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Legendary black pilots saluted
BBC ^ | March 29, 2007

Posted on 03/30/2007 12:37:20 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu

It is not often that servicemen have to fight a double war - one on the home front and one overseas.

1943 at the Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama.

Training at the Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama was segregated

But this is exactly what America's legendary Tuskegee Airmen did, more than 60 years ago. While they were fighting the Nazis abroad, they were battling racism at home.

Their double victory has been honoured by Congress, which has presented the survivors of America's first black air squadron with the Congressional Gold Medal.

The medal, which is the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress, can also be awarded to military personnel.

The venue itself, the Capitol Rotunda, was symbolic: once, these men would have been banned from entering because of the colour of their skin.

Desegregation

Now, they have been honoured not only for their outstanding war-time record, but for the groundwork that they helped lay for the civil rights movement.

We proved something different, not only in aviation history but also in American social history

Col Charles McGee

"For all the unreturned salutes ... I salute you for the service to the United States of America," President George W Bush said, as he presented the medal.

Retired Air Force Colonel Charles McGee - now 87 and one of about 350 Tuskegee veterans to make the trip to the Rotunda - told the BBC News website why the medal ceremony meant so much to him.

"It's a great feeling because it's been a great number of years - a little better than 60 years - since our activity," he said.

"It was one that wasn't expected to be successful - but we proved something different, not only in aviation history but also in American social history."

It was partly thanks to the airmen's courage, determination and skill that President Harry Truman signed an order desegregating the army in 1948. This was some 15 years before civil rights leader Martin Luther King marched on Washington.

President George W Bush salutes the Tuskegee Airmen during the medal ceremony

President George W Bush saluted the Tuskegee Airmen

During World War II, the Army had become the country's largest minority employer. However, units, training and facilities were segregated.

The prevailing view at the War Department was summed up in a 1925 study by the Army War College: that African-Americans "were cowards and poor technicians and fighters, lacking initiative and resourcefulness".

In 1941, however, Congress forced the Army Air Corps to create an all-black combat unit.

The army reluctantly agreed and sent the unit to a remote air field in Tuskegee, Alabama, keeping them separate from the rest of the army. This became the training ground for some pilots - numbering almost 1,000 - navigators, mechanics, and ground crew.

Over the years, some 14,000 people came to serve in what is now called the "Tuskegee Experience".

It took months, however, for the army to let any of them see combat.

Col McGee, born in Ohio and raised in Illinois and Iowa, said the airmen were aware that they were breaking new ground in the struggle for equal rights, although they did not set out to spark a social revolution.

"Clearly we didn't get together to say 'Let's go down to Alabama and set the world on fire'," he said.

"Individuals all across the country were really just very interested in being accepted for who you were, being given an opportunity before being told you couldn't do something just because of your of birth."

'Black Birdmen'

The first group was known as the 99th Fighter Squadron. They flew ground attack missions in North Africa and participated in the destruction and surrender of Pantelleria, off Sicily. They were later joined by other units to make up the 332nd Fighter Group.

HONOURS

Pilots with the Mustang fighter group listen to a mission briefing

744 Air Medals

150 Distinguished Flying Crosses

8 Purple Hearts

14 Bronze Stars

2 Soldier Medals

1 Silver Star

1 Legion of Merit

Source: Tuskegee Airmen Inc

According to military writers, the group were both feared and respected by the Germans, who called them the "Schwarze Vogelmenschen" (Black Birdmen).

And their battles did not end with the Nazis. At home, they challenged institutionalised racism.

One of most citied incidents was in 1942, when a large group of Tuskegee Airmen tried to enter a whites-only officers' club at the Freeman Air Field in Indiana, 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 charges, however, were quickly dropped. Some 50 years later, survivors were told that their military records had been purged of any reference to the incident.

According to the website Tuskegee Airmen Inc, after the WWII ended in 1945, the black airmen returned to the United States to face continued racism and bigotry despite their outstanding war record.

