The Red-Tails, Tuskegee Airman, Germans named them “Schartze Vogelmenschen” the “Black Birdmen”, American Bomber crews revered them as the “Black Redtail Angels”, or by their own account the “Spookwaffe” or “The Lonely Eagles” because of isolationism and bigotry. Whatever you called them; this unit was unique in the AAF as being the only all “Negro” Fighter Group in WWII.
This is my opinion and does not represent this website; the pilots of the 332nd FG were as good and no worse than any other Fighter Group or pilot in the European Theater, there claim to fame is that they never lost a bomber in their care.
What made them stand out was not the color of their skin, but the perseverance to fly combat missions, to be a support unit that kept the fighters flying and to prove they were worthy for the mission given them.
The unit commander was the person to follow, setting the requirements, the mission and the expectations of the unit. Just like Doolittle, Egleston, Zemke the command of Col. Benjamin O. Davis, the 4th African American to graduate from West Point, did just that. His edict, “Your job is to protect the bombers and not go chasing Messerschmitt’s for glory”, the 99th, 100th, 301st and 302nd fighter Squadrons did that, no bomber they escorted were lost to enemy fighters.
Col. Davis eventually become a Lt. General, with many commands, during his 38-year career in the Air Force, he fought in North Africa, Sicily and Europe.
America was heavily segregated as WWII erupted, with Roosevelt declaring the United states would be “Fortress America”, the last bastion of freedom for all people or was it? The AAF believed that no negro could learn to fly, but the N.A.A.C.P., the Black Press, members of Congress and the White House believed otherwise. The War Department relented and considered it doomed to failure, equal in rank but not equal in privilege.
Tuskegee, Alabama was chosen, far from the center of things, graduating 992 pilots, trained and developed the support personnel needed to form combat units.
The unit was sent to the MTO with P39’s, P40’s, then P47’s for a short time and finally transitioning to the P-51’s in late June of 1944.
In my review of articles and books, especially the chapter in “Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #7”, in my opinion, I believe there were pilots who achieved “Ace” status only to have the AAF review and reduce kills to shared to prevent a “negro” pilot from becoming an Ace. In other instances, sending pilots home with 4 kills as to not achieve “Ace” status, to me these were very wrong.
In the end the 302nd FG did their job:
Flew escort missions to Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria
Participated in Ploesti Refinery raids
Only outfit to fly four types of aircraft in combat in the MTO
Only group to sink a destroyer, with fighters, in Europe.
Over Berlin on March 24th 1945, Lt. R Brown, Lt. R Williams and Lt. S Watts each scored a victory over an Me 262. Two Me 262’s and a Me 163 were claimed as probable’s, three Me 262’s claimed damaged. Three “Red Tails” were lost.
445 fighter pilots flew 15,553 sorties in 1578 missions with the 12th and the 15th AAF.
Over 750 medals were awarded; The pilots won 1 Silver Star, 150 Flying Crosses, Legion of Merits and Red Star of Yugoslavia
66 “Tuskegee Airman” are buried on foreign soil.
In 1949 the 332 FG won the Air Force National Fighter Gunnery Meet, with Harry Stewart as one of the members, he had dispatched 3 Bf 109’s 5 years earlier.
When the war in Europe ended, the 302nd FG was slotted to go to the Pacific, thankfully Japan surrendered bringing 6 years of war to an end.
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Decals and Model:
This P-51 comes from the AeroMaster Decals 48-244 “Tuskegee Airmen “Spoofwaffe”. Model is a Tamiya, 1/48, P-51D. Tamiya Silver TS-30 rattle can was used along with the Tamiya Yellow, Olive Drab and Red spray.
“Little Freddie” was flown by Lt. Freddie Hutchins, 302nd FS, trim tabs yellow for the squadron.
Graduation Date: 4/29/43; Class SE-43-D; From Donaldson Ca.;
Downed a Bf109 on 7/26/1944.
