General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Chapter - San Diego, California

TAISanDiego, P.O. Box 893711, Temecula, CA 92589 * tuskegeesandiego@aol.com

Tuskegee Airmen History

The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted to become America's first black military airmen, at a time when there were many people who thought that black men lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism. They came from every section of the country, with large numbers coming from New York City, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit. Each one possessed a strong personal desire to serve the United States of America at the best of his ability.

 

Those who possessed the physical and mental qualifications were accepted as aviation cadets to be trained initially as single-engine pilots and later to be either twin-engine pilots, navigators or bombardiers. Most were college graduates or undergraduates. Others demonstrated their academic qualifications through comprehensive entrance examinations.

 

No standards were lowered for the pilots or any of the others who trained in operations, meteorology, intelligence, engineering, medicine or any of the other officer fields. Enlisted members were trained to be aircraft and engine mechanics, armament specialists, radio repairmen, parachute riggers, control tower operators, policemen, administrative clerks and all of the other skills necessary to fully function as an Army Air Corps flying squadron or ground support unit.

 

The black airmen who became single-engine or multi-engine pilots were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) in Tuskegee Alabama. The first aviation cadet class began in July 1941 and completed training nine months later in March 1942. Thirteen started in the first class. Five successfully completed the training, one of them being Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., a West Point Academy graduate. The other four were commissioned second lieutenants, and all five received Army Air Corps silver pilot wings.

 

From 1941 through 1946, nine hundred and ninety-six pilots graduated at TAAF, receiving commissions and pilot wings. Black navigators, bombardiers and gunnery crews were trained at selected military bases elsewhere in the United States. Mechanics were trained at Chanute Air Base in Rantoul, Illinois until facilities were in place in 1942 at TAAF.

 

Four hundred and fifty of the pilots who were trained at TAAF served overseas in either the 99th Pursuit Squadron (later the 99th Fighter Squadron) or the 332nd Fighter Group. The 99th Fighter Squadron trained in and flew P-40 Warhawk aircraft in combat in North Africa, Sicily and Italy from April 1943 until July 1944 when they were transferred to the 332nd Fighter Group in the 15th Air Force.

 

The outstanding record of black airmen in World War II was accomplished by men whose names will forever live in hallowed memory. Each one accepted the challenge, proudly displayed his skill and determination while suppressing internal rage from humiliation and indignation caused by frequent experiences of racism and bigotry, at home and overseas. These airmen fought two wars - one against a military force overseas and the other against racism at home and abroad.

The airmen who did not go overseas and trained at Selfridge Field, Michigan as bomber crew in the 477th Medium Bombardment Group experienced a great deal of racism. These highly trained military officers were treated as "trainees" and denied access to the base officers' club, an act contradictory to Army regulations.

 

There was a rather heated reaction and the Group was transferred to Godman Field, Kentucky. The unfair treatment and hostility continued at Godman Field and in early 1945, the group was transferred to Freeman Field, Indiana where the hostilities finally reached a climax. When black officers tried to enter the Freeman Field Officers' Club, against direct orders for them to stay out, one hundred and three officers were arrested, charged with insubordination and ordered to face court martial.

 

The court martial proceedings were quickly dropped against one hundred of the officers; two officers eventually had their charges dropped and one officer, Lt. Roger "Bill" Terry, was convicted. Fifty years later, on August 12, 1995, at the Tuskegee Airmen National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, fifteen of the original one hundred and three officers that were arrested received official notification that their military records had been purged of any reference to the Freeman Field incident. Also, Mr. Terry's court martial conviction had been reversed and his military record cleared. The remaining officers received instructions for clearing their records.

 

 

 

After the war in Europe ended in 1945, black airmen returned to the United States and faced continued racism and bigotry despite their outstanding war record. Tuskegee Army Air Field continued to train new airmen until 1946, with women entering the program in several support fields. Large numbers of black airmen elected to remain in the service but because of segregation their assignments were limited to the 332nd Fighter Group or the 477th Composite Group, and later to the 332nd Fighter Wing at Lockbourne Air Base, Ohio. Opportunities for advancement and promotion were very limited and this affected morale. Nevertheless, black airmen continued to perform superbly. In 1949, pilots from the 332nd Fighter Group took first place in the Air Force National Fighter Gunnery Meet at Las Vegas Air Force Base, Nevada.

