Pacific Wings: Shooting The BreezeThe epic history of the United States African American Army Air Corps - WW2
Tuskegee and Beyond.
Historical Documentary Film Coming Soon
Writer / Director P.D. Blackmon
All rights reserved
Carrying the heavy weigh of race on their proud shoulders just above decorated medals of honor. The term black aviation describes a historical fact: For the first half century of powered flight, African American citizens of the United States flew in segregated circumstances; the epic story of African American aviation is one of monumental breakthroughs against extreme conditions and attitudes, inflicted through a national " Jim Crow" state of mind.
Bessie Coleman was the first African American and woman to overcome aviation and entrenched extreme discrimination born January 26, 1892 in Atlanta Texas. Her father George was half American Indian ( Cherokee ) and African American. Brave Bessie was the first of thirteen children, she was eleven years old when the Wright brothers made histoy with their 1903 "flying machine".
Sadly, in 1926 while flight testing an open-cock plane, her co-pilot lost control tossing Queen Bess to her death.
World War 2 1941 - 1945
The war that begun in Europe on September 1, 1939 when Hitler's invation of Poland reached across the seas and engulfed America on December 7, 1941 with the Japanese suprise air attack on Pearl Harbor. Here the African American made an auspicious entry into the war when the nations first hero of Pearl Harbor became a young African American man from Waco Texas, by the name of Doris (Dorie) Miller; his act of valor was legendary. A messman as were all African American sailors of the time braved enemy planes to help remove his mortally wounded Captain to a place of safety. Not content with that act of valor, defering death aboard the sinking ship, with-out any gunner training manned a machine gun firing with deadly accuracy as he locked in on in-coming attacking enemy aircraft. There was so much valor in the manner of his nature as in the commission of his deeds. Miller was initially identified only as a "Negro cook who fired on Japanese planes". In the face of strong civil rights protest he was later identified, fully recognized as a hero, his letter of accommodation was upgraded to a Navy Cross which was presented to him by Admiral Nimitz.
World War 2 brought with it a hope of a new tomorrow for millions of African Americans who had been seared in the flames of injustice for so many years. Since the US was embarking upon a "fight for right" campaign on the world stage, it would prove unwise for her to seem hypocritical to her alllies. After all, how could America condemn the Nazi government, Mussolini's fascist policies, and the blatant human atrocities inflected by Japanese if America were guilty of basically committing the same crime against it's non-white citizens? In fact the average American viewed these totalitarian nations as despicable and literally out to distroy democracy. Yet the doors of equal opportunity and equal treatment remained closed for most
African Americans in the USA.
In the midst of blatant racism, many Blacks pursued equality and the American Dream. In the face of rataliation from many whites who claimed they were and inferior race. African Americans would utilize the military as a proven ground of acceptance and the opporunity for initiating change in the nation.
African American Aviation History
In the 1930's, African Americans formed flying clubs, promoting aviation in our neighborhood communties. In 1933 and 1934 the long distance flights of C. Alfred Anderson and Dr. Albert E. Forsyth displayed both flyers skills while appealing for equality in aviation.
In 1939 the Chicago flyers, with the assistance of the NAACP spurred the Federal Government to offer aviation training programs for African American ( Negros ).
Congress established the Cicilian Pilot Training Programs ( CPT ) training pilots for war-time emergency and for the first time African American citizens received flight training at Federal Funded CPT schools at Tuskegee Institute, Howard University, Hampton Institute, North Carolina AT&T, Delaware State, West Virginia U, Lincoln University of Missouri and Harlem Airport in Chicago. Dispite the modest budget allocated for segregated training programs, the number of Black pilots grew dramatically.
"No Negro will ever pilot a plane in the upcoming war".
-- General H. H. Arnold, United States Army Air Cores
United States African American Army Air Cores Activated
When the United States Army Air Chore activated the 99th Fighter Squadron in 1943, African American "fly-boys" finally achieved their strong-hold in military aviation. Civil- rights leaders had long called for integrating the Air Core, but the war department continued to deny and resist, until Cadets trained at the newly established Tuskegee Army Airfield ( who flew as part of a seprate Black Air Force ) "in living color" soured like proud eagles into the picture.
Wilma Beatrice Brown, 31 served by training pilots for the US Army Air Forces. The first African American to receive a commission as a Lieurenant in the United Stated Civil Air Patrol
Between 1941 and 1945, the Tuskegee Airmen proved that they could be trained and mobilized for the sophisticated task of combat flying. The overwhelming success of the Civilian Pilot Traning Act help put the 99th Pursuit Squad of Tuskegee on the map. It was said that "the success of negro youth in the Army Air Force would be predicated upon the success of the " Tuskegee Experiment". Because of the opportunity provided, the number of Black's jumped from 2,250 in 1941 to over 145,000 by 1944.
