In the 1930s, Nazi Germany used power and hatred to hurt and destroy innocent people. Something similar was going on in the United States. It was called "Jim Crow." It was aimed at African Americans.
When America entered World War II to fight the Nazis, the U.S. military needed all the help it could get. It asked African Americans to help in small ways. But African Americans wanted to do more. They wanted to help in BIG ways. Many wanted to fly combat aircraft – and the military unwillingly gave them a chance. These honorable men and women became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen gained notice and respect due to a test conducted by the U.S. Army Air Corps (Army Air Forces) to determine if African Americans had the mental and physical abilities to lead, fly military aircraft, and courage to fight in the war.
The Airmen were not just pilots. They were technicians, radio operators, medical personnel, quartermasters, parachute riggers, mechanics, bombardiers, navigators, meteorologists, control tower operators, dispatchers, cooks, and others. Also included were Caucasian officers, Native Americans, Caribbean Islanders, Latinos, and people of mixed racial heritage.
The Tuskegee Airmen carried out their duties – and more. They often excelled and performed heroic acts.
The Tuskegee Airmen helped defeat Nazi Germany. And in 1948, they won a major battle at home against Jim Crow when President Harry S Truman signed Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the U.S. military. In total, they received over 850 awards and decorations, including 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, 744 Air Medals, 8 Purple Hearts, at least one Silver Star, and 3 Presidential Unit Citations. To honor the Tuskegee Airmen during the Clinton Presidential Administration, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site was established on November 6, 1998, to commemorate the place used between 1941 and 1945 to train over 1,000 African American aviators for the war effort.
In 2008, the Tuskegee Airmen were inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame. These weren't the only awards they received. Additionally, these brave men and women were given the highest civilian honor in the country by accepting the Congressional Gold Medal. On January 4, 2021, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is scheduled to be the 56th and final quarter in the America the Beautiful Quarters series through the U.S. Mint.The Tuskegee Airmen kept fighting for equality after World War II. Their work during and after the war inspired and touched many lives.How have the Tuskegee Airmen inspired you? How have their bravery and sacrifice influenced your life?