 

 During this period, many white units were undermanned and needed qualified people but were unable to get the experienced black personnel because of the segregation policy. The newly formed U.S. Air Force initiated plans to integrate its units as early as 1947. In 1948, President Harry Truman enacted Executive Order Number 9981 which directed equality of treatment and opportunity in all of the United States Armed Forces. This order, in time, led to the end of racial segregation in the military forces. This was also the first step toward racial integration in the United States of America. The positive experience, the outstanding record of accomplishment and the superb behavior of black airmen during World War II, and after, were important factors in the initiation of the historic social change to achieve racial equality in America.

 

Click Here To View

"Wings For This Man"

Classic Tuskegee Airman video

produced by the Army Air Forces Films Unit

and narrated by Ronald Reagan

Click here for the Quicktime (mp4) version

TAISD Web Links

The Tuskegee Airmen, Inc Website

TAISD Newsletter - By Special Request - September 2014

 

TAISD Newsletter - By Special Request - July 2013

 

TAISD Newsletter - Special Edition - July 2013

 

 

Donate To Tuskegee Airmen LLC San Diego Projects

 

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Tuskegee Airmen Honored for Extraordinary Service

 

Sen. Anderson's Resolution, SCR 90, Names 3-Mile Stretch of Interstate 15 the "Tuskegee Airmen Highway"

 

San Diego -Today, the vision to honor one of World War II's most elite combat units became reality with the unveiling of the "Tuskegee Airmen Highway" -a dedicated section of Interstate 15 near Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in San Diego.

 

"The Tuskegee Airmen not only helped defeat fascism overseas, but just as importantly, they broke down the barriers of racism and segregation here in America, which led to the complete racial integration of the military," said Senator Joel Anderson (R-San Diego), who authored the legislation which made the highway dedication possible.

 

The vision behind the resolution came from former CMSgt. USAF (Ret) and Rancho Bernardo resident Oscar D. Teel who presented the idea to Anderson at a pancake breakfast last year with the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society.

 

SCR 90 not only recognizes the outstanding achievement of the Tuskegee Airmen, it also commends the work the nonprofit Tuskegee Airmen, Inc does in our communities to introduce young people across the nation to the world of aviation and science through local and national programs.

 

 

 

TAISD Newsletters

newsletters are pdf format

 

December 2012 Newsletter

 

September 2012 Newsletter

 

Click Here For The September 2012 Newsletter

Click Here - March 2012  Newsletter

Featured Articles

 

YANKS AIR MUSEUM 4 February.2012

Our Immediate Past President, George Watson, and George B. Barankovich planned a Salute to Tuskegee Airmen and the Yanks Air Museum in Chino, CA. It was a great success with many people paying to enter the event. George Watson flew in with his T-34 escorted by two of his fellow flyers.

 

Click Here - March 2012  Newsletter

'RED TAIL MEMBER VISITS THE PENTAGON'

3/21/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force hosted one of the original Tuskegee Airmen and his family March 16 during a tour of the Pentagon.

December 2011 Newsletter

 

September 2011 Newsletter

 

June 2011 Newsletter

March 2011 Newsletter

 

June 2009 Newsletter

 

October 2010 Newsletter

Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. (TAI) is a non-profit organization with 55 chapters nationwide dedicated to:
1. Honoring the accomplishments and perpetuating the history of African-Americans who participated in air crew, ground crew and operations support training in the Army Air Corps during WWII.
2. Introducing young people across the nation to the world of aviation and science through local and national programs such as Young Eagles and TAI youth programs and activities.
3. Providing annual scholarships and awards to deserving individuals, groups and corporations whose deeds lend support to TAI's goals. TAI also gives awards to deserving cadets in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Today in Tuskegee Airmen History: By Zellie Rainey Orr

Click Here to Download the Entire March 2011 Newsletter

 

December 29, 1944, the weather was notorious and unyielding. Encountering zero visibility, some eighteen B-24 bomber crews were returning from a mission, flying in the wrong direction. Running low on fuel and headed towards the Adriatic, they were in imminent danger. However, the alert response by the on‑duty control tower operator at Ramitelli, in recognizing the sound of the engines. ...aided in effecting a safe landing.

