HISTORY CHALLENGE
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TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

In 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 which called for "equality of treatment and opportunity" in the armed forces.  On March 7, 1942, young Black pilots stood at attention at Tuskegee Army air Fields "lone runway" in Alabama.  It was at this historic graduation exercise that these men were inducted into the Army Air Corps.  Having won the right to fight, the Tuskegee airmen moved to the European Theatre, under LTC Davis Jr., they had their first "taste of combat" against the highly fortified Sicilian island of Pantelleria.  The successful assault on the island marked another first: "air power alone...completely destroyed all enemy resistance."  Having entered Sicily, they participated in the most famous battles of the Italian peninsula: the invasion of Salerno and Anzio, the battles of Monte Cassino, and Rome; and then in southern Franc, Greece, the Balkans, and finally Germany- all the while fulfilling with heroic deeds, the goals inherent in their struggle for "the right to fight". 

Their achievements, dead or alive, they consecrated the final goal: the attainment of a complete and lasting integration of the United States Armed Forces specifically and of American society in general.  "There were many who felt that integration would not work," Mr. Francis, author of "The Tuskegee Airmen The Men Who changed a Nation", observed and concluded that it "advanced beyond the hope of the most optimistic experiments of integration.  Negro officers and enlisted men were given the same privileges as whites and treated as individuals rather than as a race."  The crowning glory to this attainment can be seen in the many important positions held by Black American men and women in every service and every branch, and the Tuskegee Airmen, in no small measure, made it all possible.

 

Revised: July 18, 2013.