Today is Veterans Day and we take time to honor all those who are serving and have served in the Armed Forces to protect our country. Let us today honor those who's story haven't been told, those acts of courage, overcoming barriers and acts of bravery.
Today, we salute the Tuskegee Airmen. In December, 1941, the United States entered World War II’s European Theatre to join the Allied forces of Freedom and Democracy against the Nazi ideals of ethnic and racial purity. One of the Allies’ strongest weapons was the 332nd Fighter Group, 450 Fighter Pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen because they were trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. They were all Black.
There were 996 original Airmen. These included pilots, bombardiers, and navigators.
More than 10,000 black men and women served as their vital support personnel.
There were 450 pilots who served in combat overseas in the European Theater of Operations, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.
Of the Tuskegee aviators, 66 died in combat.
There were 33 Tuskegee Airmen who became prisoners of war.
They flew over 700 bomber escort missions and ended the war as the only fighter group to never lose an escorted bomber to enemy fighters.
The flight of a combat aircraft on a mission is called a sortie. The Tuskegee Airmen flew 15,533 sorties between May 1943 and June 1945.
White American pilots were not allowed to fly more than 52 missions, but black American pilots often flew up to 100 missions due to lack of replacements.
They destroyed 251 enemy aircraft.
They won more than 850 medals which included:
150 Distinguished Flying Crosses
8 Purple Hearts
14 Bronze Stars
744 Air Medals and clusters
3 distinguished unit citations
This story has never been told on the big screen but in January 2012 the movie "Redtails" will tell their story. These gentlemen had real "swagger" and hopefully our young men and women will view this movie and see the definition of the word in these men. These men were respectful, smart and fearless.
The Chatham community was fortunate to have an "Airmen" living and working in our commuity. The late Dr. Andrew Perez lived his life after the war just as honorable as he did during the war. We salute Dr. Perez, the Airmen, and all those who serve and protect.