 

In juggling a forced landing of the big "heavies" (bombers) at Ramitelli on its short airstrip built for fighters. ..and the "red‑tail" (fighter) pilots returning from their mission...the lives of some 180 bomb crewmen were saved. The unrelenting weather stranded the white visitors for several days at the Negro base, forging a historical milestone‑‑blacks and whites. ..living, eating, and sleeping together.

 

My research would divulge, seventeen of the eighteen bomb crews were from the 485th Bombardment Group (and one from the 455th). Thus, I would begin filling in the missing pieces via my contact with Jerry Whiting and Dan Haulman. Jerry is the Historian of the 485th BG, and son of Wayne Whiting, a tail gunner with the 485th that was temporarily "housed" at Ramitelli. Dan is Chief of the Organizational History Division (Air Force Historical Research Agency) at Maxwell.

 

Prior to the departure of the B‑24's, the 332nd Fighter Group Public Relations Officer, Eugene Weaver, placed a letter in each plane. Below is a copy of that letter (from Jerry). Also, a copy of the Letter of Appreciation from the Commanding Officer of the 485t BG, Col. Jack Tomhave, to the 366th Air Service Squadron of the 332nd FG (from Dan)

TO THE VISITING PILOTS AND CREWS:

 

     YOU HAVE BEEN THE GUESTS OF THE 332ND ALL NEGRO FLIGHTER GROUP.  WE HOPE THAT OUR FACILITIES, SUCH AS THEY ARE, WERE SUITABLE AND ADEQUATE ENOUGH TO HAVE MADE YOUR STAY HERE A PLEASANT ONE.  ON BEHALF OF COLONEL DAVIS AND THE COMMAND, I EXTEND TO YOU OUR MOST HEARTY WISHES FOR A HAPPY NEW YEAR AND MANY HAPPIER LANDINGS. YOU ARE WELCOME TO RETURN HERE AT ANY TIME AND I AM SURE THAT WE CAN MAKE YOUR STAY AN ENJOYABLE ONE. THE PILOTS OF THIS COMMAND HAVE EXPRESSED THEIR DESIRES TO HAVE IT MADE CLEAR THAT IT IS A PLEASURE TO BE ABLE TO PROTECT YOU AND LOOK AFTER YOUR WELL-BEING BOTH IN THE AIR AND HERE ON THE GROUND. REMEMBER, WHEN YOU ARE UP THERE AND SEE THE RED TAILED MUSTANGS IN THE SKY, THEY ARE YOUR FRIENDS OF THE 332ND FIGHTER GROUP. HERE IS HOPING FOR A QUICK ENDING OF THE WAR AND A BETTER AND MORE PEACEFUL WORLD.

 

MANY HAPPY LANDINGS, 

/s/  Eugene D. Weaver                                                                Capt., Air Corps

                                                                                                            Public Relations O.

Headquarters

485th Bombardment Group (H)

                                                         APO 529                    US ARMY

 

                                                                                                                                             6 January 1945

 

Major E. Jones, Jr.

366th Air Service Squadron

APO 520, US Army

 

Dear Major Jones,

 

On behalf of the Officers and Enlisted Men of 485th Bombardment Group, I want to personally thank you for the courtesy and assistance which you and the personnel of the 366th Air Service Squadron so splendidly offered to our crews which landed at your base on 29 December 1944. I fully realize what an inconvenience this forced landing must have made on your facilities, and the remarkable manner in which you people of the 15th Fighter Command rose to the situation is all the more commendable.

 

The very able assistance which your Service Squadron has given to the 332nd Fighter Group is well known, and now you have proven yourselves just as capable in servicing our heavy bombers.

 

 Sincerely Y yours,

/s/Jack P. Tomhave

 JACK P. TOMHAVE

Colonel, Air Corps

Commanding

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