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Tuskegee Airmen and Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson: Tuskegee Airmen

Resources on the Tuskegee Airmen and African Americans in WWII

Congressional Medal of Honor

About the Tuskegee Airmen

The term "Tuskegee Airmen" is used to describe four all-black World War II squadrons—the Ninety-ninth, 100th, 301th, and 302d.

Nine hundred twenty-six pilots earned their pilot's wings under the Army Air Force Aviation Cadet program, which began in 1941 at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Although the program's first students graduated three months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the army refused to deploy the Tuskegee pilots outside the United States until 1943, when the 99th was shipped to North Africa.

Racial hostility in the military almost led to its recall, but the squadron was saved thanks to the testimony of its commander, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who later became the first African-American U.S. Air Force general. In 1944, the Ninety-ninth merged with the other three black squadrons to form the 332d Fighter Group. As a bomber escort group on 200 bomber missions, the 332d won fame for not losing a single U.S. bomber to enemy aircraft. In 1,578 combat missions, the Tuskegee Airmen shot down 111 enemy planes, destroyed 150 others on the ground, and sank a German destroyer. Tuskegee Airmen saw action in Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Germany, and the Balkans; 66 were killed in action.

Members of the 332d won more than 100 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the group won three Distinguished Unit Citations.

From Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, Second Edition.

Tuskegee Airmen Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

On Thursday March 29, 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by President George W. Bush in the Capitol Rotunda. The President was accompanied by the leaders of the United States Congress and spoke in front of more than 350 of the World War II veterans. It was, indeed, an emotional event, and those honored were rightly proud. Both houses of Congress had passed legislation: "To award a congressional gold medal on behalf of the Tuskegee Airmen collectively, in recognition of their unique record, which inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces."

President Bush's speech given at the award ceremony:
"...It was different for the men in this room. When America entered World War II, it might have been easy for them to do little for our country. After all, the country didn't do much for them.

These men in our presence felt a special sense of urgency. They were fighting two wars: One was in Europe, and the other took place in the hearts and minds of our citizens. That's why we're here . . . . The Tuskegee Airmen helped win a war, and you helped change our Nation for the better. Yours is the story of the human spirit, and it ends like all great stories do—with wisdom and lessons and hope for tomorrow. And the medal that we confer today means that we're doing a small part to ensure that your story will be told and honored for generations to come. And I would like to offer a gesture to help atone for all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities. And so, on behalf of the Office I hold and a country that honors you, I salute you for the service to the United States."
Text of Congressional Gold Medal to the Tuskegee Airmen -
   PUBLIC LAW 109–213—APR. 11, 2006

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Frances Hui