For Immediate Release
February 1, 2011
AFA Highlights Black History Month
Arlington, VA – The Air Force Association (AFA) today highlights National Black History Month, an opportunity to celebrate the triumphs and great contributions of African Americans to aerospace and the Air Force.
Throughout the 20th century, despite harsh times of segregation and discrimination, many African Americans answered their country’s call – making valuable contributions to the war efforts and breaking color boundaries.
In August of 1917 Eugene Jacques Bullard, an American volunteer in the French army, became the first black military pilot in history and the only black pilot in World War I.
The remarkable story of the Tuskegee Airmen continues to be a significant part of African American history as well as the history of the Air Force. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American pilots in the U.S. armed forces. During World War II, an estimated 16,000 to 19,000 persons served in numerous capacities during the “Tuskegee Experience,” including pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all personnel who kept the planes in the air.
Their demonstration of excellence and courage throughout hundreds of missions is one of the reasons the Air Force was the first service to fully integrate in 1949, just two years after becoming an independent service. According to the records of the nonprofit organization Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., while serving with the 15th Air Force during the period of June 1944 to May 1945, the then-known "Red Tails" [they were later called the "Tuskegee Airmen" in 1955] were credited with shooting down 112 enemy aircraft and escorting 179 bomber missions.
Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., an aviation pioneer, was the most famous Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. With his promotion to brigadier general, General Davis became the first black to earn a star in the U.S. Air Force.
And Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in 1942. James was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and became the first black American to reach the rank of four-star general as he was assigned as commander in chief of NORAD/ADCOM on September 1, 1975.
AFA is proud to recognize the great service and sacrifice of African American veterans throughout our country’s history, and we continue to appreciate the dedication of those serving our country.
The AFA is a 501(C)(3), nonprofit organization promoting public understanding of aerospace power and the pivotal role it plays in the security of the nation. AFA has over 200 chapters nationally and internationally representing 120,000 members. Visit AFA www.AFA.org.
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