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.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Ground-Based Tuskegee Airmen - Part 2

   Today we conclude the two-part series about the men of the 99th Pursuit Squadron who trained as aviation ground support members at Chanute Air Field in Illinois during WWII.   Although they were not pilots, they and thousands of other support personnel are also known as "Tuskegee Airmen."
     Last week's blog featured some of the marvelous photos from the Chanute Air Museum's collection showing the men in training and at work.  This week, the photos will show more of what the members of the 99th and the 332nd Fighter Group experienced while stationed in North Africa and Italy.
     Captions  appear above the photo - hope you enjoy them!

Music helped to pass the time.

A Matchless British motorcycle with an American - George T. McCrumby - on board. You can see part of "99th" painted on the gas tank under his right hand.

Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis visited the 332nd.  Although he was an enlisted man, most of Louis' war experience involved celebrity appearances.  Louis was known as the "Brown Bomber" during his career and was heavyweight champ from 1937 to 1949  He successfully defended his title 25 times, including 13 bouts from January 1939 through May 1941. That's 13 bouts in 17 months!

Church was important.  Here's a chapel service.  The leader of the 99th, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. is on the right with his arms folded across his chest.

Chaplains were assigned to all of the black units.  Here is Chaplain Cyrus W. Perry from the 332nd with a colleague.

Life could get serious very quickly in an air combat unit.  The ambulance crews were well-trained and ready for action at a moment's notice.

This Mustang met the ground a bit too heavily when the gear failed.

The Tuskegee Airmen were exceptional fighter pilots, but despite their best efforts, some  died in the line of duty.  Erwin B. Lawrence was the 3rd CO of the 99th after Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. and George Roberts. He died in the air over Rome on October 4, 1944.

Living conditions weren't always perfect, either.  For instance, it could get very muddy in Italy.

The Tuskegee Airmen racked up a lot of citations and medals as they flew and fought in the skies over Africa and Europe.  Here, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. presents Bronze Stars to members of the 332nd.

Davis also received awards.  In this photo, his father, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. - the only other black line officer in the U.S. Army - pins the Distinguished Flying Cross on his son.

Proud papa - Ben Davis, Sr.

     For every one of the thousands of Tuskegee Airmen, there was a network of family and friends back home loving them, supporting them and praying for their safe return.   Air war tactics have changed over the years - think unmanned drones - but the basics have not.  Even in the 21st century, when men (and now women) go to war, loved ones still love them, support them and pray for their safe return.

The CAF Red Tail Project is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit

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