Tuskegee Airmen Awarded the Congressional Gold Medal

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    In Reco of TheirUnique Record:' _Tuskegee irmen wardedthe Congressional Gold Medal -

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    (Overleaf) President

    George W. Bush presentsthe Congressional GoldMedal to the TuskeegeeAirmen, accompanied bySpeaker of the House,Nancy P. Pelosi and SenatePresident Pro TemporeRobert C.By rd.

    (Above) Tuskegee Airmenpilots of the 99th FighterSquadron pose beside oneof their squadron s aircraft.

    IN 194 1 ,P R E S I D E N TFRANKLIN D .R O O S E V E LTO V E R R U L E DHIS TOPG E N E R A L SA N DO R D E R E DTH E

    CREATION O FA N A L LBLACKFLIGHTTRAININGP R O G R A M

    n Thursday March 29, 2007, the TuskegeeAirmen were awarded a CongressionalGold Medal by President George W. Bush

    in the Capitol Rotunda. The President was accom-panied by the leaders of the United StatesCongress and spoke in front of more than 350 of theW orld W ar II veterans. It was, indeed, an emotionalevent, and those honored were rightly proud. Bothhouses of Congress had passed legislation: Toaward a congressional gold medal on behalf of theTuskegee Airmen collectively, in recognition oftheir unique record, which inspired revolutionaryreform in the Armed Forces.

    It viras undeniably a unique record and

    achieved in the face of unmitigated prejudice. Thelegislation explicitly exposed the bigotry of the pre-W orld W ar II U.S. Army by citing repo rts completedby the Army W ar College of 1920s and 1930s: Studies comm issioned by the Army W ar Collegebetween 1924 and 1939 concluded Blacks wereunfit for leadership roles and incapable of avia-tion. It was worse than the legislation indicated,however, because the analyses were openly racist.

    Then as now, the W ar College was an institu-tion reserved for those officers destined for seniorrank. These executives asserted blacks were a mentally inferior subspecies, low in the scale of human evolution with a smaller cranium tha n

    whites and a brain that weighed only 35 ouncescontrasted with 45 for the whites. In the1924/1925 study the entire student body and fac-

    ulty worked on this analysis to outline recodations for the Army Chief of Staff regardiuse of blacks in war. Nine other such studiewritten d uring the interwar years, the last inEJI of which were savagely racist. In additionpseudo-scientific rant above, other deeply generalizations were made, including the nthat blacks were lying, thieving, immorainherently cowardly. Ail of the reports callstrict racial segregation and argued blacks d

    respect officers of their own race and, thehad to be commanded solely by whites. It wathis stage th e Tuskegee Airmen were asked form agains t the Germ an Air Forcethe Luftw

    The Bill passed by the Congress noted thlowing; In 1941, President F rank lin D. Rooverruled his top generals and ordered the crof an all Black flight training program. It is to understtmd Roosevelt's role because hadbeen for his action, there would be no gold presentation. The Army Air Service/Air Army Air Forces repeatedly and adamantlrefused to enlist blacks in any specialty or rolaviators and all their enlisted supporterswhite. Presidential electoral politics change

    In the election of 1932, for the first timethe end of the Civil W ar, a Democratic Party cdate won the black vote, and Roosevelt mainhis hold on the black constituency in the elec1936. In 1940, Roosevelt runnin g for an undented third term was challenged by a civiladvocate, W endell W ilkie. Roosevelt did not lose the black constituency, and promised elected he would create a black flying organizHe w as and he did. The Air Corps grudgingated a single pursuit squadron, the 99th, fNation's entire black population. Out of that

    however grew a mighty oak.:Let's be clear about the political basis

    Tuskegee Airmen: Roosevelt did not ordArmy to begin training blacks because he ththey deserved the opportimity; he did it becadesired reelection. For many years prior to W ar II, black leade rs and the ir organiza tionthe National Association for the AdvancemColored People (NAACP) had pushed the isblacks in aviation, believing once blackdemonstrated the abihty to succeed in thetechnical of military arts, racial integration not long be denied. The NAACP and leading

    papers, like the Pittsburgh Courier applied cal pressure on the President, and it workedThe Army Air Forces later expanded Tus

    D r. Alan Gropman is Tlie Distinguished Professor o f National S ecurity Policy at the Industrial Cof the Armed Forces National Defense University. He has written often about the Tuskegee Airmis the autho r of The Air Force Integrate s, 1945 - 1964, and several other books. He is an Air Forceeran o f tiventy seven years service with two tours in Vietnam where he flew more than 670 combsions. He holds the Defense Superior Service Medal Legion of Merit D istinguished Flying CMed al with five oak leaf clusters and Vietnam Cross o f Gallantry with Palm among other awardecora tions. H e is a charter member of the Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated served on all of the TAirmen Gold Medal Com mittees and was present at the ceremony described in the article.

    AIR POWE R history / SUMME

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    skegee Airmen pilots ofe 99lh Fighter Squadronse beside one of theiruadron s aircraft,rigin l photo located at

    Q AETC/HO, RandolphFB, Texas.

    THEY] CAMEHOME W ITH

    50 DISTING-UISHEDFLYINGC R O S S E SBRONZES TA R SSILVERS TA R S A N DLEGIONS OFMERIT

    to train pilots for the 332d Fighter Group and the477th Medium Bombardment Group. Navigatorsand bombardiers were trained elsewhere as werethe thousands of enlisted personnel who flew asbomber crewmembers or worked in support rolessuch as maintenance. The legislation and the goldmedal design consider all of the people trained atTuskegee Army Airfield or who flew in these orga-nizations as Tuskegee Airmen. Look at tbe GroldMedal illustration(see page 51): on the front is abomber crewniember and a fighter pilot, and inbetween them an enlisted man. On the reverse sideare three of the main airplanes: the P40, P-51 andB-25 . Tbe last had several enlisted crewmembersand all of them were maintained by enlisted men.

    The legislation specifically mentions the 992black pilots who graduated from Tuskegee ArmyAirfield (hence the name Tuskegee Airmen), 450 ofwhom served in combat. The Bill also praises theaccomplishments of the combat aviators: Tbe 99thFighter Squadron, after having distinguished itselfover North Africa, Sicily and Italy, joined 3 otherBlack squadrons, the 100th, 301st and the 302d,designated as tbe 332d Fighter Group. . . . FromItalian Bases, they destroyed many enemy targetson the ground and at sea, including a Germandestroyer in strafing attacks, and they destroyednumerous enemy aircraft in the air and on the

    ground. Not without cost 66 of these pilots werekilled in comhat, while another 32 were . . . cap-tured and became prisoners of war. Tbe pilots came home with 150 Distinguished FlyingCrosses, Bronze Stars, Silver Stars, and Legions ofMerit, a Presidential Unit Citation, and the RedStar of Yugoslavia. The Bill noted the racial pio-neers overcame the enormous challenges of preju-dice and discrimination, succeeding, despite obsta-cles that threatened failure.

    Tben the legislation called attention to theother Tuskegee Airmen. For every Black pilot,there were 12 other civilian or military Black men

    and women performing ground support duties.Many of these men and women remained in themilitary service during the post-World War II era..

    u

    In addition to the thousands of support per-sonnel, there was another black flying organiza-tion, although, unlike the 99th and 332d, its com-mander was white, and, unfortunately a higot. Thelegislation states: Other Black pilots, navigators,bombardiers and crewmen . . . were trained formedium bombardment duty as tbe 477th BomberGroup (Medium) . . . . This unit, however, neversaw combat because the group commander drove itinto mutiny and arrested about half of bis pilots,navigators and navigator bombardiers.

    In the spring of 1945 tbe officers of tbe Group,stationed at Freeman Army Airfield, Indiana,mutinied against the orders of their segregationistgroup commander and entered an illegal whites-only officer's club, and sixty-one of the officers werearrested.

    Think about that, reader. The United Stateswas in the midst of a long war of enormous conse-quence, and a commander illegally created a segre-gated officer's club against Army regulationsand then bad tbe temerity to arrest those whoprotested his illegitimate orders.

    It gets worse. The colonel, after arresting sixty-

    one pilots, navigators and navigator-bombardiersthen ordered all officers to testify, in writing, thatbe had not discriminated on the basis of race in bisofficer's club segregation. One hundred and oneblack officers disobeyed bis orders to so testify. So,he arrested them too and utterly crippled the477th. The Army Air Forces Inspector Generalcame to Freeman Field to investigate. He foundthat the group commander had operated illegally.The IG freed all but three of tbe officers (those notfreed had allegedly knocked down a senior (officer)and recommended the group commander be fired,which he was, effectively ending his career.

    Am POWER iHistory SUMMER 2007

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    bove) President Bushlutes the Tuskeegeermen.

    eft) Members of the fir