In February 1944, the 100th, 301st, and 302nd Fighter Squadrons, comprising the 332nd Fighter Group began flying combat operations in Italy as part of the Twelfth Air Force with P-39 Aircobras.
Upon transfer to the 15th Air Force, 306th Fighter Wing (Prov), the 332nd FG was assigned the solid color red for the groups tail markings and the newly transferred P-47 Thunderbolts tails were painted red for easy recognition and esprit de corps and this carried over with the use of the P-51 Mustang, which led to the group’s nickname, the “Red Tails.”
The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II.
Their primary missions were to escort bombers striking targets in Southern Europe. Eventually, they would fly as far as Berlin. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the first African-American to hold the rank of General in the U.S. Air Force, insisted his men stay close to the bombers they were escorting, rather than peeling off to pursue enemy fighters.