Throughout modern history, African Americans have played a crucial role in the success of the U.S. military. This is despite being systematically denied leadership roles and skilled training due to the belief that they needed more qualifications for combat duty. This all changed in 1941 after civil rights organizations and black media outlets put pressure on the Government, which resulted in the formation of an all Black squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama. They would soon be known as the Tuskegee Airman.
The creation, and those who were a part of this all-black pursuit squadron, was commonly referred to as the “Tuskegee Experiment”, which required the Army Air Corps (AAC) program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircrafts. The Tuskegee Airman were a group of pilots, bombardiers, navigators, maintenance staff, and instructors who all did their part of keeping the planes in the air.
Time and time again, the Tuskegee Airman had to prove themselves as capable, if not more, than their white counterparts. Over the course of WWII, they flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa, achieving great feats along the way. By the time they flew their last combat mission, the Tuskegee Airman had destroyed over 36 German planes in the air, 237 on the ground, and over 1,000 rail cars and transport vehicles. This solidified their status as one of the greatest pursuit squadrons in U.S. military history.
The Tuskegee Airman paved the way for cultural change within the military, which led to complete integration by 1948, creating a lasting legacy of great African-American service members.