The Tuskegee Airmen are celebrated for good reason. They helped accomplish the cherished “Double V” – a victory over Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in Europe, and overcoming “Jim Crow” discrimination practices that had kept them from opportunity and achievement. Black men, initially denied the opportunity to serve as combat pilots in the U.S. military, persisted and achieved their place in history. Their celebrity and honored place in American history is deserved.
Recently, the 75th Anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen was celebrated at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Ala., on the very grounds they had trained 75 years ago in 1941 when the Tuskegee Experiment was launched.
Over 200 attendees witnessed a flyover of four aircraft as a special salute to all the armed forces and specifically honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. The protocol for these ceremonial fly-overs is always four or more aircraft. For this occasion the U.S. Air Force permitted the formation representing the aircraft that the Tuskegee Airmen flew and serviced from the Army Air Corps’ 99th Pursuit Squadron, the 100th, 102nd and the 332nd Fighter Squadrons.
Not all Tuskegee Airmen were fighter pilots. For every Tuskegee Airmen that went into battle in the air, there were 10 specialists on the ground keeping that bird in the air. Those Tuskegee Airmen, too, carry the banner of the “Double V.” Victory over the Nazi regime that threatened the free world and victory over the prejudice and injustice that had initially banned Black men from training to fly war planes.
The outdoor ceremony moved into the hangar that is the main museum at Moton Field, the original Tuskegee Airmen training facility, now designated an historic site. Once inside the museum theater, the Tuskegee Airmen were invited to answer questions from guests, particularly from local high school students. As one might imagine the rich and intriguing questions were matched only by the colorful, candid and authentic answers from the airmen from combat, to personal memorable moments, to the accuracy of the George Lucas film “Red Tails.”
In the evening, guests and dignitaries gathered at the Montgomery Marriott for the 75th anniversary gala. Excerpts from the Broadway play “Black Angels Over Tuskegee” were performed to the delight and surprise of the 400- member audience. Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, II,I was awarded an honorary membership to the Tuskegee Airmen and given his “Red Tails” sport coat.
The finale was the appeal to champions for the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation. The Tuskegee Airmen Youth Aviation and STEM Academy was introduced as the foundation’s highest priority. Tasked with a $7.5 million fund-raising goal each year for the next 10 years, the foundation is determined to reach a long-term goal of $75 million to sustain the TAYASA in perpetuity.
In coming weeks the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation with the National Park Service will host the summer program, “Legacy Flight Academy,” at historic Moton Field. In July, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. will hold its annual convention. More information can be obtained at www.tuskegeeairmen.org. For now, let us be thankful for the men that are living history as they honor their fellow soldiers that gave so much to our country.