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 11, 2011

The Ground-Based Tuskegee Airmen

     Today we're presenting a "slide show" about the soldiers who supported the pilots who graduated from Tuskegee.  Thanks to the Chanute Air Museum, which has an amazing archive of WWII photos of the Tuskegee Airmen in the field, the narrative will be minimal and the eye-candy will be maximized.  
     Before the first cadet even began his flight training at Tuskegee, 250 young black men began to learn aircraft ground support trades at Chanute Air Field in Rantoul, IL as part of the newly formed 99th Pursuit Squadron.  They and thousands more would support the pilots and their airplanes in North Africa and Italy from 1942 until the war's end in 1945.  

Here we go ... (captions will always precede the pictures)

Members of the 99th trained in administration at Chanute Air Field

Anthony Jones learned sheet metal
Field Communications were taught inside and out...

The 99th's Air Mechanics celebrated their graduation at Chanute

Communications Officer Dudley Stephenson was one of seven young men in the first 99th communications class.  This picture was taken in North Africa. 

This is line chief Ellsworth H. Dansby.  The line chief was responsible for all of the mechanics and all of the work done on the squadron's aircraft.  His crews worked mostly outside, in all weather, knowing that the quality of their work could determine if the pilot returned safely. This picture was taken in North Africa where the crews dealt with hot days, cold nights, blowing sand and the enemy.

A ground crew taking a "cooling off" break by a P-40 Warhawk in North Africa

A mechanic works on a P-51C Mustang's landing gear - note the wing jack

William McCool washes a P-51 Mustang

After the airplane is deemed fit to fly, it's time for the armament teams to go to work

Armament specialists bore sight a machine gun

This armorer is loading .50 caliber shells for the P-51C Mustang's machine gun.  Wonder how much that bullet belt weighed...

You may recall last week's blog talked about the first graduating class at Tuskegee.  As noted, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. went on to lead the 99th.  Here's a picture of him (third from left), along with his classmate (and second in command), Operations Officer George Roberts (fifth from left) with others.  They are standing by Davis' own P-51C Mustang, "By Request".  The name reflects how the Tuskegee Airmen were requested by bomber pilots to protect them on their missions.  The CAF Red Tail Project's P-51C Mustang also has "By Request" painted on it- up by the windscreen - to honor Davis and the 99th.

That's it for this week - next week we'll have pictures of life in camp and more.

If you enjoyed this, would a couple of you please leave a comment?  I'm not seeing that we have any comments on any of our blog entries.  This means either everyone is very shy or the function is not working.  I'd like to test it with your help. (Your comments do not have to be complimentary!)   Thank you.

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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