Rosemary Crockett, PhD, was born into Tuskegee Airmen history. She is the second of four children born to Daisy and Woodrow Crockett. Her father was a pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group. During WWII, Lt Col Crockett flew 149 missions – including the historic bombing of Berlin in March 1944 – and he racked up an additional 45 combat missions in the Korean War. He twice received the Soldier’s Medal for rescuing pilots from burning aircraft. His other honors include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal, five awards of the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and two awards of the Air Force Commendation Medal. In 2007, along with other surviving Tuskegee Airmen, he received the Congressional Gold Medal.
Dr. Crockett wants us to remember that military service was a family affair. With the support of the Tuskegee Airmen Wives Auxiliary of the East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and others, Crockett is writing a book based on oral history interviews with wives of the Airmen. As the men were facing racial bias while serving their country, their spouses were sometimes their only support system – a crucial component that aided their perseverance and successful performance in the war.
“The actions of Rosa Parks led to a very public desegregation of bus service in Montgomery, Alabama, but years earlier these women quietly, nearly invisibly, desegregated Air Force bases throughout the country,” said Dr. Crockett. “Each day they navigated alien territory, sending husbands off to work and children off to school, while maintaining their households. Theirs was a quiet revolution, with far reaching consequences. The U.S. military is, even today, one of the most integrated elements of U.S. society, due in no small part to the men and women who were part of the Tuskegee Airmen experience.”
The Tuskegee Airmen Wives Tell Their Stories oral history project is based on 60 interviews, which reveal to the public for the first time, the stories of the women who stood shoulder to shoulder with the airmen. Wives of men of the 99th, 100th, 301st, and 302nd Fighter Squadrons, the 477th Bombardment Group, and related groups are included in the project. The resultant book will make the experiences of these women better known, giving readers an important inside look at what it was like to be young, female and black during the Tuskegee Experience, and how those families played a significant role in the desegregation of the United States military.
“It is important for us to understand the challenges of women who came before us in order to put our own challenges in perspective. The wives can teach us how to face challenges with courage, creativity, humor and dignity,” says Crockett. “When we learn about the hurdles that they faced, sometimes our own issues don’t seem quite so overwhelming. They are a challenge, but a challenge that can be met and overcome.”
This exciting project is still a work in progress. Publication of the book will be announced on the project’s website at www.tuskegeeairmenwives.com. Thank you to Dr. Crockett for working to make this important perspective of the Tuskegee Experience available for all to learn from and be inspired by!
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.