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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum

Re: A Closer Look: Tuskegee Airmen's Record

Further information "Re: A Closer Look:..." didnot come directly from a Tuskegee Airman but from someone who has contact and discussion with the group as a serviceman.

It was his view that if it were not for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) the opportunity may never have arose for the Tuskegee Airmen to take a distinguished part in WWII. This was because Mrs. Roosevelt asked a Tuskegee Airman to take her on a flight. The invitation influenced participation of African-American Airmen in WWII.

During the earliest activities in the war it was noted that Tuskegee Airmen were provided craft considered inferior. Anglo-Americans were given planes that would fly from Berlin to the Island of England. Initially African-Americans didnot have planes that flew this distance. As it was explained this changed somewhat as they began to display technical flying skills that repeatedly saved the lives of Anglo-Americans.

An example given was the way the Tuskegee Airman tactically escorted the B29's during combat. Tuskegee pilots flew underneath the larger B29's as air cover. African-Americans opted not to fly low because land fire would have destroyed them. The B29's were piloted by Anglo-Americans; the African-Americans flew from underneath the B29. As the Luftwaffe pilot attempted to attack the B29; the Tuskegee Airman manoeuvred in the lighter craft and destroyed the enemy plane. This required not only bravery but skill and surprize even though the Lutwaffe pilot was not in a position to see the B29 cover by the African-American pilot until it was too late.

It was crucial for African-Americans to become involved during WWII because Anglo-European pilots were being killed and overwelmed by the Germans. Apparently they didnot have tactical cover, if any at all. When it was agreed that African-Americans would take an active part in WWII the pilots expressed concern. This was because they considered Anglo-European pilots would not be able to distinguish them from the Luftwaffe. This resulted in African-Americans painting the tails of their planes bright red - the "red tale angels". They became more visible amongst US pilots.

They were correct in expressing concern about loss of life because it was not uncommon for Anglo-American military to kill African-Americans during WWII. There were several methods. This included not providing African-American soldiers: medical attention, cover or ammunition. WBAI radio in New York 99.5 aired a story about African-Americans from Oklahoma who were killed in the Southern United States during WWII because of race. I did not personally hear the story on the radio but it would be worth investigating for clarification.

The Tuskegee Airman had a high regard for the Luftwaffe. African-American airmen recognized that they had two enemies the Germans and the military racialism of the United States. An unfortunate story was told about an African-American airman; so harassed by racialism; that he became depressed and committed suicide by crashing the plane.

Many air battles won by African-American airmen were attributed to Anglo-Americans. An example given was the destruction of the first German Rocket Plane. It was done by a Tuskegee Airman but the credit was given to an Anglo-American. The destruction of the Rocket Plane was; I was informed; on film.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Dr. I.M. Spence-Lewis

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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