Today's servicemembers meet nation's forefathers

9 Feb 2001 | Sgt. Bobbie J. Bryant

Members of the Wilson V. Eagleson Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated are scheduled to be honored guests during Camp Johnson's celebration of Black History Month Feb. 27 and 28.

A free showing of the movie "Tuskegee Airmen," which is open to the public with a reservation, is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Field Medical Service School Auditorium, Building M104.

The guest speaker and spokesperson for the Tuskegee Airmen, Leonard "Hawk" Hunter of Raleigh, along with other members will be on hand for an open discussion about what it was really like during their service and the challenges they faced. 

"It is important that the young Marines and Sailors know the story of the Tuskegee Airmen because back then blacks were not allowed in the Marine Corps, and the Tuskegee Airmen were instrumental in the desegregation of the armed services in 1948," Hunter said.

"When bomber crews were chosen to fly deadly missions deep inside Germany, there was just one request from the pilots and crew: 'Let us have the Tuskegee airmen flying with us,'" it states in a 1998 Tuskegee News article.

The airmen who flew the fighter planes protected the fully-loaded, slow-flying
bombers.  The bomber pilots requested those men because they knew how to fly, protect and blow the German fighter planes out of the sky, according to the article.

The Tuskegee airmen, nicknamed 'Lonely Eagles,' overcame the "separate but equal" conditions that the United States Army sanctioned to become one of the most highly respected and honored fighter groups, the article stated.

According to official military documents, the men of the 99th Fighter Group completed 1,578 missions, destroyed more than 260 enemy aircraft, sank one enemy destroyer and destroyed numerous enemy installations.

Also, the men of the 332nd Fighter Group never lost a bomber to enemy fighters while escorting 15th Air Force bombing missions.  This earned the respect of American bomber crews who later called them "Red-Tailed Angels."  The Germans also called the men "Schwartze Vogelmenschen," or "Black Airmen," the article stated.

The Tuskegee Airmen received 95 Distinguished Flying Crosses, as well as Legions of Merit, Silver Stars, Purple Hearts, the Croix DeGuerre and the Red Star of Yugoslavia for their exploits.

However, the airmen were not the only black heroes during that time.

"The Bomber Group was equally as good as the Tuskegee Airmen but didn't get a chance to go to war," Hunter said.  "Females were also at Tuskegee and their roles were just as important, if not more so, than the fighter pilots."

Today members of the Tuskegee Airmen travel to different schools and events to inform youth about the struggles and accomplishments of these men and other black servicemembers who paved the way so other black Americans could become effective military leaders and combat veterans, according to Hunter.

The struggles of this nation's forefathers have brought about change for black men and women in the military, according to Hunter.

"There have been many changes since I first enlisted.  An important change is the way that blacks can be promoted now.  I was in for 23 years and was promoted to E-6.  Today you see two-star generals, colonels and chiefs.  For black men and women, those ranks were unheard of when I was in," Hunter continued.

These men and women will be on Camp Johnson to help preserve their history, and their fight to join the Army Air Corps and to prove their worth to their country.  They will also help educate the younger generation about their struggle for equal rights both in the military and in society, according to Hunter.

For those who would like to attend the event Feb. 27, contact Capt. Melvin Wooding at 450-0977 for advanced reservations.