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Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Squadron, circa 1944. (thinglink.com)
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Colorado honors history-making, groundbreaking Tuskegee Airmen

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They served their country with dedication and valor in the skies over Europe during World War II — at a time when their country wouldn’t even serve them a meal in a whites-only restaurant. The now-renowned Tuskegee Airmen have inspired subsequent generations of Americans, not only by displaying the kind of selfless patriotism shown by so many other Americans during the war but also by breaking through the nation’s color barrier in a fundamental way and at a critical time in U.S. history.

On Thursday, Colorado’s General Assembly conferred a special honor on the Tuskegee Airmen. Senate Joint Resolution 20, sponsored by state Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, and State Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora, was approved by both the state House and Senate.

A news release from Williams and the Senate Democrats offers background:

Before 1939, African Americans were barred from flying in the U.S. Military. After long years of advocacy and activism to change this, in 1941 the all-African-American 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces were formed. These 996 pilots and 15,000 ground personnel are more commonly known as the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots trained at Tuskegee, Alabama. The Tuskegee Airmen had an exemplary record in combat in World War II, flying more than 15,000 sorties and destroying over 1,000 German aircraft. They received many high honors, including hundreds of Air Medals and more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Of the original Tuskegee Airmen, 19 had ties to Colorado. In attendance at the reading of the Resolution were two of these documented original Tuskegee Airmen: Lieutenant Franklin Macon and Aviation Cadet Randolph Edwards. The Tuskegee Airmen presented the General Assembly with a commemorative picture honoring the 19 Tuskegee Airmen with Colorado ties.

Williams is quoted in the press statement:

“I am honored to bring this resolution and celebrate these American heroes…In spite of prejudice and a long history of discrimination, in addition to the overwhelming challenges facing all American servicemen and women in WWII, the Tuskegee Airmen valiantly served their country. I am moved and inspired by their courage, grit, and love of country.”

The press release also notes:

In Colorado, the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. sponsor the Mile High Flight program, which introduces high school students to aviation and other STEM-related fields. For 20 years, this program has inspired and empowered Colorado students. The Tuskegee Airmen continue to serve as role models—their accomplishments show young people that they can rise above challenges and achieve their dreams, whether they aspire to work in aviation or not.

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