Tuskegee Airmen

The fourth Thursday in March of each year is designated as Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day. Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day honors the more than 15,000 men and women involved in the ‘Tuskegee Experience’, during which the Army Air Corps trained African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. Pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air are all Tuskegee Airmen.

March is a special month for Tuskegee Airmen, as many of their most notable accomplishments occurred in the month of March, including: the first cadets received their wings, the first maintenance crew began training at Chanute Field, Illinois, the activation of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, and in 2007, President George W. Bush presented the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal.

History

Prior to World War II, African Americans had extremely limited opportunities in the defense of this nation with no roles in military aviation. When the United States entered World War II, African Americans desired more meaningful jobs in the military, including flying and maintaining military aircraft and the rapid expansion of aircraft production during the war created an urgent need for more trained military pilots.

The United States War Department’s Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program authorized colleges and universities to train students to fly, increasing the number of civilian pilots, and thereby, increasing the nation’s military preparedness. In 1941, Tuskegee Institute in Alabama was one of six Black schools chosen to participate in the CPT program. Following the initiation of the program, the Tuskegee Institute was selected to offer advanced CPT training and was selected as the sole site for segregated military flight training, and the graduates of the CPT program at the Tuskegee Institute became known as Tuskegee Airmen.

The Tuskegee Airmen overcame insurmountable odds in the form of pervasive racial and legal impediments during the World War II era in order to make their contribution, and the accomplishments of the courageous African American pilots of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, as the airmen were officially known, are world renowned. The achievements of the 99th Pursuit Squadron in combat include destruction of 111 aircraft (in the air), destruction of 150 aircraft (on the ground), destruction of 16 barges and boats, 58 box cars and other rolling stock, 57 locomotives, 1 radar installation, and 2 oil and ammunition dumps.

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Here at Victra, our VNation Veterans are proud to celebrate and bring awareness to these brave and impactful people in history. The Tuskegee Airmen broke through a massive segregation barrier in the American military. Their success and heroism during World War II shattered pervasive stereotypes and their achievements laid crucial groundwork for civil rights progress in the decades to come.