Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, African Americans in many U.S. states were subject to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. Despite these adversities, they trained and flew with distinction. Primarily made up of African Americans, they were assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
1. The Tuskegee airmen once shot down three German jets in a single day.
On March 24, 1944, a fleet of P-51 Mustangs led by Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, commander of the Tuskegee airmen, set out on the longest escort mission their crews would fly during World War II. The 43 fighters were there to help B-17 bombers run a gauntlet of over 1,600 miles into the heart of Hitler’s Germany and back. The bombers’ target, a massive Daimler-Benz tank factory in Berlin, was heavily defended by whatever forces the Luftwaffe could muster at that point in the war. The 25 aircraft protecting the plant included the battle-tested Fw 190 radial propeller fighters, the Me 163 “Komet” rocket-powered plane and the much more formidable Me 262, history’s first jetfighter and the forerunner of today’s modern fighters. While the American P-51s typically lagged behind the Me 163s and 262s, they could outmaneuver them at low speeds. The German planes also tended to run out of fuel more quickly than the Tuskegee airmen’s Mustangs. Making the most of their limited advantages, pilots Charles Brantley, Earl Lane and Roscoe Brown all shot down German jets over Berlin that day, earning the all-black 332nd Fighter Group a Distinguished Unit Citation.