Most celebrated groups were the 99th Fighter Squad and the 332nd Fighter Group. Out of the 332 came the 100th, 301st and the 302 Fighter Squads under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Sr. Who became America's first African American General on October 25, 1940. By 1944 the 99th was added to the 332 and participated in campaign in Sicily, Rome and Romania earning many distinguished unit citations. Out of this squad came Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr., son of General Davis Sr., who was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in combat. In 1965 he was promoted to General.
Implementations of military policies did not eliminate all-Black flying units, by June 1949 one hundred and six all-Black Units stilled exsisted.
Against All Odds
Black fighter pilots were introduced into combat with the outdated P-40 planes. Because of their outstanding mechanical ability they were able to get high performances from their aircraft, against all odds. And collectly destroy 261 enemy aircraft, damage 158 planes, flew a total of 1578 missions with the 12th and 15th Air Forces. Recieved 95 Distinguised Flying Crosses, 14 Bronzed Stars, 744 Air Force Clusters, 1 Legion of Merit, 1 Silver Star, 2 Soldiers Medals and 8 Purple Hearts. Out of the 992 Pilots over 450 were sent over seas, only 66 were killed in action.
World War 2 1941 - 1945
United States Army Air Cores
Mustang: P - 51 Top - Gun
1st Lt. Lee Rayford just returning to the United States from a
secret mission in Italy where he served with the fierce fighting 99th.
Captain Andrew D. Turner, who in minutes will be escorting heavy bombers en route to enemy targets, signals ground crew before taking off from a base in Italy. He is a member of the famed 15th US Army Air Force. The Pilot's plane, named Mustang symbolize "roaming free".
Sixteen excited and proud soliders winners of coveted "Wings" of the US Army Paratroopers at Fort Benning Georgia.
Shown below in a C - 47 transport plane preparing for jumps. - 1944
Camp Swift, Texas
Skipper's Darlin Fly-Boys of P - 51 Mustang Group, 15th Air Force in Italy
"shoot the breeze" in the shadow of their Mustang fighter plane.
L - R Lt. Dempsey W. Morgan Jr; Lt. Carroll S. Woods; Lt. Robert Hs. Nelson Jr; Capt. Andrew D. Turner and Lt. Clarence P. Lester. - 1944
Pacific Wings: Shooting the Breeze
Malice - Joe
Captain Wendell O. Pruitt, one of the leading pilots of the legendary 15th, always leaves his "lucky ring" with his crew before taking-off. Shown handing his father's ring and prized possession over to his crew Chief Senior Sgt. Samuel W. Jacobs. Nov - 1944
Captains Lemuel R. Custis ( L ) and Charles B. Hall, of the sensational 99th Fighter Squad, "kickin-it" while on leave in New York. Their all Black squadron first went into action in North Africa on June 4, 1943. The skilled fighter group, flies all types of combat missions - bomber escort, dive bombing, patrol and strafting. In one year making more than 3,000 sorties , shooting down 17 enemy planes. June - 1944
Three Minute Men
Long, dangerous missions over enemy territory, lack of gas and weather
conditions often neccessitate fighter planes returing to their home base, with
gas left in their tanks, with less than 3 minutes flying time remaining. Many
heroic pilots who did not make it back ended up crashing into the depths of
the Pacific Ocean. Successful Pilots of the skilled 15th AAF Squadron formed
a club called "The Three Minute Egg Club" with membership limited to
thosewho landed successfully with-in the narrow margines. Known for their
flying skills, nerves of steel and calculations.
Below: L - R - 1st Lts. Clarence A. Dart and Wilson D. Eagelson and 2D Lt.
William N. Olsbrook.
Bethune Cookman University founder civil rights activist Mary McLeod
Bethune advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and First Lady
Eleanor Roosevelt at the opening of Midway Hall in Washington DC. - 1941
New York Mayor La Guardia greet invited members of the United States first African American Navigation Cadets, who receive their commissions in the Army Air Forces at City Hall. Fiorello H. La Fuardia, shown greeting Commander Officer, Maj. Galen B. Price. - Feb. 16, 1944.
Booker T. Washington Monument - Tuskegee Institute - 1941
PACIFIC WINGS: Shooting The Breeze
Historical Documentary Film Coming Soon
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