Tuskegee Airmen: Amazing American Heroes

The following article was submitted by Jordan Bryson, who interviewed Joseph Gomer, a Tuskegee Airman, as part of a history project.

Who were the Tuskegee Airmen?

The Tuskegee Airmen, an Army Air Corps program, trained blacks to fly and maintain combat planes during World War II. It included pilots, navigators, maintenance, instructors, and all the people who kept the planes in the air.

A 1925 War College Study said that blacks could not fly or maintain complicated machinery like a military airplane. In the 1940s, black men came to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to prove the 1925 study wrong. They were very good, which opened the door for the military to be integrated (units open to everyone, regardless of race or religion).

The black press spread the word about the Tuskegee Airmen so the United States could win democracy at home and overseas. Segregation, the practice of keeping racial or religious groups separate, was accepted in America. Things changed after their success. It was an early start to the Civil Rights movement even before Martin Luther King, Jr.

What a real Tuskegee Airman says …

Joseph Gomer, a Tuskegee Airman, started flying after college when he went to the Civilian Pilot Training Program. His favorite plane was the sleek P-51 Mustang. He found flying interesting and fun.

In 2007, Mr. Gomer met President George W. Bush, who presented the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal.

“The recognition was long overdue,” said Mr. Gomer. “We earned that recognition on our own.”

They became a successful fighter group called the 332nd Fighter Group. From 1941 to 1946, 996 pilots were trained. The Tuskegee Airman era lasted from 1941 to 1949 when it was closed by Presidential Order ending segregation in the Armed Forces. They destroyed 112 German aircraft in the air and another 150 on the ground. They sank a destroyer. They received awards for “heroism and extraordinary achievement.”

Mr. Gomer hopes the Tuskegee Airmen inspire young people that anything is possible.

The Tuskegee Airmen accomplished big things when blacks had a chance to serve as military pilots in America for the first time. They set many records and received many awards. Their example inspires us that we can do amazing things, too.

– Jordan Bryson

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