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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

"We're Standing on Their Shoulders"

News Release: Feb. 28, 2005

Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. Wheeler Reminds Nation at Convocation: "We're Standing on Their Shoulders"

TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY, AL − (February 28, 2005) − On Thursday, Feb. 24, Tuskegee University honored America’s first Black fighter pilots – the legendary Tuskegee Airmen – during its annual Tuskegee Airmen Convocation in the University Chapel.

The event recognized the Tuskegee Airmen's exemplary combat performance during World War II, including the destruction of 260 enemy aircraft, earning more than 850 medals and persuading then-U.S. President Harry S. Truman in 1948 to issue Executive Order 9981, desegregating the U.S. Military. From 1940 to 1946, some 1,000 Black pilots were trained at Tuskegee.

The keynote speaker was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, retired Lt. Col. William M. Wheeler. The WWII combat fighter pilot served with the 332nd Fighter Group/302nd Fighter Squadron and is credited with destroying three enemy bombers in strafing missions.

Wheeler described a time of segregation in America when African Americans lived in abject poverty, battled discrimination, were considered to have inferior intelligence and weren’t trusted with military weaponry. He described days of playing baseball in the streets using cans as balls, of working by the light of kerosene lamps, of living life in ghettos. Still, he said, a number of Blacks fought their way out of poverty into middle class lives, pushing their children toward college educations and daring to see some participate in the Tuskegee Experiment.

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"We're Standing on Their Shoulders"
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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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