Southfield (CW50) – As one of the most recognizable names in U.S. history, The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted to become America’s first black military airmen. A move that would lead them into being separated into their own all-black units. Those who possessed the physical and mental qualifications were accepted as aviation cadets to be trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. More than 15,000 flew in Europe and North Africa during WWII, with an impressive 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses awards to them.

In 1944, the 100th, 301st and 302nd fighter squadrons arrived in Italy; together with the 99th, these squadrons of Black pilots and other personnel made up the new 332nd Fighter Group. The pilots of the 332nd began flying P-51 Mustangs to escort the heavy bombers of the 15th Air Force. With red markings painted on the tails of their planes for identification purposes, The fighter group received the name “Red Tails.”

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By the time they flew their last mission, the Tuskegee Airmen had destroyed 36 German planes in the air and 237 on the ground, as well as 1,000 rail cars, vehicles, and even a German destroyer. During this time, 66 Tuskegee Airmen had lost heir lives, while 32 were shot down and captured as POWs. You can watch a Community Connect interview with a surviving member of the Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, who was one of those 32 POWs during WWII.

Community Connect Host Jackie Paige, with Dr. Brian R Smith, President of Tuskegee Airmen National Museum

In honor of the Tuskegee Airman, Dr. Brian Smith, President of the Tuskegee Airman National Museum, joins Jackie Paige on this weeks Community Connect to talk about how the museum is upholding the legacy and honoring the lives of the brave men who served as Tuskegee Airmen.

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The museum is located right here in Detroit and provides a place to record the contributions made by the Tuskegee Airmen to the defense of our Nation during a time where they were not thought of as equals to citizens or other military service members.

Learn more about the museum at TuskegeeMuseum.org

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Watch COMMUNITY CONNECT, Saturday at 7am on CW50