In the set is an overview of this group, after a lack of recognition, in 1972 the Tuskegee Airman, Inc was formed as a non-political, non-military, non-profit entity. The group, as of 1996, had awarded scholarships of nearly a half million dollars to young American college students, without regard to race, religion, sex or creed.
The “Redtail Project” was formed by Mr. Don Hinz, it’s purpose to
1. Restore a P-51C
2. Develop Educational Outreach
3. Create an enduring fund to support these initiatives.
It was located at Fleming Field, S. St. Paul, by the American Heritage Foundation.
Taken from Wikipedia:
After noting the P-51C was in need of restoration, Don Hinz, a retired Naval aviator, channeled his energy and talents into the restoration and helped found the Red Tail Project, now known as the CAF Red Tail Squadron, along with members of the CAF Minnesota Wing. Originally, the restoration was attempted at Fleming Field in South St. Paul, Minnesota. After soliciting the assistance of outside contractors from North Dakota, the aircraft was airborne in May 2001 more than 45 years after it had been in service. The P-51C, which was named "Tuskegee Airmen", was included in numerous air shows to tell the history of the pilot group. From May 2001 to May 2004, the aircraft flew before more than an estimated three million people. Hinz envisioned an educational program based on the restored aircraft and set a goal to get the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen into every classroom in America.
Unfortunately, at a great loss to the organization and entire aviation community, Hinz lost his life in an accident caused by an engine malfunction of the Tuskegee Airmen at an airshow in 2004. At an airshow in Red Wing, Minnesota, the camshaft drive of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine failed. Although Hinz successfully landed the aircraft between two houses in a residential suburb, both wings were ripped off and the body was badly damaged. A tree damaged in the crash fell on Hinz, causing head trauma from which he did not recover.
The aircraft was fully restored a second time, at a cost of 1 million dollars, and returned to the skies in 2009, a testament to the group’s perseverance and belief in its mission. The five-year restoration occurred at Tri-State Aviation in Wahpeton, North Dakota. In 2007, Gerry Beck, one of the primary restorers, was in a fatal collision of his P-51A and a P-51D during AirVenture 2007. Beck was the owner of Tri-State Aviation, but about a half dozen other CAF volunteer aviation mechanics contributed to the effort to pick up where he left off. The rebuilding continued with the mounting of the engine in 2008 and the mating of the wing in 2009. On July 22, 2009, four days before AirVenture 2009 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the P-51C had its first flight. Then, it was flown to Wisconsin for its public debut. After the show it returned to Minnesota with a 6 AT-6 escort. The aircraft has also served a tribute via military flyovers for fallen Tuskegee Airmen.
The P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen is one of only four existing P-51C Mustangs in flying condition. It is flown in numerous airshows around the country and is available for up-close viewing on static display at events throughout the year to educate people about the Tuskegee Airmen and inspire them through their remarkable story.
I had the pleasure of meeting Don at the EAA convention in 2002. I also worked with the pre-show set-up at Redwing that fateful weekend.
Here is a link to the site: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Tail_Squadron
Link to the CAF Redtail Squadron site: https://www.redtail.org/rise-red-tail/p-51c-mustang-tuskegee-airmen/
I included pictures of the restored Mustang at the EAA in 2017 and “Wings of the North” airshow in 2015, annually held at Flying Cloud airport in Eden Prairie Mn. At this same show in 2008, had the opportunity to speak with two Red-Tail pilots, Ben Alexander and Joe Gomer (301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. In combat, he flew 68 missions), both graciously signed my “Aces #7” book.
I asked, “how the Germans treated the “black” POW’s?”, he stated “on equal terms as every other POW”.
2. AeroMaster Decals: 48-244 “Tuskegee Airmen “Spoofwaffe”
3. Mustang Aces of the Ninth & Fifteenth Air forces and the RAF, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #7
Thank you, Steve, for your great site,
Mark L. Rossmann
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