The Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen was the popular name of a group of African American pilots who flew with distinction during World War II as the 332nd Fighter Group of the US Army Air Corps.

  • Origins:
    Prior to the Tuskegee Airmen, no U.S. military pilots had been black. A series of legislative moves by the United States Congress in 1941 forced the Army Air Corps to form an all-black combat unit, despite the War Department's reluctance. In an effort to eliminate the unit before it could begin, the War Department set up a system to accept only those with a level of flight experience or higher education that they expected would be hard to fill. This policy backfired when the Air Corps received an abundance of applications from men who qualified even under these restrictive specifications.

    The U.S. Army Air Corps had established the Psychological Research Unit 1 at Maxwell Army Air Field, Alabama, and other units around the country for aviation cadet training, which included the identification, selection, education, and training of pilots, navigators and bombardiers. Psychologists employed in these research studies and training programs used some of the first standardized tests to quantify IQ, dexterity, and leadership qualities in order to select and train the right personnel for the right role (bombardier, pilot, navigator). The Air Corps determined that the same existing programs would be used for all units, including all-black units. At Tuskegee, this effort would continue with the selection and training of the Tuskegee Airmen.
  • The Special Figure in Tuskegee Airmen:
    Benjamin O. Davis Jr. (1912-2002)
    Davis is the commander of Tuskegee Airmen and also the first general in U.S Air Force, and also the son of Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr., the first African-American general in the U.S. Army. He was serving at Tuskegee in 1940 during the second reelection campaign of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt, deter- mined to hold on to every group that had supported him in his two previous election victories, was especially worried about the black vote. Early in 1941, the Roosevelt administration, in response to public pressure for greater black participation in the military as war approached, ordered the War Department to create a black flying unit. Captain Davis was assigned to the first training class at Tuskegee Army Air Field (hence the name Tuskegee Airmen), and in March 1942 won his wings as one of five black officers to complete the course. He was the first black officer to solo an Army Air Corps aircraft. In July that year, having been promoted to lieutenant colonel, he was named commander of the first all-black air unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron.
  • Record in Combat:
    They flew more than 15,000 sorties, destroyed over 1,000 German aircraft, and received hundreds of Air Medals and more then 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses.
    (source: http://www.tuskegeeairmen.org/uploads/stats.pdf)



Images of Benjamin O. Davis Jr.



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