Tuskegee Airmen: Patterns in the Sky

“You can be anything you set your mind to. The only true obstacle is you.”    -Joseph Philip Gomer, Tuskegee Airman

Quilt created by Vivian L. McCullin for National Museum of African American History and Culture
Memorial Quilt for Tuskegee Airman 2d Lt. James McCullin

The story of the Tuskegee Airman delves into the very fabric of life. It is not as much about the bravery and courage of airmen in WWII battles of the air as it is about the will, intelligence and fortitude of men in a nonviolent struggle against segregation. The thread of opportunity that runs in our military today is a tribute to their running stitches of airmanship under fire.

The Tuskegee Airmen were formed in 1941 in Tuskegee, Alabama. The program graduated 932 pilots, but the 355 who were deployed as fighter pilots were the result of a fussy cut to find the best men who would be able to resist prejudice and discrimination in combat and at home. This was known as the “Double Victory.” The men were stitched together in their resolve to serve with distinction in every theatre.  As a group, the Airmen earned three Distinguished Unit Citations, eight Purple Hearts, fourteen Bronze Stars, and 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses. They flew over 15,000 sorties that provided borders of safety for the bombers.

“I wanted to fly for the love of flying. The good we did, it’s really astounding and pleasing”, recalls Lieutenant Colonel Hiram Mann, Tuskegee pilot.

Red Tails

The Red Tails became the trademark P-51 and P-47 aircraft flown by the Tuskegee airmen. The tails of their planes were painted red for identification purposes, earning them the enduring nickname “Red Tails”.  Their symmetrical flying patterns as they protected bombers were so effective that the Red Tails’ escort services were requested. Only infrequently did they break their ranks and fly in free motion in the sky with enemy planes. The binding maneuvers that were their trademark under fire brought them an enviable success rate as bomber escorts.

From the blog: Our RV Adventures– The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati

The Red Tail organization, Rise Above, has this creed: Aim high, believe in yourself, use your brain, never quit, be ready to go, expect to win.

Honoring Our Vets

Quilts of Valor honor s Robert Holts, one of the last known Tuskegee airman
Photo by Cheynne Alexis

The comforting folds of lovingly stitched fabrics hug many of the Tuskegee Airmen. Organizations like Quilts of Valor seek out these one-of-a-kind men to honor with masterpieces of design. After the extraordinary service of these airmen in WWII, they returned to a country where prejudice and racism still held sway. But their contribution to preparing the nation for racial integration in the military is monumental. Future generations of young men and women benefitted from the perseverance of these airmen to weave equality into the weft and warp of American life.

We were fighting two battles. I flew for my parents, for my race, for our battle for first-class citizenship and for my country. We were fighting for the millions of black Americans back home. We were there to break down barriers, open a few doors, and do a job.”   -Joseph Philip Gomer, Tuskegee Airman

Photo from Missedinhistory.com

Everything’s  A Challenge

Through Adversity, To The Stars

To The Last Plane

To The Last Bullet

To the Last Minute

To the Last Man

WE FIGHT, WE FIGHT

WE FIGHT, WE FIGHT

WE FIGHT!!!

-Red Tails

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