It was not until 1949 that the Air Force ended segregation and the Tuskegee Airmen were scattered among other units. Even then their struggle was not over, said Col McGee, who also served in Korea and Vietnam.

It wasn't fun coming home and coming down the gangplank and seeing 'whites this way, blacks that way

Col Charles McGee

"Change often comes about slowly, so there were still those who weren't happy. But as we were able to show technical and leadership abilities, acceptance finally came about and became widespread.

"Had we not been successful, certainly then we would have had the folks saying 'we told you so' - it wouldn't have been an early step in the civil rights movement.

"But [our success] made it possible for President Truman to issue orders mandating all of the service to integrate.

"It wasn't fun coming home [from WWII] and coming down the gangplank and seeing 'whites this way, blacks that way'.

"But we persevered and it's great that the government realised it and we're receiving this honour today."

It was not until the 1970s that the airmen's story began to be told more widely. A film about their exploits was released in 1995 and director George Lucas has been working on a movie about the men called "Red Tails" - after the tails of their aircraft that were painted red.

There is little doubt that their prowess in the skies helped dispel many of the negative stereotypes that were the order of the day.

These were young, mostly college-educated men, who were charismatic in front of the cameras.

And their courage is seen as having helped to change the attitudes of a nation.





TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: pilots; race; races; racial; racism; racist; racists; tuskegeeairmen; worldwar1; worldwar2; ww2

1 posted on 03/30/2007 12:37:21 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu
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To: All
"Individuals all across the country were really just very interested in being accepted for who you were, being given an opportunity before being told you couldn't do something just because of your of birth."

This seems to be a decent quote that most freepers would agree with.

2 posted on 03/30/2007 12:45:04 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

The title you created had to be changed to the original published title.

Please do not alter titles.


3 posted on 03/30/2007 12:47:56 AM PDT by Admin Moderator
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To: Admin Moderator; All
Got it.

The original title (not the BBC one; the one put on the FR thread) was "Legendary [African-descended] pilots saluted", just so you know.

4 posted on 03/30/2007 1:16:20 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Stunning fact not mentioned in the article: The 99th never lost a bomber under its escort. Not one. The Tuskeegee Airmen were a potent symbol, mot more than that, they were darned fine pilots. This recognition is fitting, and long overdue.

Movies are no substitute for real history, of course, but the 1995 movie mentioned in the article -- a made-for-HBO movie, if memory serves -- is definitely worth watching. The cast includes Andre Braughaher, Courtney B. Vance, Lawrence Fisburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., and John Lithgow as a racist senator.

I have high hopes for Lucas' movie -- at least one critic has admitted that while he loves Star Wars, he also hates it for basically consuming the career of a director who could have done more and greater films. If "Red Tails" is his first post-Star Wars project, I'll be waiting in line for it, which I rarely do.


5 posted on 03/30/2007 1:57:55 AM PDT by ReignOfError (`)
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To: Admin Moderator

My understanding (and the mod can correct me if I'm wrong) is that this rule is in place to help avoid duplicates; it's harder to check if something has already been linked if the headline has been changed.


6 posted on 03/30/2007 1:59:45 AM PDT by ReignOfError (`)
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To: ReignOfError
Appreciate the information.

And agree that the article should have mentioned how they didn't have any bomber under their charge shot down.

7 posted on 03/30/2007 2:08:40 AM PDT by Jedi Master Pikachu ( What is your take on Acts 15:20 (abstaining from blood) about eating meat? Could you freepmail?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
I had the great privilege to meet one of these great hero's at the Peterson AFB Commissary about a year ago. I recognized him from a History channel interview weeks earlier.
8 posted on 03/30/2007 2:18:11 AM PDT by Colorado Cowgirl (God bless America!)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

MArker


9 posted on 03/30/2007 2:34:38 AM PDT by spetznaz (Nuclear-tipped Ballistic Missiles: The Ultimate Phallic Symbol)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
I once sold their Tie Tacks, Hat Pins and Pilot Wings...

