CAF Red Tail Squadron

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

Thank you for contributing to the Virtual Museum!

We are proud to report that since the launch of our Virtual Museum one month ago, we have received some remarkable submissions. Folks all over the country have been eager to share their personal or family treasures to help tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to a wide audience, and we invite you to “come in” and visit!

Photo of P 51 and Tuskegee Airman from B 17We’ve heard some pretty amazing stories, like David Ward Sr. His father, Elden Ward, was B-17 gunner. On a mission during the War, he captured a photo on his simple Kodak Brownie camera of one of the P-51s escorting their bomber. He was grateful to the “red tail angels,” as they were calling the Tuskegee Airmen at that time. They had developed a reputation for keeping the bombers safe.

Years later, Ward and his family were curios about the aircraft and pilot in that shot. His son did some investigating, and learned that the pilot was Tuskegee Airman Charles Lane. In fact, the two men had lived somewhat near each other in Nebraska, but never knew it. Remarkable.

We are humbled by the supporters and followers of the CAF Red Tail Squadron who have taken the time to send in their artifacts. If you’ve got something you’d like to share – an article of clothing, tool, book, anything that belonged to a Tuskegee Airmen or is relevant to their experience – we encourage you to submit through our easy online portal. All we need is a photo and to share any information you may have. The item never leaves you! We just want to virtually share it with the world as yet another meaningful way to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.

In a very exciting development, you can now subscribe to the Virtual Museum and be kept up to take with all new artifacts! We will let you know via email when we have added something new, so you can be the first to see. Just fill out the subscription form on the Virtual Museum’s home page, and rest assured that your information will only be used to share news with you about the latest artifacts, memorials, artwork and other interesting items!

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: Vernon Hopson

Tuskegee Airman Vernon HopsonLike many of those that went on to become pilots with the famed Tuskegee Airmen, Vernon Hopson dreamed of flying from a young age, even though he had never had the chance to go up in an airplane. Because of the deep divides of racism that still blanketed the country, people of color were confined to menial roles and limited opportunities, and certainly being a pilot was far out of reach at that time.

Growing up in Lee County, Texas, a small community 60 miles outside of Austin, times were tough for Hopson and his family coming out of the Great Depression. He worked in the fields and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps to find employment. Students from a local flight school flew low over those fields, sparking his passion for flight.

With the war on the other side of the ocean drawing the U.S. into the conflict, military leaders slowly began to consider the possibility for adding black Americans to the talent pool for much needed pilots for the war efforts. When he read about black pilots being trained at Tuskegee, the dream started to become a reality.

He spoke about the news with his former high school principal, who encouraged him to pursue the program. He himself had wanted to be a pilot but was unable to fulfill that dream because of the color of his skin. He saw an opportunity for this young man to have a different fate.

Hopson entered military service in July 1943 after being accepted into Aviation Cadet Flight Training. By November 1944, he was successfully checked out in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and achieved the rank of Warrant Officer. He was assigned to the Operational Training Unit in North Carolina, and then to the 477th Composite Group, flying P-47s to escort B-25 bombers that were set for deployment to the fight the war in the Pacific theater.

Fortunately, World War II ended across the globe on August 15, 1945, and the 477th never deployed to combat. Hopson service was ended, and although he had earned his wings, he could not find employment as a pilot after the war because he was black. The best offer he got was to wash planes, an unacceptable offer for a licensed military pilot and war hero. Instead, Hopson re-enlisted in the United States Air Force where he served until 1963. His military career took him all over the world including Japan, Guam, Korea, Greenland and Italy.

His time in the Air Force led him to pursue a civilian career with the Federal Aviation Administration, and Hopson became one of the first black air traffic controllers in the country, working for more than 20 years at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the St. Paul Downtown Airport, also known as Holman Field.

In the tenuous years that marked the fight for civil rights in the 1960s, Hopson has said that he felt as if he had to keep a low profile or risk losing his job. After his retirement from his civilian career, and the story of the Tuskegee Airmen was beginning to come into public consciousness, Hopson gave his time speaking in public about his experience. Countless people were touched and encouraged by his story. Vernon Hopson passed away in 2009.

We salute you, Mr. Hopson, for your courage, valor and service to our country. RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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BIG NEWS! The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s new Virtual Museum shines a fresh light on the Tuskegee Airmen!

artifacts collage low resThis just in! The CAF Red Tail Squadron is excited to announce the launch of our new Virtual Museum, creating yet another exciting way for people to learn about and appreciate the Tuskegee Airmen. Nowhere else can people of all ages, from all around the world, come to one site and learn so much about the history and experience of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“Step inside” this virtual hall of artifacts, memorials and artwork to feel history come alive. The CAF Red Tail Squadron is virtually curating a collection of items of significance to the Tuskegee Airmen, from a flight jacket worn by pilot Woodrow Crocket, to the Congressional Gold Medal awarded collectively to the Tuskegee Airmen, to a mural of Clarence Dart adorning the streets of Elmira, NY.

We’ve started this treasure trove of items to peruse, and now we pass the torch to YOU. Does someone in your family have any artifacts significant to the Tuskegee Airmen experience? Do you have a memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen in your community? Share that knowledge and inspire those who want to know more by including a photo of your Tuskegee Airmen artifact or memorial in our Virtual Museum, and play an important role in our mission, without your item ever leaving home! Tell us about it and include your piece of history in the Virtual Museum!

