By: Philip and Megan Way Photos by: Su Phelps
Tuskegee Airmen Inc. held their 47th yearly convention from August 9th to the 11th. With Carolyn Goodman, Mayor of Las Vegas, Allan Litman, Mayor of Mesquite (AF Veteran), and Goynes-Brown, pro-tem Mayor of North Las Vegas, there to honor the Tuskegee Airmen. American and Southwest Airlines is their biggest sponsor.
But who are the Tuskegee Airmen? So, Veterans Reporter News were invited to this convention to learn about this legendary fighter squadron and tell you how they paved the way for not only for African American pilots, but for all people of color in the military today. And how it truly represented the American spirit, The Melting Pot. Veterans Reporter News started this by interviewing attendees at the convention.
The Brigadier General Noel F. Parrish Award exemplifies the “Tuskegee Spirit” forged of integrity, perseverance, moral courage and performance excellence. It honors and perpetuates the memory of General Parrish for his intrepid stand against racial barriers in the armed services during World War II. General Parrish believed that all Americans should have equal access to knowledge, skills and opportunities for use of their talents in the service of their country. He persevered with military and political leaders, at great risk to his military career, to provide combat assignments for flying units trained at Tuskegee.
As Commanding Officer at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Colonel Parrish demonstrated his respect for the dignity, worth and ability of each man and woman in his command. He was confident that quality training and their innate abilities would enable them to measure up to the highest traditions and performance standards of the United States Army Air Cops. Graduates of the “Tuskegee Experience” confirmed his beliefs.
We first interviewed Colonel George Hardy, he is currently 93-years-old and is among the 13 Tuskegee Airmen (out of the 355 men) alive today. We asked him to tell us history of this fighter squadron. Here’s what he told us,
“The military was segregated prior to WWII. Like the Army, they had no colored officers in the Navy. The only way a black person could join the navy was to be a mess attendant. They would never in any case would have a colored officer supervise a white person.”
But then it changed.
“Franklin Roosevelt decided that since they had no colored units and because of racial segregation they couldn’t assign them white units, he said they’ll form an all-black fighter squadron.”
“They first used P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft and then switched to P-51 Mustang aircraft which they achieved fame with the title ‘The Red Tails’.”
The Red Tails wasn’t the best, but the Tuskegee Airmen made glorious records with their skill and determination to defend their country.
“The Tuskegee Airmen started training in 1941, and the first pilots finished in March of 1942. By the end of the summer of 1942, the 99 Fighter Squadron had a full complementary of maintenance people, all the pilots it needed and was ready for combat. The 99 Fighter Squadron started fighting around June of 1943 and kept fighting until the end of the war.”
Amidst the attendees there was the newly re-elected Brigadier General, Leon Johnson, who was just re-elected as the President at this convention. Leon Johnson retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Brigadier General after 33 years of service. A command pilot with over 3500 hours of military flying time in the T-37 trainer, A-37 and A-10 fighter aircraft. Now as the President of the TAI today, he has a duty to promote, protect and lead TAI into a brighter future.
We also met with Randolph Scott, the First Vice President of TAI Tuskegee graduate. In 1998, he never heard of the Tuskegee Airmen. Once he joined, he has been part of Tuskegee ever since as their first Vice President.
Clarence A. Johnson, Director of Diversity Management and Equal opportunity in Department of Defense, is also a Tuskegee graduate that we met with. Tuskegee Airmen Inc. is one of several events that his office engaged with during the year. The Department of Defense supports Tuskegee Airmen Inc. with insuring that they are an employment option for civil or military job service.
Captain Tony Holder is a man apart of TAI. He started flying when he was 22 years old and after retiring, accumulated over 22,000 flight hours! Holding the most flight hours in Tuskegee Airmen.
Nancy Colon is a 98-year-old woman we came across who served in a C-124 transport plane as a flight nurse, assigned to the Tuskegee Airmen. She flew all over Japan to pick up patients that were to be transferred into the bigger hospitals in the United States, saving a lot of lives. When we asked her, “So you’re a flight nurse” she replied with a nod and a big smile saying, “That’s right I loved it.” She retired in 1965 after finishing 20 years of active duty.
Thank you to the sponsors of TAI: Leonardo, DRSLiebherr, American Airlines, JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa, USAA, Honeywell Aerospace, Department of Defense, Southwest Airline
Also, a big thank you to Sherri Fuller, the Convention Planner for TAI, for inviting Veterans Reporter News to the convention and arranging these interviews.
Las Vegas also has a Tuskegee Chapter, if you’re interested, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anybody can join the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. they want to help to support continuing the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. To let people know the honorable accomplishments and perpetuating the history of the Tuskegee Airmen.