Before December 7, 1941, it was inconceivable that our soils could see the kind of violent destruction that rained down that day. When the Japanese attacked the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor, devastating our US Pacific fleet and drawing our nation into WWII, our world had irrevocably changed. The declaration of war that followed the next day led to the eventual triumph over the Axis powers four years later, with over 400,000 Americans sacrificing their lives.
And perhaps we had regained that old sense of security in the pre-9/11 era, but now, as then, we live in a different world, cognizant of a host of dangers that literally could be lurking around the corner. As on that fateful morning in Hawaii, when the entire world stopped to take notice, brave Americans, like the Tuskegee Airmen, made the decision to take up arms and join the fight. In 1942, over 3 million Americans voluntarily enlisted in the armed forces to fight for the cause. Along with the draft, eventually 36 million men were registered.
Among those brave and patriotic enough to heed the call were many black Americans who would eventually become known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Not only were they preparing to face the atrocities of war, they were also fighting for respect, dignity and the chance to serve their country. Because of their ability to triumph over adversity and their success in the air over Europe, our country owes a debt of gratitude for their determination.
These servicemen began their military careers having to disprove the 1925 Army War College report called “The Use of Negro Manpower in War,” 67 pages filled with cruel and untrue generalizations about the behavior of black men during wartime and the black race in general. In the end, because of their perseverance, this not only put in motion the full integration of the armed forces, but also produced the Air Force’s first four-star general, numerous war heroes and meritorious service records, and a legacy that continues to inspire people of all ages.
Our Guiding Six Principles – Aim High, Believe In Yourself, Use Your Brain, Be Ready To Go, Never Quit and Expect to Win – are based on the experiences and successes of the Tuskegee Airmen. They serve as the foundation for everything we do, and remind us daily of the determination and sacrifice of these brave war heroes.
In the years that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Tuskegee Airmen that served our country set the stage for a better future for black Americans for generations to come, truly a double victory.
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.