Wilfred DeFour, 100-Year-Old Tuskegee Airman, passes away
One of the first black aviators in the military, who served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, passed away at 100 in New York. The Tuskegee Airmen, who trained at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Macon County, Alabama, were the first black military aviators in the US service corps. They were comprised of pilots, navigators, bombardiers, instructors, maintenance and support staff who underwent the “Tuskegee Experience”, in which they were trained to fly and maintain combat aircraft via the Army Air Corps program.
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Tuskegee airman Cyril Byron: Risking my life for a freedom we blacks didn't have
When Dr. Cyril Byron Sr. sat down with his mother in the midst of World War II and told her that he was going to be in a groundbreaking program for black pilots in the Army, she told him that if he was meant to fly, God would have given him wings. But wings he did sprout, flying with the Red Tails – the U.S. Army Air Force 99th Fighter Squadron (also listed as the Tuskegee Airmen) – during the height of World War II. During training, the black soldiers could not go into the town to see a movie or to shop without an escort. Even then, they were not really welcome, and as he watched a movie one night, Byron said it dawned on him that he was going overseas to risk his life for a freedom he didn't fully enjoy.
Elvin Thomas, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, dies at 93
Elvin Thomas, 93, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter group during the Second World War, has passed away at the age of 93. At 23, Thomas was drafted into the Air Force in February 1942, where he worked in supply, handling administrative duties necessary for the fighter groups to operate. One of the first seven men to arrive at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Thomas was one of the few Tuskegee Airmen to remain with the unit throughout its entirety. Thomas was discharged in Oct. 1945 with the rank of staff sergeant.
Tuskegee fighter pilot Clarence Dart passes away at 91
Clarence Dart lived through a war and then lived long enough to see his part in that war brought to life on the big screen. He was drafted into the Army Air Corps during World War II and eventually became part of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black WW2 fighter pilot squad. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after flying 95 missions and having been shot down twice. Dart earned 2 purple hearts for his injuries, 5 distinguished flying crosses, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Just this year, he attended the local premiere of Red Tails, a Hollywood movie based on the exploits of the Tuskegee Airman.
Red Tails (film review) - In the cockpits with Tuskegee Airmen
War is raging across Europe in 1944, but black fighter pilots in Italy aren't seeing any of the action. Although they have completed the Tuskegee program and are qualified to fly, the military deems them unfit for real missions based on their skin color. When their commanding officer, Colonel A.J. Bullard, gets them a mission to guard bombers, the squadron rises to the task and proves their mettle. Director Anthony Hemingway is not unafraid to go inside the cockpit and show his wounded pilots fighting for life.
Tuskegee Airman Luke J. Weathers passes away
Retired Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers Jr., a member of World War II's famed Tuskegee Airmen and a humble combat hero, has passed away in Tucson at age 90. He will be buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Tuskegee Airman Earnest Craigwell flew over 400 combat missions in WWII, Korea and Vietnam
Colonel Ernest Craigwell Jr. - a Tuskegee Airman who flew more than 400 combat missions and logged 6,000 hours in a military career that spanned World War II, Korea and Vietnam - has passed away. He was one of the few American fighter pilots to have earned his wings from both the Korean Air Force and U.S. Air Force - and a character based upon him was the first depiction of a black fighter pilot in the commercial film industry.
Tuskegee Airmen: I was treated like an officer in a Nazi POW camp, like a nigger in the U.S.
Alexander Jefferson was shot down on Aug. 12, 1944, as he was strafing German radar stations. He lost consciousness after the crash, and awakened to a German pointing a gun at him and shouting, "Naeger! Naeger!"
"I thought, 'Oh, crap - even in Germany!' But it turned out he wasn't saying the other word, that was their word for negro." In fact, the German soldier's commanding officer saluted Jefferson when he took the pilot into custody. "I was treated like an officer the whole time I spent in POW camp." After the war Tuskegee Airmen returned covered in glory - until they got back to the US: "Coming back on the boat, got to New York Harbor, the flags waving, the Statue of Liberty. Walked down the gangplank, and a little soldier at the bottom said, 'Whites to the right, niggers to the left.'"
Tuskegee pilot Charles McGee holds a U.S. Air Force record of 409 fighter combat missions (WWII, Korea and Vietnam)
Charles McGee fought a two front war. "We called it the Double V campaign. Victory over Hitler and victory over racism," McGee recently explained to listeners at Falls Church's Military History Forum.
Wearing the traditional red jacket of the Tuskegee Airmen, he also spoke about early African-American aviators, such as Eugene Bullard, who flew for France in WW1, and Bessie Coleman, an airshow star of the 1920s. Unfortunately there were no opportunities for black pilots in the U.S. military then, for example a 1925 Army War College study concluded that "Negros were subservient, lacking leadership qualities, and mentally inferior."
