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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs