Flying for freedom, Tuskegee Airmen Red Tails

  • Published
  • By Maj. Anthony G. Langford
  • 54th Air Refueling Squadron
Many of us in the Air Force and military have heard of the Tuskegee Airmen. To the U.S. Army Air Corps bombers over the skies of Germany, during World War II, they were more fondly known as the Red Tailed Angels sent to protect them from the Luftwaffe fighter aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen had an impressive record piloting P-39s, P-40s, P-47s, and P-51s on ground attack and bomber escort missions in the European theater. Some of their accomplishments include; 112 enemy aircraft shot down and another 150 destroyed on the ground, more than 600 destroyed railroad cars, sank one destroyer and 40 boats and barges.

The Tuskegee Airman embodied the all-volunteer spirit of our Armed Forces at a time when their own country was ungrateful and even skeptical of their ability to fly, fight and win. The Airmen unquestionably proved their flying ability and more importantly they opened the door for black Airmen following in their footsteps to join a segregated military. Due in part to the exceptional record of the Tuskegee Airmen, in 1948 President Harry S. Truman ordered the U.S. military to discard segregation and allow equal opportunity "without regard to race, color, religion or national origin." We take these values of equality and diversity for granted today.

In a fitting tribute to the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, President George W. Bush collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to surviving Airmen or spouses March 29, 2007. You can also learn more about their story in the film entitled Red Tails, by Lucas Films in theaters January 2012.

What you may not know about the Tuskegee Airmen is that their legacy is not just in the history books and special effects action movies but also in local chapters known as Tuskegee Airmen Inc. The closest chapter is the Oklahoma City, Tinker Air Force Base Chapter. These groups mentor students on the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, aviation careers and provide college scholarships all in an effort to continue celebrating the important heritage of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The Tuskegee Airmen received their advanced training and transition to military aircraft at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama which was a schoolhouse with a similar mission to that of Altus Air Force Base. It would be fitting that we had a local TAI chapter here in Altus. If there are a minimum of 10 military and/or civilian members at Altus Air Force Base interested in starting a local chapter we could make that happen.

To find out more about starting a local group or more information on the Tuskegee Airmen, contact Maj. Anthony Langford, of the 54th Air Refueling Squadron at commercial phone number (580) 481-1208 or DSN 866-1208.

Rice, Markus. "The Men and Their Airplanes: The Fighters." Tuskegee Airmen, 1 March 2000
Escort Excellence,
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