Until their 'Association' tried to strong arm me to pay them an addition fee for just selling merchandise I bought from a third party! They said they'd have eBay shut down my auction...

I told them to go to hell and my respect for them went out the window with that sentiment...

And two of my suppliers stopped carrying anything to do with the Tuskegee Airmen...

I no longer sell any Tuskegee Airmen items and never, ever will again!

10 posted on 03/30/2007 2:41:57 AM PDT by Bender2 (If there was a Congressional White Caucus, would it be racist?)
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To: ReignOfError
Re: Stunning fact not mentioned in the article: The 99th never lost a bomber under its escort. Not one.

There was an FR thread last year where a military historian had challenged this...

I do not recall his source, but I find it hard to believe they never had one of the bombers under their escort shot down. That makes them the only fighter squadron in the world on either side to make that claim.

Just the odds of World War Two warfare would make that hard to swallow, but no one wants to be called a racist for bring up facts or the truth...

11 posted on 03/30/2007 2:51:03 AM PDT by Bender2 (If there was a Congressional White Caucus, would it be racist?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
I caught the Fox News Channel coverage of this last night. Prominently featured, of course, was that great patriot and racist africanhyphenamerican piece of scum demagogue Charles Rangel referring to "them" and "they". I would respect him more if he'd said whitey Roosevelt and the democrat power structure of the time. They were in a position to do something about it, and did nothing except expand the welfare plantation to keep black people in slavery.

I generally place our warriors on a special level. Rangel is a Korean War Veteran and I want to respect him for that. Hitler, like Rangel, was a war veteran and was honorably decorated for heroism in service to his (adopted) country. I guess in Rangel's case, he's on a special level with adolph-the basement.

12 posted on 03/30/2007 2:58:42 AM PDT by RushLake (I neutered my dog; now he's a liberal.)
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To: Bender2
Ex-Pilot Confirms Bomber Loss.

The Tuskeegee Airmen's place in the American military pantheon isn't jeopardized by this in the least, I think.

13 posted on 03/30/2007 3:23:15 AM PDT by Hoplite
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To: Bender2
There was an FR thread last year where a military historian had challenged this...

I'd appreciate a link. I couldn't scare it up in a quick search. It's possible I bought into a folk tale -- it wouldn't be the first time, and probably won't be the last -- but the fact remains that the Tuksegee Airmen were the equal of their white brothers-in-arms, and on average probably better, because they were under closer scrutiny and had to jump more hurdles to get into combat in the first place.

The claim is easy to falsify. All it takes is to name one lost bomber that was under the 99th's escort, with a date and a place. The records are pretty solid, and it would be easy to confirm.

Just the odds of World War Two warfare would make that hard to swallow, but no one wants to be called a racist for bring up facts or the truth...

In fairness, they weren't allowed to fly bomber escort until the last days of the war, when the Luftwaffe was pretty well thinned out and the flak cover wasn't as heavy. If they had flown escort in 1942-43, I'm sure they would have lost a fair number.

The Beeb was probably erring on the side of caution in leaving out that factoid. Just because something is repeated often doesn't make it fact, and since it wasn't central to the current story, if there's even a whisper of doubt, leaving it out makes more sense than devoting the time and effort to investigate it.

14 posted on 03/30/2007 3:27:49 AM PDT by ReignOfError (`)
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To: ReignOfError; Hoplite
The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of very, very brave men who served their country under extremely trying circumstances and I will go to my grave saluting their military prowess...

But let it be said that offering up the almost impossible to believe feat of never, ever having any of the bombers under their escort shot down and then keeping it consecrated under the threat of calling any disbeliever a racist, is beneath contempt...

Furthermore, they have lost my respect for them by allowing their 'association' to prey on businessmen trying to make a living...

