Recently, on my way to Atlanta to pick my daughter up from the airport – we stopped off and visited the: Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. It is located in Tuskegee, AL. Now, I love anything that has to do with American History – but these brave men are sometimes lost in history’s translations.
Have you seen the movie Redtails? It came out in 2012 and featured Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Nate Parker and other phenomenal talent. This movie concentrated on the Tuskegee Airmen. It was nice to see some history brought to life. The description of the movie is: A crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program, having faced segregation while kept mostly on the ground during World War II, are called into duty under the guidance of Col. A.J. Bullard. If you have not seen it, I would highly recommend it.
Why are they important? Because they helped with several successful missions during WWII. Now WWII was a time where there was great racial tension. While the Civil War has been over for almost 100 years, there was still a great racial divide especially in the South.
The start of the Tuskegee Airmen was a result of an experiment. There were several high ranking officers that did not think that African Americans would have the physical or mental capabilities to be able to fly a aircraft. They also thought that they lacked courage.
Well, these men were able to not only prove their worth, but go above and beyond the call of duty.
Here are a few facts that I found on http://www.tuskegee.edu/about_us/legacy_of_fame/tuskegee_airmen/tuskegee_airmen_facts.aspx
- Tuskegee University was awarded the U.S. Army Air Corps contract to help train America's first Black military aviators because it had already invested in the development of an airfield, had a proven civilian pilot training program and its graduates performed highest on flight aptitude exams.
- Moton Field is named for Tuskegee University's second President, Dr. Robert R. Moton who served with distinction from 1915-1935. The Airmen were deployed during the presidential administration of Dr. Frederick Douglas Patterson (1935-1953).
- The all-Black, 332nd Fighter Group consisted originally of four fighter squadrons, the 99th, the 100th, the 301st and the 302nd.
- From 1941-1946, some 1,000 Black pilots were trained at Tuskegee.
- The Airmen's success in escorting bombers during World War II – having one of the lowest loss records of all the escort fighter groups, and being in constant demand for their services by the allied bomber units.- is a record unmatched by any other fighter group.
Now, that you know a little background on these guys – let’s talk about the visit.
There are two hangars that you can visit when you’re there. I have two little guys that we visited with (age 5 and 3) So I made sure that I asked for the Junior Ranger activity guide. (All National Park sites should have them – fun interactive booklets that help entertain the kids and they can earn Jr. Ranger badges)
There was a nice 20 minute introduction movie if you are unfamiliar with who the Tuskegee were. (Being a history major and nerd, I knew some of their background) I did however find a new hero to look into. The first Native American/African American FEMALE to earn a pilot’s license (stay tuned!) The boys loved some of the war scenes (nothing that was too gruesome)
The exhibit itself is nice- Each station has 3 short videos that include narration from the Men and some of the widows that were a part of WWII. The kids were fascinated by the models, pictures, and the short videos. They were very excited to get their Junior Ranger Pins.
If you are ever in the Tuskegee area, I highly recommend stopping there.
1. You may learn something
2. It’s free ( I love free)
You can visit the following sites to learn more on the Tuskegee Airmen
National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/tuai/index.htm
Tuskegee University – facts: http://www.tuskegee.edu/about_us/legacy_of_fame/tuskegee_airmen/tuskegee_airmen_facts.aspx
History.com -- http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/tuskegee-airmen