Tuskegee Airmen: America's Black Heroes of the Air

After World War 1 the United States War Department commissioned studies to determine African Americans’ ability to fight effectively in combat. The studies concluded “black men were cowards, poor technicians and fighters lacking initiative and resourcefulness…that the average black man’s brain was ten ounces less than the average white man’s brain…that this proved that blacks should remain segregated in the military and qualified for only menial jobs…that they are a sub-species of the human population and unfit for combat or to become pilots.” The Army Chief of Staff and Army Air Corps agreed. Undeterred, a few prominent black civilian and military  leaders fought back and by 1941, as the country was lurching into all out war in Europe and Asia, a new “experiment,” it was called, began…to create fighter and bomber squadrons totally manned by blacks, but, of course, led and trained by whites in the segregated military.  When the war ended in Europe in 1945 the black squadrons, known by then as the “Red Tails,” had flown 1578 missions, destroyed 112 enemy aircraft, earned 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, 744 Air Medals and 8 Purple Hearts. Eighty four had lost their lives. Duty, honor, country. The men of the Red Tails said that they fought two wars, one against the enemy, the other against racism at home. Their “double V” greeting to each other reflected victory over Europe, the other over Jim Crow.  For over two hundred years millions of Americans have served their country fighting to protect our freedoms, guaranteed by the Constitution. Our freedoms are the envy of the world.  Too many of us born and raised in the United States take these freedoms and our personal opportunities for granted, but, African Americans do not.  Each and every day all of us Americans should be grateful for and honor all of those who have served our country in uniform. They have committed themselves to protect our freedoms, even give their lives to do that. And million have given their lives for all of us. This program introduces two Red Tail Pilots, American heroes, who share their extraordinary lives of challenge and commitment.  Charles McGee, born December 7, 1927. Retired US Air Force Colonel. Thirty years active duty. As a fighter pilot he will, forever, hold the record for flying the most combat flights of any American pilot in three wars, World War Two, Korea and Vietnam. 409 missions. He commanded at many levels and was the first African American Commander of an American air base in the United States. He earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses with two oak leaf clusters. Bronze Star. Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster. French legion of Merit. He is an inductee of the National Aviation Hall of Fame. George Hardy. Retired US Air Force Lt. Colonel.  28 years active duty. Flew twenty one P-51 Mustang missions over Europe, twenty five missions over Korea and seventy missions over Vietnam. Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters. Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster and more.  We are in their debt. Their personal commitments, discipline and achievements reflect the very best of our America and our values. This is one of nearly a dozen programs that we present each year to honor those who serve our country and to inspire, especially young people, to consider committing their efforts to our country either in or out of unirform.