Today, in Honor of Black History Month, on WBT’s Brett Winterble Show, we remember the heroic Tuskegee Airmen. Please listen to the segment here.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a hero in this way: a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”
Pretty straightforward, right? But what happens when that person exemplifies those same qualities despite an unjust system and its worst intended efforts to stop that person or that class of persons from being successful, let alone heroic? That is HISTORIC.
As a broadcaster, I have spoken to many civic and social groups. The one group that always leaves me in awe the World War 2 vets. We call them the ‘Greatest Generation.’ But never in American history has one generation given future generations so much without any expectation of recognition or repayment. These men were draftees and volunteers assigned to some of the most dangerous and, yes, sometimes mundane spots on Earth.
But not the Red Tails. They had to fight their way into the war, fight in the war, and fight for equality after returning home.
The Tuskegee Airmen are rightfully one of the most celebrated soldiers, airmen, and pilots in combat flight history. What they accomplished in World War 2 was something remarkable.
And we almost didn’t let them do it.
But for the filing of a lawsuit and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s intervention, we would never have seen what these heroes of the skies could do.
Their record was nothing short of stellar. As Military.com notes, “During the war, 66 Tuskegee pilots were killed in combat, and 32 pilots were shot down and became prisoners of war. The Tuskegee pilots shot down 409 German aircraft, destroyed 950 units of ground transportation, and sank a destroyer with machine guns alone — a unique accomplishment. However, their most distinctive achievement was that not one friendly bomber was lost to enemy aircraft during 2000 escort missions. No other fighter group with nearly as many missions can make the same claim.”
According to the National World War 2 Memorial,” there were 992 Tuskegee Airmen pilots trained at Tuskegee, including single-engine fighter pilots, twin-engine bomber pilots, and liaison and service pilots. Still, the total number of Tuskegee Airmen, counting ground personnel such as aircraft mechanics and logistical personnel, was more than 14,000.
As divided as we may be, we must remember the sacrifices these men paid for us, both in World War 2 and in an enduring way to this very moment and beyond.