Profile - The CAF Red Tail Project

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South St. Paul, MN, United States
The mission of the Commemorative Air Force's (CAF) Red Tail Squadron is to preserve and share the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military pilots. The Airmen served with distinction during WWII (and beyond). They overcame racism on the ground to fight fascism in the air, fighting for a country that turned a blind eye to policies and a large population that discriminated against these men and their families because of the color of their skin. The CAF Red Tail Squadron restored and flies a red-tailed P-51C Mustang such as the Airmen flew during WWII. The airplane appears at air shows in North America and at each stop her crew tells the story of the Airmen and how through persistence and courage they overcame huge obstacles in order to serve in the military. In 2011, the CAF Red Tail Squadron developed a traveling exhibit called "RISE ABOVE" to educate people - especially young people - about the Airmen and how they demonstrated the importance of setting goals and overcoming obstacles in order to succeed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Salute To Shopping

     Congratulations to everyone who actually scored what they wanted yesterday during the shopping commotion that is commonly known as "Black Friday." Surprisingly, "Black" does not refer to the mood of shoppers after they've spent the best part of a day traipsing from mall to store to big box retailer after awakening at 3 a.m. in order to try and take advantage of the "quantities limited" doorbuster deals at 4 a.m. Rather, it's how economists have labeled what the shopping frenzy is supposed to do for retailers - put their earnings in the black [ink] thanks to the dollars that are rolling in from the shoppers.
     Folks in the military have another shopping option besides braving the crowds (assuming they are even stationed near a city with shopping). That would be the "PX" or Post Exchange (Army), "BX" (Base Exchange) for the Air Force, "NEX" (Navy Exchange), "MCX" (Marine Corps Exchange) and "CGX" (Coast Guard Exchange). Unlike its military grocery counterpart - the commissary - an exchange doesn't receive federal government subsidies and is operated like a for-profit department store. Any money left over after paying salaries and other expenses is typically given over to local activities that help build and maintain morale for base personnel and their families.
     As has been mentioned a couple of times in this blog, the CAF Red Tail Project has an online store. We don't have a catchy name for it - maybe we could call it the RTX! - but we're not shy about the fact that we do want to sell products and make a profit. Like the other "X"s, any money left over after paying our suppliers is plowed back into activities that benefit a lot of folks.  These include keeping the P-51C Mustang flying (unusual live-and-in-person history lesson for WWII, history and aviation buffs), nurturing educational relationships with schools (thinking "outside the book"), and building the RISE ABOVE traveling exhibit (taking the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen to people across the country).
     Whether you shopped at an "X" yesterday or hit the other commercial stores, we hope you'll check out our online store, too.  It's a great place to find unique and useful gifts that any recipient would be thrilled to discover under the tree in just five short weeks!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Bits and Other Gifts

     Like a lot of non-profits, the CAF Red Tail Project sells things through its website to raise money for its mission.  Our online "store" features unique items like Red Tail Project dog tags and Tuskegee Airmen playing cards as well as high-quality RTP-logoed clothing items for all ages, beautiful aviation-related art prints, and books about and by Tuskegee Airmen.
     Today, as the holiday shopping season continues, we'd like to say a few words about two of the books we stock because they make awesome gifts:

     A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman  is an autobiography by Tuskegee Airman Charles W. Dryden (1920-2008) with a foreword by Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the man who commanded the Tuskegee Airmen during WWII and ultimately became the first black to ever attain the rank of General.   The book starts off with a bang as Dryden describes being court-martialed for buzzing the tower in 1944. 
     From that low point in his life (spoiler alert - it ends well, though), he jumps back to his early childhood and relates his life experiences - his lifelong desire to become a pilot, his rigorous training at Tuskegee, his experiences serving as a black pilot in the highly segregated U.S. Army Air Corps, and his post-war careers.   This is not a "guns blazing, I shot at the Luftwaffe pilot as I went into a steep dive" type of book.  Rather, it is a thoughtful recounting of a black man's journey towards an initial goal - to be able to fly and fight for his country - and the high and low points of that journey which expanded to include fighting segregation and bias wherever he found it. 
(published 2002; 440 pages)

