Today marks the 75th anniversary of the activation of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, one in a string of many important events that signifies the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen. On March 22, 1941, the Squadron was activated at Chanute Field, Ill., going down in history as the very first Tuskegee Airmen unit. The Squadron was formed earlier in the year, but it was on this day in 1941 that the 99th was manned effective and activated the first African American flying unit in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

It would be decades before this group of brave Americans would receive their due recognition. After the end of WWII, they humbly returned to a divided country that cared less for their heroic military service than the color of their skin. But their ability to triumph over adversity fed the growing movement to end segregation in the military, and eventually the country, and press towards civil rights for all black Americans.

“The Tuskegee Airmen opened the door of opportunity for black people in aviation wider than it had ever been opened before. They proved that black men could not only fly military aircraft, but also the most advanced fighters, in successful combat with the enemy. The Tuskegee Airmen also demonstrated that they could fly multi-engine bombers, leading crews that included bombardiers, navigators, and radio operators. The success of the Tuskegee Airmen in combat, and in successful resistance at home to segregationist policies, contributed immeasurably to the ultimate integration of the Air Force.”

~Dr. Daniel L. Haulman

Tuskegee Airmen Chronology

On this day all those years ago, the brave men who were fighting for their chance to join the air war and restore freedom to the world did not do so for history books, or medals, or valor. The pilots and support crew that comprised the Tuskegee Airmen persevered to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps because they believed in their ability and that they could be useful in service to our country.

The Greatest Generation fought in WWII, supported the work on the home front and made sacrifices that today are hard to truly grasp and understand. The Tuskegee Airmen, dwindling in numbers as each year passes, are one of many groups of Americans that served with honor and dignity. But it’s the war they fought on two fronts – fascism abroad and racism at home – that makes their experience so unique. They did not come home to a heroes welcome; they came home to bigotry. But their footprint would be followed by many others who would bring them – and millions of other black Americans – closer to the civil rights they so greatly deserved.

As we reflect on the 75th anniversary of the activation of the Tuskegee Airmen, let us refresh our fervor and passion for ensuring their history and legacy is never forgotten. May their example of perseverance and their ability to triumph over adversity inspire us all to aim a little higher and never give up.

RISE ABOVE!

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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