Saturday, February 18, 2017

Celebrating Black History Month: The Tuskegee Airmen - WWII Heroes

332nd Fighter Group in Italy, 1945

The squadron of African-American military pilots, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, flew both fighter and bomber missions in Europe during World War II.  They were the first African-American military pilots since none were allowed to fly in WWI.  On April 3, 1939, Congress passed Appropriations Bill Public Law 18, which contained an amendment designating funds for training African-Americans as pilots.

They trained at Moton Field and studied at Tuskegee University in Alabama.  They formed the 477th Bombardment Group and the 332nd Fighter Group.

Of the 992 men trained, 335 were deployed overseas. For their contributions to the war effort, they received:

Three Distinguished Unit Citations:

  • 99th Pursuit Squadron: 30 May–11 June 1943 for actions over Sicily
  • 99th Fighter Squadron: 12–14 May 1944: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy
  • 332d Fighter Group (and its 99th, 100th, and 301st Fighter Squadrons): 24 March 1945: for a bomber escort mission to Berlin, during which pilots of the 100th FS shot down three enemy ME-262 jets. The 302nd Fighter Squadron did not receive this award as it had been disbanded on 6 March 1945.

  • At least one Silver Star
  • 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses to 95 Airmen; Captain William A. Campbell was awarded two.
  • 14 Bronze Stars
  • 744 Air Medals
  • 8 Purple Hearts

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