Martin Luther King called for a colorless society, but the Black leadership of today believe their skin color gives them special powers over any and all!

15 posted on 03/30/2007 3:41:54 AM PDT by Bender2 (If there was a Congressional White Caucus, would it be racist?)
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To: ReignOfError
Re: I'd appreciate a link.

See Post 13...

or go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/16/AR2006121600849.html

16 posted on 03/30/2007 3:51:13 AM PDT by Bender2 (If there was a Congressional White Caucus, would it be racist?)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu
"It is not often that servicemen have to fight a double war - one on the home front and one overseas."

Really?


17 posted on 03/30/2007 4:08:20 AM PDT by Jaxter ("Vivit Post Funera Virtus")
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

General Chappie James, of Pensacola, FL, was an impressive man. His untimely death, soon after his retirement, stopped a political rise that would have made a positive difference in our country, IMO.


18 posted on 03/30/2007 4:30:42 AM PDT by jch10
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To: Bender2

Fair enough. I bit on a folk tale. I'll retract my statement, which was probably untrue and certainly dubious, that the 99th was perfect. But that doesn't change the fact that they were heroic.

Theirs is a noble history, and it doesn't need padding. worthy men, as these certainly were and are, don't need to bolster their reputation with a lie. An accurate retelling of the facts still leaves little doubt that they did their job admirably -- no point in gilding the lily.


19 posted on 03/30/2007 4:57:48 AM PDT by ReignOfError (`)
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

I hope the president awards the same medal to WW II Jewish servicemen who helped win the war only to return homw and be denied entry to college (Harvard), law school (Yale), private clubs, etc.


20 posted on 03/30/2007 4:59:14 AM PDT by pabianice
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To: Bender2
Furthermore, they have lost my respect for them by allowing their 'association' to prey on businessmen trying to make a living...

These men were denied the respect, the recognition and the rewards they were due. Now that their story has become the stuff of legend, as the few survivors are made weak by time and fate, some struggling just to get by, it's only fair that they should cash in.

I understand that you have a personal gripe, but aside from the vagaries of intellectual property law, these folks have a moral right to own a piece of their legacy. They earned it, and it was denied them for far too long. Fair is fair.

21 posted on 03/30/2007 5:08:18 AM PDT by ReignOfError (`)
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To: Jaxter

"It is not often that servicemen have to fight a double war - one on the home front and one overseas."

Really?"

Small difference between the two. I seriously doubt soldiers returning today are refused service in restaurants, not allowed to rent hotel rooms, or strung up because they talked to a white woman.


22 posted on 03/30/2007 6:56:11 AM PDT by gracesdad
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To: gracesdad

Mustangs ride NAZIS down.


23 posted on 03/30/2007 7:04:14 AM PDT by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: Bender2

At least the Tuskegee myth is based on truth and it isn't totally inflated like the one below.


"It took a months-long campaign by veterans of the genuine liberator units to get PBS to disavow the 1992 documentary,"Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II," which falsely credited the 761st Tank and another African-American battalion (183rd Combat Engineers) with liberating Buchenwald and Dachau, the two largest camps freed by Americans."

http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a3b125b384e8f.htm


24 posted on 03/30/2007 7:34:45 AM PDT by ansel12 ((America, love it ,or at least give up your home citizenship before accepting ours too.))
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To: gracesdad
"Small difference between the two. I seriously doubt soldiers returning today are refused service in restaurants, not allowed to rent hotel rooms, or strung up because they talked to a white woman."

Actually there's a big difference. The Tuskegee Airmen were not discriminated against because they were serving their country. The GI's today are. That's not to say that the discrimination that they (the Tuskegee Airmen) faced was right, it was certainly terrible. Hopefully it won't take 60 years for today's heroes to be recognized.