Tuskegee museum purchased rare WWII T-6 training plane with a $200,000 price tag
Fighter planes used by the America's first African-American military aviators are difficult to find. That's why the Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum jumped at the chance to purchase one: spending $200,000 to pay for a WWII T-6 training plane once used by the famed all-black aviation unit. The T-6 Texan trainer aircraft - known as the "pilot maker" - will be located at Detroit City Airport and used for youth training and air shows. The vintage aircraft was made at North American Aviation's Dallas factory, delivered in 1943 to Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama and used until 1945.
Kenneth Wofford: One of the original 13 Tuskegee pilots passes away
Kenneth Wofford was one of the original 13 African-Americans trained as fighter pilots in a special training program at the Tuskegee Institute. In spite of a racist policy in the U.S. Army, that claimed African-Americans could not maintaining an aircraft, the program continued to grow until the end of WWII. Wofford flew P-40 and P-47 fighter planes, serving in the 99th Fighter Squadron, made famous in the 1995 WWII film "Tuskegee Airman." He was an active speaker, visiting school classes to promote both Tuskegee Airmen's motto "Aim High" and the education they received prior to enlisting in the Army.
William Holloman: Tuskegee Airman, historian
When the Tuskegee Airmen returned from World War Two, the pioneering black pilots did not had the respect they had earned in fighting for their country. "When we came back from the war... there were signs saying 'White soldiers to the right and black soldiers to the left,'" William Wheeler recalled. One of the airmen most responsible for preserving and promoting the history of the veterans, making sure that the respect, belatedly, did come was Lt. Col. William Holloman - also a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam war. Holloman was vital in developing the Museum of Flight's Tuskegee Airmen exhibit.
Lieutenant-Colonel Lee Archer: the only black fighter ace during World War II
Lee Archer was a member of America's segregated "Tuskegee" air corps (302nd Fighter Squadron of 332nd Fighter Group) and the only black fighter ace of World War II. In spite of racial discrimination he and his comrades served with great distinction. On October 22 1944 Archer took part in a sweep along the Danube. With his leader, he was attacking a Heinkel bomber when 7 Messerschmitts Bf 109s emerged. Archer shot down 3 of them. Despite their skill, few medals were received, though Archer was granted the DFC, the Air Medal with 18 clusters and a Distinguished Unit Commendation.
Moton Field, where Tuskegee Airmen trained, named a National Historic Site
Lt. Col. John Mulzac stood on the asphalt at Moton Field - where he trained to become one of America's first black military pilots - and cried. Hundreds of Tuskegee Airmen and their representatives reunited where their World War II service eventually led to desegregation in the US armed forces. The field was named a National Historic Site, and an interpretive center was opened in a hangar at the site, including a huge sign naming part of I-85 as the "Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Highway." The airmen fought Adolf Hitler abroad and Jim Crow on American soil, being put down as 2nd-class citizens and watching as Nazi POWs were treated better than them.
Tuskegee Airman Charles "Chuck" Dryden dies in Atlanta
Air Force Lt. Colonel Charles "Chuck" Dryden, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the legendary World War II black pilots, died aged 87. He recorded his World War II experiences in "A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman," and was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 1998. U.S. Air Force records show that 992 black pilots were trained during WWII and 450 served overseas, eventually switching from P-40 and P-39 fighters to more robust P-47s and F-51 Mustangs. From June 1944 through the end of the war, they flew 200 bomber escort missions, downing 111 enemy aircraft and destroying 150 on the ground.
Tuskegee pilot Walter McCreary remembers
When his Nazi captors questioned American air-force pilot Walter McCreary, after he was shot down, he was asked why he would risk his life for a country that treated African-Americans so badly. He replied: "It is our home and we want to be part of it." McCreary was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, an Army fighter-pilot corps based in Tuskegee, made up only of African-Americans - and they quickly got a reputation as one of the best air-force corps. White bomber pilots began asking to be escorted by the 'red-tails'. "There were members of Congress that said that African-American... could not follow orders and did not have the potential to become leaders..."
Caught by SS: No racism as a POW, liberated and back in US facing "whites only" signs
Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Walter McCreary was shot down on a WWII mission. He was seized by the S.S.: "The 9 months that I spent as a POW, I experienced nothing relative to race ... I was liberated and entered the shores of the U.S., then I saw a sign for the first time 'whites only' and 'colored,'." Tuskegee Airmen shot down 109 Luftwaffe aircraft, but other battles waited them on homefront. "They advertised for airline pilot trainees. I took the test, and they wouldn't hire me. They told me flat-out, 'We operate out of Atlanta, Ga., and we couldn't get the people to get on the airplane after you.'"
Tuskegee Airmen shine light on American military history
Three Tuskegee Airmen, the African American pilots who flew with distinction during World War Two, paid a visit to a high school to commemorate Veteran’s Day. Although the Tuskegee Airmen were ready to go into combat by Sept. 1942, no one would let them - in spite of the fact they had 250 hours of training compared to other squadrons who only had 50 hours. But before WWII was over, the Tuskegee Airmen were credited with destroying 251 enemy aircraft including being the first pilots to sink a German destroyer by the use of Thunderbolt machine gun fire. Bill Terry was one of the airmen who tried to break racial barriers by entering a white-officers-only club.
