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Air Tuskeegee Revisited- By Hester Carter
Here we are 50 years later and the Tuskeegee Airmen have finally been recognized with a film about their trials, achievements and extreme challenges. I was privileged to know one of these fine gentlemen named Mr. Anderson. He was my oil man when I lived in New York. He told me about those days during the war. He was a little bitter about the lack of recognition and the severe overachievement they had to produce just to be included.
Some white people just have no shame. These brothers had to fly 50, some even flew 100 or more missions. Most white flyers were sent home after 25. The bombers escorted by the Tuskeegee fighter pilots never had any losses. No other squadron can say that! And they flew over Ploiesti - the Rumanian oil fields that supplied the Third Reich with fuel and one of the most heavily protected targets in the war. No group recognition! Hell, according to Mr. Anderson, they didn't even get the increased rank they deserved. When white pilots flew five or ten missions and came back they were moved up a notch. Many whites became colonels in a very short while. Our men didn't. This is not only an insult, it is economic theft. Higher rank gets higher pay. This is just like during the Civil War when the 54th Infantry refused to be paid less than whites. They had to go without pay for over a year to get equal treatment.
Last year President Clinton finally awarded several black men the Medals of Honor they earned during WWII. Most of the awardees had already died. It's a shame. Frankly, it is the same pattern they applied in the Civil War. Twenty-two African-American soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. More than half of those were awarded 20 to 35 years after the war was over. Again, many of the adardees were already dead.
And consider this: the Tuskeegee heroes were not given the jobs opportunities after the war. In comparison, according to one of their members interviewed on the History Channel, the Flying Tigers (an all-white squad that fought in China prior to the war who became heroes due to a propaganda movie starring John Wayne), received great jobs: a Senator, a Federal judge, 15 or so Pan Am pilots, etc. Not only were our men not recognized they were largely underemployed and many went unemployed.
My little girl was watching a movie with us about the Negro League. It revealed that Josh Gibson, the black man who hit 970 home runs but was never considered for the majors, was mentally challenged. I told her to consider how she who feel if she was the best in the world at something and no one would give her credit for her achievements. I'm sure this fact ate away at Brother Gibson and drove him nutty. Another fact that came out in this movie concerned Jackie Robinson's brother. He apparently ran second to Jesse Owens record-setting 200 meter dash during the 1936 Olympic games. Two weeks after the games he broke the record that Jesse Owens set. He too was never recognized. He worked as a janitor at a school somewhere in Los Angeles.
So forget the enemies of justice. It is our job to recognize our own heroes. The NAACP and other large, well-recognized African organizations must take the lead. If we wait for the majority to do what's right we may as well wait until hell freezes over.
And remember, make no mistake about it - black people fought in every war this country has ever had. We have been here since the very beginning. Most whites trace their roots three, maybe four generations in America. We were here from the start. Long before the Revolution. So, yes, I'm really tired of people mixing up their words to imply we didn't fight until Truman integrated the armed forces in 1947. Hell, there were over a million black men and women in uniform when World War II ended. Please, don't let anyone get away with that "mistake." Too many thousands of black war dead from before the American Revolution to the Gulf War will turn over in their graves if you don't act to reestablish their honor and sacrifice. And may God bless the heroes of the Tuskeegee Airmen.
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