News / USA

    Tuskegee Airmen 'Red Tails' Pilots Honored with Florida Monument

    FILE - Former Tuskegee Airman Herbert Carter, 94, of Tuskegee, Alabama, poses with a PT-17 trainer aircraft in a hangar at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Jan. 18, 2012.
    FILE - Former Tuskegee Airman Herbert Carter, 94, of Tuskegee, Alabama, poses with a PT-17 trainer aircraft in a hangar at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Jan. 18, 2012.
    Reuters
    A handful of the few surviving Red Tail military pilots, considered the elite of the Tuskegee Airmen who overcame racism and fought in World War II, journeyed to Orlando, Florida on Monday to witness the unveiling of the first U.S. monument in their honor.
     
    Only 33 of the original 356 Red Tail pilots survive, and six of them, mostly in their 90s, attended the Veteran's Day ceremony.
     
    The Red Tails, or Red Tail Angels, from the 332nd fighter group, got their name from white combat pilots after the black airmen painted the tails of their aircraft crimson. Their job was to escort the combat pilots on bombing missions from bases in Europe.
     
    The group, trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, was sent to Italy in February 1944 under the command of a black officer, Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr., said Lieutenant Colonel Leo Gray, one of the youngest surviving Red Tails at age 89.
     
    “We were good. We were the only ones [all-black fighting group] over there,” Gray said.
     
    The group's trials and exploits were recalled in “Red Tails,” a movie released in 2012 with a cast that included Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Bryan Cranston and Gerald McRaney.
     
    Lieutenant Colonel Hiram Mann, now 92 and retired in Titusville, Florida, recalls following orders to run low-flying strafing missions “to protect the neophyte combat pilots.”
     
    Mann said he applied three times before he was accepted into military pilot training in 1943 with the 27th class of African-American recruits.
     
    'Doing Our Jobs'
     
    His first application was rejected because of his color, Mann said. His second application, after the color bar was dropped, was denied because he had completed only one of two required years of college, and because he was married.
     
    His third attempt succeeded, he said, because by then, the standards had been lowered to require only the ability to pass strenuous mental and physical tests.
     
    Mann said he was oblivious at the time to the fact that they were making history.
     
    “I wanted to fly for the love of flying. The good we did, it's really astounding and pleasing,” Mann said.
     
    Gray, now retired near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, recognized that he and his colleagues literally flew in the face of academic notions at the time that blacks were inferior to whites and lacked the intelligence to handle complex machinery and the bravery to fight.
     
    “We were busy doing our jobs. We knew we were creating history but we didn't know the magnitude,” Gray said.
     
    Gray called the Red Tails “one of the greatest groups of young men our nation has produced.”
     
    “I was proud. I wasn't in the Navy as a steward. I wasn't in the Army digging ditches. I was a pilot,” he said.
     
    Planning for the monument began in 2011 when the Red Tails held their first reunion in 66 years at a resort in Orlando.
     
    Gray asked local flying enthusiast Mike McKenzie, who leads a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring aviation careers, particularly for minority youth, to help create an appropriate honor for the group.
     
    The monument depicts a “missing man” flying formation, used to commemorate a fallen pilot, held aloft by intertwined aircraft exhaust plumes.
     
    About 300 people attended the unveiling, which included a flyover by a model of the P-51 Mustang aircraft flown by the Red Tails.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.