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, May 6, 2011

Aviation Pioneer Eleanor Roosevelt (!)

     Since it's almost Mother's Day, I thought it would be appropriate to have today's blog feature a woman who gave birth to six children in the space of ten years (!) while supporting her husband's (and her husband's mother's...) political ambitions.  The ultimate multi-tasker, Eleanor Roosevelt became the First Lady of the United States in 1933 and was a tireless crusader for civil rights as well as an advocate for women.
     It was while she was First Lady that Mrs. Roosevelt did something that surprised the nation and would have a far-reaching impact on the U.S. military establishment:  She took an airplane ride.   While visiting Tuskegee, Alabama in March, 1941 to see the work being done at the Tuskegee Institute, she also visited the Tuskegee Army Air Field which was close by.  When she expressed a wish to take a ride in an airplane piloted by a black man, TAAF flight instructor Alfred "Chief" Anderson stepped up. 
     According to the book A-Train by Tuskegee Airman Charles W. Dryden, Mrs. Roosevelt told Anderson, "I always heard Negroes couldn't fly and I wondered if you'd mind taking me up."   It is reported that they  flew over the hills and fields of Alabama in Anderson's little Piper Cub for quite awhile.  When they landed, Mrs. Roosevelt said, "Well, you can fly alright" and asked that a photograph be taken of her with Chief Anderson in the airplane.

      After that experience, Mrs. Roosevelt added her voice to those who were urging her husband to send the Tuskegee-trained pilots of the 99th Fighter Squadron into combat.  The 99th finally shipped out for North Africa in April, 1943.
     Besides quietly supporting the flight training program at Tuskegee, she also corresponded with a young Tuskegee Airmen named Cecil Peterson while he was at Tuskegee.  Peterson was chosen at random to receive Mrs. Roosevelt's letters, but he evidently did answer them.  For a sample of that formal yet friendly correspondence, click here.
    NOTE: The CAF Red Tail Project's online store carries Charles Dryden's book A-Train.  All proceeds from purchases at the online store benefit the Project's educational mission.  Click here to shop.

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

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