During the Second World War, the ‘ RED TAILS’ made a name for themselves by gaining a widespread reputation for staying with the bombers and successfully protecting them during their dangerous missions. Other fighter squadrons were known to be more interested in going after enemy aircraft for an aerial victory, but the ‘RED TAILS’ flown by Tuskegee Airmen followed their strict orders to stay with the bombers, and gained notoriety for their success at protecting these aircraft from being shot down .
Like many others in the late 1930s, the individuals who become known as the Tuskegee Airmen were full of patriotic zeal and eager to join military service as the war in Europe and Asia intensified. What set them apart was that Black Americans who joined military service were restricted as to what kind of jobs they could hold, and all branches of the Armed Services were just as segregated as the civilian world Because of this, the U.S. military would not give black men the opportunity to train as pilots. As the country geared for war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was pressured to change that. In 1941, he ordered the U.S. Army Air Corps to set up special flight-training programs for black aviators, although it was not expected to succeed.
The group that is collectively known as the Tuskegee Airmen includes more than the 992 pilots that trained in the Tuskegee program and became officers. It also includes the over 14,000 personnel that were trained to provide critical operational support to the pilots and their aircraft. This training took place at Tuskegee and a few other places in the US.In all, 992 men completed the Tuskegee advanced flight training program and earned their wings. As pilots graduated, the majority would be assigned to one of four fighter squadrons: the 99th, 100th, 301st and 302nd. These four squadrons would become part of the 332nd Fighter Group..
Like all fighter groups, the 332nd Fighter Group flew aircraft with distinctive paint schemes to assist with identifying friend from foe, and the 332nd chose to paint their tails bright red. It wasn’t long before the bomber pilots were requesting the Tuskegee-trained "Red Tail Angels” to fly escort for them. The Tuskegee Airmen flew a number of different fighter aircraft, but they are most closely associated with the fast and powerful P-51 Mustang.
The Red Tails flew a total of 1378 combat missions. 112 Enemy Aircraft were shot down.They were awarded 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 700 other awards.Sadly, 80 gave their lives and 31 became prisoners of war.It is important to note, however, that it is a commonly held myth that the Tuskegee Airmen did not lose a bomber on any of their escort missions. The Airmen did in fact lose bombers on their escort missions, but they lost significantly less than other fighter groups at the time.
Despite their distinguished wartime record, the Tuskegee Airmen returned to an America unwilling to recognize their contributions. Racism and segregation continued to have a stranglehold on the country. It would be decades before their war efforts were acknowledged or even widely known, and it could be said that even today many people do not know about the remarkable achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen. Many Tuskegee Airmen went on to have distinguished military and civilian careers. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, generals, congressmen, authors, Korean and Vietnam war heroes, and many more make up a snapshot of these fine Americans. They continue to be regarded for opening the doors to opportunity for minorities that would come after them.