As America prepares for the possibility of war with Iraq, we've watched as thousands of soldiers, Marines and airmen deployed to the Middle East to protect our country. But there is also a group of unsung heroes, who made all the difference in World War II.
Because of segregation, nearly 1,000 black military aviators were trained at an isolated training complex near the town of Tuskegee, Alabama, and at Tuskegee University. They made up four all-black World War II squadrons, 450 black fighter pilots under the command of Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who later became the first black general in the US Air Force. They fought in the aerial war over North Africa, Sicily and Europe. Racial hostility in the military almost led to their recall.
These fearless men flew close to 16,000 sorties and completed 1,600 missions. The Tuskegee Airmen shot down 111 enemy planes, destroyed 150 others on the ground, and sank a German destroyer. As a bomber escort group on 200 bomb missions, the 332nd won fame for not losing a single US bomber to enemy aircraft. Members of the 332nd won more than 100 distinguished flying crosses and the group won three distinguished unit citations.