25 posted on 03/30/2007 8:44:43 AM PDT by Jaxter ("Vivit Post Funera Virtus")
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To: Bender2

By the time they entered the war the Luftwaffe had been decimated. Their claim is a slap to the face of all other fighter pilots who fought the Luftwaffe, many of them in lesser planes than the Tuskeegee Airmen's P-51's.


26 posted on 03/30/2007 9:12:34 AM PDT by Blogatron (I pitty the devil when hippies start arriving in bunches.)
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To: jch10
General Chappie James, of Pensacola, FL, was an impressive man. His untimely death, soon after his retirement, stopped a political rise that would have made a positive difference in our country, IMO.

I only met him twice, but he was a heckuva guy. Would have been interesting to see where he went after retiring. Same with his son.
27 posted on 03/30/2007 10:02:08 AM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: ReignOfError

The HBO movie is well worth renting, although by the end you realize the high price the original airmen paid in service to the nation.


28 posted on 03/30/2007 10:09:01 AM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: Blogatron
By the time they entered the war the Luftwaffe had been decimated. Their claim is a slap to the face of all other fighter pilots who fought the Luftwaffe, many of them in lesser planes than the Tuskeegee Airmen's P-51's.

I think that the claim was made during the war to boost morale and/or for propaganda purposes. It was just one of those things that people never looked into.

That said, they were very aggressive and didn't back down from a fight. My father was around them for a few months and remembers quite a few would come back shot up, and asking how soon they could get back in the air. Quite a few bomber pilots I talked to when I was younger remembered them for being very aggressive and preferring to be escorted by them when given a chance. One comment was that they would really push the fuel situation - whereas a lot of squadrons would turn back with plenty of fuel, it was not uncommon for a lot of the Tuskegee pilots to come back on fumes. It may not seem like a big deal - staying with the bombers for 10 or 20 minutes longer than some squadrons, but it could make a huge difference depending on location.
29 posted on 03/30/2007 10:09:22 AM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: Jedi Master Pikachu

Kudos to these exemplary heroes.


30 posted on 03/30/2007 5:38:58 PM PDT by Ciexyz (Is the American voter smarter than a fifth grader?)
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To: RushLake
I have a request - please don't use the name of that Harlem representative in the same thread with decent folk. Thanks. :)

The Tuskeegee Airmen were true heroes in many ways. We are blessed because they served for us. This is good.

31 posted on 03/30/2007 7:31:20 PM PDT by sig226 (see my profile for the democrat culture of corruption)
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To: sig226

I hope you took the time to make the same request to FNC.

I like your understatement. It truly says something about the man when he is as, or more, disparaged by good men then one of the worst things ever placed on the earth.


32 posted on 03/31/2007 4:06:46 AM PDT by RushLake (I neutered my dog; now he's a liberal.)
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To: RushLake
I didn't see it on the news, I read stories about it on the web. You're saying that Fox made a comparison between him and the Airmen, I guess because they are black veterans. That's absurd. The Tuskeegee Airmen were good men before anyone asked them to serve their country. The other guy seems to have learned about Marx when he was in Korea.

I think I will send a note to Fox. Thanks for a good idea.

33 posted on 03/31/2007 4:48:12 AM PDT by sig226 (see my profile for the democrat culture of corruption)
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To: RushLake
The Fox story says that the reprehensible from Harlem sponsored the legislation for the medals. The quote from the speaker of the house was truly depressing:
"The Tuskegee airmen left a segregated country to fight in war, and unfortunately returned to one that was still segregated. Though Hitler was defeated, prejudice was not. ... Today we are trying to right that wrong."

Very little is beneath the current speaker of the house.

34 posted on 03/31/2007 5:05:41 AM PDT by sig226 (see my profile for the democrat culture of corruption)
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To: sig226

That's a splendid photo of Bush saluting the airmen.


35 posted on 03/31/2007 5:54:09 PM PDT by Ciexyz (Is the American voter smarter than a fifth grader?)
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