In 1941 the first group of African American solider started their journey to become pilots to fight for their county. The Army Air Corp created an experimental, all Black group of pilots to be trained in Tuskegee, Alabama. Interest was high and filled with excitement. The men who came to Alabama would be part of the 99th pursuit squadron and become known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
What they did not know is that they would be leaving home to enter two wars; one against American enemies and one against discrimination, and injustice. They fought stereotypes, beliefs and attitudes that Blacks are not intellectually equal to their White counterparts. They didn’t stop until they were respected for their knowledge, skills, intellect and excellence.
The Tuskegee Airmen were not just pilots or only men. Everyone who helped keep the pilots in the air are all known as part of the legacy.
This podcast tells the story of their path, fighting in World War II and fighting injustice. Their stories continue to be an inspiration today and their journey knocking down the walls of discrimination and integrating the military, will always be an example of courage and, bravery; an honored source of pride for years to come.
The stories today are from:
Oscar (Wilk) Lawton Wilkerson – The Chicago Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. Recording courtesy of the Pritzker Military Museum
W.O. Smith – Atlanta Chapter
Larry Bussey – Atlanta Chapter
Valda Harris Montgomery – Daughter of Dr. Richard Harris – Tuskegee Airmen
For more information
Information about the United States Mint Commemorative Quarter
In recognition of The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama
“The reverse (tails) design depicts a Tuskegee Airman pilot suiting up to join the fight during World War II with the Moton Field control tower in the background. The pilot looks upward with pride and confidence as two P-51 Mustangs pass overhead. The inscription “THEY FOUGHT TWO WARS” is arced across the top as a reference to the dual battles the Tuskegee Airmen fought–fascism abroad and racial discrimination at home.” – U.S. Mint
The 56th and final quarter released in 2021 as part of the America the Beautiful Commemorative Quarters
Sculptor: Phebe Hemphill, Medallic Artist
Designer: Chris Costello, Artistic Infusion Program
Travel to visit a museum
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site – In Tuskegee, Alabama (Temporarily closed)
Pritzker Military Museum & Library – 104 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago Illinois
Their mission is to acquire and maintain an accessible collection of materials and to develop appropriate programs focusing on the citizen soldier in the preservation of democracy.
You can also learn more about The Holt Oral History Program: https://www.pritzkermilitary.org/whats_on/holt-oral-history-program
More than 200 veterans have trusted their story to the Museum & Library. If you are a veteran and are ready to talk about your experience, please contact the museum. Sponsored by the Seedlings Foundation and in memory of Tuskegee Airman Coleman Thompson Holt, the Holt Oral History Program is dedicated to conserving the unique Stories of Service of the Citizen Soldier—not just high ranking officers, recognizable faces from history, or soldiers who have had their stories told already—but every man and woman, from all walks of life, who has served and sacrificed for our country. Veterans of all wars can share their stories. Contact: [email protected]