Tuskegee Airman (4th edition) is the biography of Tuskegee Airman USAF Col. (ret) Charles E. McGee (1919- ) written by his daughter, Charlene E. McGee Smith, PhD.  Like so many of the Tuskegee Airmen, McGee's life story is one of perseverance in the face of huge obstacles facing him and his peers as they tried to reach their goals simply because their skin was black. After his experiences as a fighter pilot in WWII - where he flew a P-51 named "Kitten" after his wife and his flight mechanic who "kept the airplane purring" -  he remained in the Air Force.  When he retired in 1973, he had the highest three-war total of fighter missions of any aviator - 409. 
     Since his retirement from the military, Col McGee has been a tireless advocate of the importance of family values, love of country, and the value of getting an education.  He has also been a staunch supporter of the CAF Red Tail Project since its inception 15 years ago.
(published 1999, 2008; 244 pages)  

     These are just a couple of the great items for sale at our online store. If you (or someone you know) love history, airplanes, art prints, or quality clothing and hats, we hope you'll shop with us this holiday season.  All proceeds benefit the CAF Red Tail Project's mission of preserving the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Staying In Touch With Social Media

     For at least 15 years, the CAF Red Tail Project has been all about restoring (twice) its rare red-tailed P51-C Mustang in order to use it as a tool to create interest in the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.  This mission has involved two things - fundraising and in-the-trenches hard work with rivets, welders, wires, etc.   
     Communication with supporters was accomplished via informal conversations at air shows and hangars, reports at meetings, publicity CDs (after the airplane was rebuilt the first time), the website ( and newsletters.
     Over the past few months, the Project has gotten its wings regarding using social media - like this blog - to keep people informed about what's going on with the Project.  The Project is on LinkedIn and Twitter. 
     A word about our Twitter account.  It has sort of languished with entries being sporadic at best.  That has changed - effective November 10 we now have Twitter entries each weekday.  We promise to get the most out of our allotment of 140 characters while we fill you in on news and information about the CAF Red Tail Project and related topics.  We hope you'll follow us, share the link and tweet back as you feel appropriate.  Of course, you can also comment back to us about this blog so don't be a stranger. 
     "Talk" to you soon - have a great week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Meaningful Juxtaposition

     Tomorrow at midnight we Americans are, by the calendar, about equidistant between Election Day (just held on Tuesday, November 2) and Veterans Day (coming up on Thursday, November 11). 
     Kudos to everyone who voted on Tuesday!  The privilege to cast a confidential ballot is one of the rights that the American veterans we honor next Thursday served, fought and died for over the past 235 years.
     As black men, the Tuskegee Airmen had the right to vote per the 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was passed in 1870.  Their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters were guaranteed the right to vote per the 19th Amendment - that one gave the vote to women - which was ratified in 1920.  However, harsh and demeaning segregation practices were still deeply entrenched in the U.S. -  particularly in the South - through the first half of the 20th century.  Thus it wasn't really until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s that voting rights were recognized and protected for black voters of both genders.
     The point of mentioning this is to remark yet again on how in the early 1940s, the young black men who would eventually become known as the Tuskegee Airmen were determined to fly and fight for a country that on paper gave them certain rights yet in reality discriminated against them because of the color of their skin.  Tuskegee Airman Major (ret.) Joseph P. Gomer has said that the Airmen wanted to fight against the Axis powers in WWII because "this was the only country we had."  This attitude prevailed among the Airmen despite the slights they experienced such as not having salutes returned even though they were military officers and seeing German POWs being treated better than they were as returning veterans who happened to be black.
     This Veterans Day, we honor all the American men and women who have served (and are serving) in the military.  Many overcame obstacles based on skin color, gender and circumstance to serve the country they loved. We owe them all more than words can say.