victories and contributions of these individuals throughout the nation’s history.
Contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II helped pave the way for future Airmen.
At a time when individuals were segregated based on the color of their skin and not everyone had full rights to vote.
Named after Tuskegee Army Airfield, the first class of aviation cadets entered training in July 1941 with 12 cadets and one officer. That officer, Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., would later forge history by becoming the Air Force's first black general officer. This team of 13 formed the 99th Pursuit Squadron; in May 1942 it was re-designated as the 99th Fighter Squadron. Soon after, the 100th, 301st and 302nd Tuskegee fighter squadrons combined with the 99th to form the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1944.
Tuskegee pilots downed 409 German aircraft and obliterated 950 pieces of transportation equipment including a German destroyer in the Adriatic Sea near Trieste, Italy in 1944. During this endeavor, 66 Tuskegee pilots were killed, said Daniel Haulman, Air Force Historical Research Agency Chief, Organization History Division.
Additionally, 32 pilots were shot down and became prisoners of war. The most notable achievement was that no bombers were lost or destroyed during their more than 2,000 escort missions.
Willie Rogers, the oldest surviving member of the original Tuskegee Airmen passed away Nov. 2016.
During this time, the Tuskegee Airmen was successful with furthering the American civil rights movement by encouraging the U.S. military to integrate.
On June 1, 1949, Air Force officials published regulations which ended segregation. The Air Force was the first U.S. military branch to integrate black personnel.
In Sept. 2019, the Air Force designated a new jet trainer as the "T-7A Red Hawk." This trainer was named in honor of the black pilots who flew in World War II during a segregated point in U.S. military history. Specially, the 332nd Fighter Group flew aircraft which had a distinctive tail that was painted red so it was easily identifiable.
This month, don’t forget to remember all of the Airmen who came before. Remember the contributions and sacrifices they made, the legacy they left, as well as the heritage and time-honored traditions that are still carried out today.
For official Air Force information about the Tuskegee Airmen, please visit the sites, listed below.