They rose from adversity, through Competence, Courage, Commitment and Capacity to serve America on Silver Wings and to set a standard few will transcend.
Denice Rackley KCET.org
July 18, 2019
This above message is inscribed beneath the Tuskegee Airmen statue at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. These words speak to the dedication of all who had a hand in the hard-fought success of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Beginning of the Tuskegee Airmen
At the height of a tumultuous time in history, men stepped forward to serve in WWII. Black men had served in the military before WWII but had not been allowed to become pilots. Desperately needing pilots, the U.S. government-sponsored the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Partnering with over a thousand colleges and flight schools, the government paid for the ground and flight school instruction while the colleges provided the instructors. The goal was to turn 20,000 college students into pilots, but black men were not considered at first.
Even though black men served as pilots for France in WWl, the pervasive thought at that time was that these men were incapable of handling bombers or fighter planes. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), churches and newspaper articles all pressured the government to accept all men into the military in whatever role they were qualified to perform. This pressure led to a separate flight school program in Tuskegee, Alabama for black men interested in becoming pilots.
Training at Tuskegee
While the government did succumb to pressure, allowing the men to go through the training, most people considered the program an "experiment" and expected the men to fail. Few considered black men intelligent or capable enough to become pilots. Unfortunately, these views were held by a majority of military leaders who cited a biased 1925 U.S. Army War College study that stated, “Blacks are mentally inferior, by nature subservient and cowards in the face of danger. They are unfit for combat.” President Roosevelt issued the Selective Training and Service Act in 1940, which included a bill that “ended discrimination” in the army, but not segregation.
Read the complete article at KCET.org
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