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, April 15, 2011

The 1925 Army War College Report

     When researching information about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, I'd often seen references to the 1925 Army War College Report called The Use of Negro Manpower in War.  This report set the tone for how black men were treated in the US military until the "Tuskegee Experiment" was put in place in 1941.
     I had heard the report contained incorrect assumptions about black men's ability to serve but reading the whole thing is definitely an eye-opener.  It really brings home what the pilots who became known as the Tuskegee Airmen accomplished through perseverance and plain old hard work when you read what the military thought of the black soldier after WWI was over.  
     Some of the ideas driving the unbelievably hurtful generalizations (all phrases and sentences seen in quotes are sic):

1. Black men are "very low in the scale of human evolution;" the "cranial cavity of the Negro is smaller than the white"  and his brain weighs less.  (p. 13)

2. The Southern Negro did not have the stamina to thrive in cold, rigorous climates [during wartime]. (p. 12)

3. "The intelligence of the Negro is shown in his inability to compete with the white in professions and other activity in peace time when mental equipment is an essential for success." (p. 13)

4.  "The Negro is by nature subservient and believes himself to be inferior to the white man.  He is most   susceptible to the influence of crowd psychology.  He cannot control himself in the face of danger to  the extent the white man can.  He has not the initiative and resourcefulness of the white man.  He is mentally inferior to the white man." (p. 8)

5. "In general, the Negro is jolly, docile and tractable, and lively but with harsh or unkind treatment can become stubborn, sullen and unruly." (p. 17)

     That last phrase would be an apt description of anyone's reaction to being treated badly!

     But enough. The 67-page report has hundreds of words that belittle an entire American population but it is important to consider the times in which it was written.  At the same time, it is also interesting to note that the authors did not say that black men should not be allowed to serve in the military.  Rather, they were quite specific about how black officer candidates should be trained (segregated in everything but the classroom) and serve (always under a white officer).  It also noted that the black rank and file would continue to be serviceable as combat troops and support personnel such as cooks and waiters, and on the communication lines.
     The point in very briefly discussing this report in today's blog is threefold.  One, to show that it really does exist and it is available online for anyone to read.  Two, it's important to recognize that this report was an official document of the US Army and its words helped to form its segregationist policies for many years.  Three, it reinforces how amazing it was that the Army Air Corps finally capitulated to pressure from the black population and political groups and gave the OK to set up a base to train black men to be military pilots - the Tuskegee Airmen.

The Commemorative Air Force's Red Tail Project is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization. For more information, please visit redtail.org.

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