Today’s RedState Water Cooler is a pinch-hit performance from the Department of History. On this date in 1942, the first flying cadets — known as Class 42C — graduated from the flying school at Tuskegee Army Airfield. These men formed the nucleus of what would later become known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
On January 16, 1941, the War Department authorized the formation of the 99th Pursuit Squadron as well as the Tuskegee Institute Training Program. Just over a year later, the first group of five graduates emerged ready for combat. This group included Captain (later full General) Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who would eventually command the 332nd Fighter Group and go on to become the first African-American general officer in the Air Force. His father, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., had been the first African-American general in the U.S. Army. After retirement from the military, General Davis headed the Federal Sky Marshal program and served on the American Battle Monuments Commission, as his father had before him.
Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Washington, DC
2LT Lemuel R. Custis, Hartford, CT
2LT Charles H. DeBow, Jr, Indianapolis, IN
2LT George S. Roberts, Fairmont, WV
2LT Mac Ross, Dayton, OH
Eventually, the 332nd Fighter Group would become known as the “Red Tails” because of the paint work on its P-51 Mustangs. The group flew more than 3,000 missions over occupied Europe and destroyed over 300 enemy aircraft. Perhaps the unit’s greatest day came on March 24, 1945, when unit members Charles Brantley, Earl Lane and Roscoe Brown helped the 332nd earn a Distinguished Unit Citation for all three men downing German jet fighters on a raid over Berlin.
For more information on the 332nd Fighter Group and the Tuskegee Airmen, visit redtail.org, a site posted by members of the Minnesota Branch of the Commemorative Air Force, or tuskgeeairmen.org. Meanwhile, enjoy today’s open thread!