Janice Porter Hayes is the niece of a World War II B-17 tail gunner. She shared this story with us about the gratitude her uncle had for the Tuskegee Airmen and their outstanding skill as escorts for bombers on their dangerous missions. Special thanks to CAF Red Tail Squadron supporter Russell Patterson for sharing this wonderful story with us!
By the time my uncle Ken Porter was 19 years old, he had flown more than 50 missions in Europe as a tail gunner on a B-17 for the U.S. military. Of all his World War II experiences, one of my favorites is his story of the first all-black fighter group, known to history as the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen often acted as escorts for Ken and his bombing group, assigned to keep them as safe as possible and giving aid when needed. Their help was never more valued than during one hazardous mission over Hungary when things went badly and my uncle’s plane was hit by flak from head to tail, knocking off the nose cone, damaging two of the engines, and wounding most of the crew. In an attempt to stay in the air, they discarded most of the guns, ammo and anything else they could find. Even so, their situation became dire until at last they were able to make radio contact with the Tuskegee Airmen.
“Where are you boys?” one of my uncle’s crewmen asked. “We can’t see you.”
Within seconds of his call, the answer came reassuringly back, “Don’t worry, fellas. You can’t see us, but we sure enough can see you!”
With that, the Tuskegee Airmen flew in to help my uncle, his crew and their damaged B-17 to safety.
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.