The U.S. government sponsored African-American flight training in 1939 with the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) Act. Administered by the Civilian Aeronautics Association (CAA), the Act authorized selected schools to offer CPT primary flight training for pilots in case of a national emergency.
The War Department announced the creation of the Army Air Corps 99th Pursuit Squadron – the nation's first African American flying unit. The 99th Pursuit Squadron trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Ms. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, visited Kennedy Field, in Tuskegee, Alabama and was taken up in an aircraft piloted by Chief C. Alfred Anderson, Tuskegee Institute’s chief instructor pilot.
The U.S. Army Air Corps activated the famed African-American aviation unit known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
The first class of African-American pilots at Tuskegee Army Air Field completed advanced pilot training and received their wings on this day.
oughly 450 men joined the 99th Pursuit Squadron, initially led by whites but later ably commanded by then Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. who also took charge of the all-black 477th Bombardment Group in 1945. The 99th and the 332nd Fighter Group saw action in North Africa and Italy where they distinguished themselves winning hundreds of decorations for skill and gallantry in combat. Flying P-39 Airacobras, Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, P-47 Thunderbolts and, lastly, P-51 Mustangs, among the feats of the fighter pilots who flew more than 15,000 sorties was the downing of more than 100 enemy aircraft in aerial combat including three of Germanys fearsome ME-262, the world’s first operational fighter jet; demolishing nearly 150 enemy planes on the ground; and ruining an Italian destroyer that had been converted to a German torpedo boat.
Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron, replacing Lieutenant George S. Roberts in that position.
Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., was the first black to solo an aircraft as a U.S. Army Air Corps officer.
Six pilots of the 99th Fighter Squadron became the first U.S. black pilots to engage in aerial combat. Led by Lt. Charles Dryden, Lt. Willie Ashley, Sidney P. Brooks, Lee Rayford, Leon Roberts and Spann Watson-- exchanged fire with German fighter planes, with no losses to either side.
The Italian garrison on Pantelleria surrendered, mainly due to the powerful air attacks it had been subjected to. The 99th was a key part of the air assault.
1st Lieutenant Charles Blakesly Hall was the first of the famous “Tuskegee Airmen” to shoot down an enemy airplane during World War II. At the time the 99th was based at El Haouaria Airfield on the coast of Tunisia and was patrolling the island of Sicily. The squadron’s primary mission was ground attack.
The 99th was joined with three other Squadrons: the 100th, 301st and the 302nd to form the 332nd Fighter Group. These were all-black squadrons, all trained at Tuskegee. The veterans of the 99th resented the newcomers somewhat, but those issues soon worked themselves out. The Group transitioned to Mustangs at this time, decorating them with bright red spinners and tails, thus earning their nickname, 'Redtails'.
The 332nd participates in the invasion in southern France by escorting bombers and attack missions on the ground in Romania and Czechoslovakia.
36 black officers from the unit attempted to enter the officers’ club assigned to white “base and supervisory” personnel, since they believed they were “base personnel”. The assistant base provost marshal, who attempted to block the entrance of the black officers, was pushed.
President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which stated “It is herby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Services without regard to race…” The same order called for the creation within the national Military Establishment of “an advisory committee to be known as the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services…” which he authorized to examine the “rules, procedures, and practices of the Armed Services…to determine in what respect such rules, procedures, and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order.” While the order did not specifically mention the words “integration” or “desegregation,” that is what resulted.
The 332d Fighter Group and its three fighter squadrons, the 99th, 100th, and 301st, were inactivated. Members of those organizations were reassigned to other organizations that became racially integrated.
The Tuskegee Airmen were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their service and sacrifice to the United States during World War II.