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Black History

Tuskegee Airmen

A Selected Reading List

In 1941, the Army Air Force created the 99th Pursuit Squadron with a proviso that Black pilots would be strictly segregated from the rest of the Army Air Force. The airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama, was selected as the training site and thirteen cadets reported for training in August 1941. The first class of 5 pilots graduated in May 1942. Lead by Benjamin I. Davis, Jr., the first Black graduate of West Point, they formed the nucleus of the 99th Fighter Squadron. In April 1943, the 99th was posted to North Africa. On June 2, 1943, the 99th Fighter Squadron conducted its first operational mission in Italy and scored its first air victory with shooting down of a German fighter plane.

Three more all-black fighter squadrons were formed - the 100th, the 301st and the 302nd. By October 1942, these units were activated for duty. Combined with the 99th, they became the 332nd Fighter Group that was later deployed over Italy in January 1944, where they supported the invasion at Anzio. The 332nd became a famous flying escort for heavy bombers. Known as Red Tails because the tails of their planes were painted bright red, the 332nd was the only Army Air Force fighter group that never lost an escorted bomber to enemy planes. By the end of the war, the 332nd had completed nearly 1600 missions, destroyed over 250 enemy air craft and damaged another 148. The squadron earned 95 Distinguished Flying Cross medals.

The last class of Tuskegee Airmen graduated June 1946. Nearly 1000 black pilots, also known as "Black Eagles", earned their commissions and wings at Tuskegee from 1941 to 1946

The proven ability of the Tuskegee Airmen was a factor in the decision to eliminate racial discrimination in the military. On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 to end discrimination in the armed forces. By 1952, the personnel of the last all-black unit in the U. S. Air Force had been distributed throughout other units.

Adult Books

A-train: memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman
by Charles W. Dryden; with a foreword by Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
University Alabama Press, 1997

Black knights: the story of the Tuskegee airmen
by Lynn M. Homan
Pelican Pub. Co., 2001.
A pictorial work

Lonely eagles: the story of America's Black Air Force in World War II
by Robert A. Rose. Los Angeles : Tuskegee Airmen, Western Region, c1976.

The Tuskegee Airmen : the men who changed a nation
by Charles E. Francis ;4th edition; edited, revised, up-dated, and enlarged by Adolph Caso.
Branden Pub., c1997.

Wings of honor
by Tom Willard.
New York : Forge, 2000.
A novel about the Tuskegee Airmen

Books For Children

Red-tail angels: the story of the Tuskegee airmen of World War II
by Patricia McKissack. Walker and Co., 1995.
Story of African American pilots with a focus on World War II.
Grades 7 and up

The Tuskegee Airmen
by Linda George.
New York : Children's Press, c2001.
Grades 3-5

The Tuskegee airmen : Black heroes of World War II
by Jacqueline L. Harris.
Parsippany : Dillon Press, c1996.
Grades 6-9

For additional books on the role of African Americans in World War II, try these suggested subject headings in the County of Los Angeles Public Library Catalog:

    African American Air Pilots
    United States Army -- African American Troops
    World War, 1939-1945 -- African Americans
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Afro-Americans
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Participation, African-American

Barbara Hirsch
Internet Services/Electronic Resources Coordinator
Adult Services

Celebrating Black History Month | Living Legends | Selected Images

Revised 07/15

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