Tuskegee Airmen undeterred by others’ predictions they’d fail
Age is doing to their ranks what the Luftwaffe couldn’t, but it doesn’t stop the annual pilgrimage of the Tuskegee Airmen to the Air Force Academy. Every spring, the legendary fliers don their maroon jackets and fan out to classrooms. The mission is to ensure that the future leaders of the Air Force don’t forget mistakes of the past. At the dawn of American involvement in World War 2, a flying program for blacks was established in response to a civil rights lawsuit. Many in and out of government were sure that blacks weren’t able to fly planes - Training was watched closely, and racist incidents abounded.
Tuskegee Airman shoots down latest estimate on bombers lost (Article no longer available from the original source)
A World War II fighter pilot Shelby Westbrook, who flew 60 missions with the Tuskegee Airmen, has questioned the accuracy of a new Air Force report that says the group of black airmen lost at least 25 bombers. He believes the unit could have lost a few bombers, contrary to lore that it never lost a bomber to enemy fighters. But he took issue with the number in a report by historian Daniel Haulman. "It certainly is not accurate," Westbrook said. "I was looking at the actual documents written during WWII," Haulman said. The figure of at least 25 bombers shot down came by studying 5 days in which the airmen were involved in air battles over Europe.
Tuskegee Airmen Facts - The 99th Fighter Squadron
The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated men who enlisted to become America's first black military airmen. In June 1941, the Tuskegee program began with formation of the 99th Fighter Squadron. The unit consisted of an entire service arm, including ground crew, and not just pilots. After basic training at Moton Field, they were moved to the Tuskegee Army Air Field. A combination of pre-war experience and the personal drive had resulted in some of the best pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Their combat record did much to quiet those involved with the group (notably bomber crews who often requested them for escort), but other units continued to harass the Airmen.
Tuskegee Airmen to receive Congressional Gold Medal
Nearly 400 black World War II pilots will receive the nation's highest civilian honor March 29 when the Congressional Gold Medal will be bestowed upon them. Last April, Congress passed the citation honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, black aviators whose flying skills helped persuade Harry S. Truman to end segregation in the U.S. military in 1948. But design disputes stalled the release of the medal for almost a year, prompting the aviators to worry that the delay might allow death to cheat some of them of the recognition. Those issues now resolved, letters are on their way inviting surviving airmen to a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol.
Museum of African-American History -- "Tuskegee Airmen"
"The Tuskegee Airmen," an acclaimed exhibit telling the story of America's first black combat pilots, comes to the Carter G. Woodson Museum of African-American History for a 3-month run that represents the museum's biggest effort to date. The exhibit also is seen as the spark that could ignite more intense interest in the museum, which has experienced its share of challenges. Photos, pieces of memorabilia, vintage equipment and model combat planes, are among the items on display. Several of the remaining airmen are expected to attend and sign autographs.
Ex-Pilot Shot Down in 1944 Was Escorted by Tuskegee Airmen
A bomber pilot from World War 2 says he was shot down while being escorted by Tuskegee Airmen, an account that supports a report by two historians that the famed black fighter group, contrary to legend, did lose at least a few bombers to fire from enemy aircraft. Warren Ludlum, said that his B-24 bomber was shot down by enemy planes over Linz, Austria, in July 1944, while he was being escorted by P-51 fighters piloted by the Tuskegee Airmen. Ludlum said on that day he was a second lieutenant and co-pilot of a B-24 Model J bomber on a mission to attack the Herman Goering Tank Works at Linz.
Historians dispute Tuskegee Airmen's perfect record
The hallmark of the Tuskegee Airmen story has been that America's first black fighter pilots never lost a bomber to enemy aircraft during World War 2 escort missions. Two historians say that's a myth. Maniel Haulman and William Holton have released documents showing several U.S. bombers were downed by Luftwaffe aircrafts during some Tuskegee Airmen protective flights. The president of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. has altered his position: "I'm going to drop references to having no losses until we can get this thing clarified," retired Air Force lieutenant general Russell Davis said.
Bruce Bird opens Black World War II museum
Bruce Bird is struggling to fill a gap in the history of the Second World War. "I've been studying the history of World War II for nearly 50 years, and I've only known about black WWII history for 10 years. Black service in WWII has been grossly neglected." Bird is white. He also is curator of the Museum of Black WWII History, which opened in June. Bird hopes the museum can help tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black WW2 air unit whose mission it was to escort bombers flying over Europe. Known as the 332nd Fighter Group, and in all its missions it never lost a plane — the only unit of its kind not to do so.
Red Tail Project commemorates work of Tuskegee Airmen
Segregation was on the verge of easing in 1941 when the first 13 of a quota of 33 black pilots began training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field Flying School. Once the first group was trained, the men spent a year and a half landlocked, as Jim Crow's "whites only" policy reigned in America. The 1944 the Tuskegee Airmen began their first mission to patrol over Naples Harbor. 1945 101 black officers were arrested for attempting to enter a whites only officers club. Of that group, 3 were court martialed and one convicted. That same year, the 332nd Fighter Group received the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission that destroyed German bomber jets.