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Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Memorial was established in 1999 as part of the “Aerospace: Walk of Honor.” It is located immediately adjacent to the Western Hotel Museum and can be viewed from Lancaster Boulevard. The plaque depicts a P-51 North American “Mustang” in flight.

At the beginning of World War Two, the United States military was still highly segregated and many jobs within the US armed forces were restricted from minorities. With social pressure from the Black community and an ever-increasing need for capable pilots, the military enlisted approximately 1,000 Black men as fighter pilots. These men trained at a base near the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and were sent overseas as the first African-American fighting squadron.

The first Tuskegee combat squadrons were tasked with harassing enemy supply lines in North Africa. As the war progressed, the Tuskegee airmen continued to distinguish themselves as excellent fighter pilots.

Eventually, they were entrusted with increased responsibility and began flying missions in Italy and Germany.

In 1944, the Tuskegee Airmen started painting the tails of their aircraft red. From this act, the famous nickname of “red tails” was coined. At that point in the war, the Tuskegee Airmen were mainly tasked

with escorting bomber crews through heavily defended, Nazi-controlled skies. These bombing runs were of extreme importance to the allied war effort and had a profound impact on enemy morale and manufacturing potential.

The Tuskegee Airmen were so successful that the bomber crews they escorted began referring to them as “Redtail Angels.” By the end of World War 2, the Tuskegee Airmen had flown more than 1,500 missions, shot down over 400 aircraft, and never lost a single bomber aircraft to enemy fighters.

Photos courtesy of MOAH Collections


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