What began as a dream to broadcast the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen across the entire country has become a reality in the years since the founding of the CAF Red Tail Squadron. As the years have gone by we have made some amazing strides – the full restoration of our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen, the success of our RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater, and a treasure trove of free educational resources that are accessed and used by teachers and youth leaders at an ever increasing rate.

The launch of the new CAF Red Tail Squadron Virtual Museum is our next big adventure, and only propels our inspirational message to a wider audience. Check it out, participate and share the news!

This is a community collaborative effort and we are excited to facilitate the special kind of excitement that comes from each one of us sharing our knowledge about the remarkable Tuskegee Airmen. THANK YOU for being a part of this important journey!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: Harry Stewart

nc tuskegeeai2 150220While still a teenager, growing up in New York City, Harry T. Stewart Jr. enlisted in the war effort and joined the legendary ranks of the Tuskegee Airmen. He earned his wings and commission in 1943, but his youth did not hinder his ability to become one of the most famous of the Tuskegee Airmen pilots of World War II, and beyond.

Stewart was born in Newport News, Virginia, and moved with his family to Queens when he was a toddler. The proximity of his family’s home to what is now LaGuardia Airport placed Stewart under the flight path of the aircraft coming and going to this burgeoning travel hub of New York City. In awe, the youngster grew up to become one of our country’s first black military aviators.

At 17, Stewart signed up for war service, volunteering before being drafted. He was called up promptly after turning 18 and passed the exams to qualify to train to become a pilot, and heading off shortly after to Tuskegee Army Air Field for initial flight training. He was destined to learn to fly before he even learned to drive a car.

After his time at Tuskegee, he completed combat and fighter training at Walterboro Army Air Field in South Carolina before being sent to Italy with the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group in 1944.

Stewart flew 43 missions in combat, amassing an outstanding record. He is widely acclaimed for being one of only four Tuskegee Airmen with three aerial victories in one day, amazingly taking down three German Focke-Wulf 190s on April 1, 1945. The feat took place while on a mission to escort and provide cover for B-24 bombers on a raid over Linz, Austria. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the effort, and earned a place in the history books.

After the War, Stewart was a part of the team from the 332nd Fighter Group that won the first ever USAF fighter gunnery competition in 1949, a grueling 10-day event held at what is now Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for all military fighter groups. Despite flying obsolete single-engine P-47 aircraft for the event, they led from the start and won in the conventional aircraft division.

Stewart was honorably discharged from active duty in 1950, serving as a Reservist for several more years, eventually retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He resumed his education and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from New York University in 1963 where he served as the present of the student council and chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

He went on to have a successful civilian career, retiring as Vice President of the ANR Pipeline Company in Detroit, Michigan, operators of one of the largest interstate natural gas pipeline systems in the United States. Outside of work, Stewart’s passion for aviation kept him in the air and he continued to fly, even earning his commercial glider pilots license at the age of 81.

Harry Stewart is a friend to the CAF Red Tail Squadron, appearing at events to inspire people of all ages with the important lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen. We salute you, Lt Col Stewart, and thank you for being an example of courage for generations to come.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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A successful HUGE leap forward to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen!

IMG 7245Our educational outreach potential has just ballooned to enormous proportions!

In conjunction with the education team of the Commemorative Air Force, we are excited to announce the very first successful screening of our original film “Rise Above” inside a portable, cost-effective, pop-up dome theater. This means that the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen can reach far beyond our tour directly to the 72 CAF units around the country!

That takes us from one film being shown inside the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit at stops around the country, to multiple films shown throughout the country at multiple events throughout the year.

Working together, we can grow our outreach numbers exponentially to inspire people to RISE ABOVE their own challenges and pursue their dreams, just like the Tuskegee Airmen. The potential for this new project is something to shout about, and we are poised and ready to help our fellow CAF units implement this awesome and cost-effective program.

The CAF Florida Wing is the first CAF unit to take up the challenge, led by Butch Stevens, their education technology officer. Recently, along with the CAF national education team and CAF VP of Education (and our very own P-51C Mustang pilot!) Bill Shepard, the group hosted the first “beta test” event in their dome theater, premiering the re-mastered film for this new format. Local children were invited to the CAF headquarters in Dallas, Texas for this fun, free and inspirational event. The energy and excitement was palpable, and this new RISE ABOVE experience was a huge hit.

With the portable dome theaters, our fellow CAF units are going to be able to extend the reach of the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen directly to their communities. This is a giant leap forward towards our mission, and one that especially honors one of our founders, the late Don Hinz.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron was founded on Don’s vision to bring the story of the Tuskegee Airmen into every classroom in America. With hard work, determination and a lot of support from our donors and followers, we have evolved into a world class organization that inspires people of all ages with the remarkable history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen through our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen, the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater and free resources for educators.

When the Traveling Exhibit made it’s debut, we were able to take our message “off the tarmac” with this remarkable mobile movie theater, reaching events that our Mustang could not. And now, the launch of the CAF education team’s dome theaters marks the next leap forward, multiplying out outreach potential to enormous proportions.

Stay tuned to find out where you will be able to see our film “Rise Above” in a new dome theater near you. And to our fellow CAF units, we hope to see all of you on board for this exciting and cost-effective educational outreach program that will help you increase your impact within your own communities!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Tuskegee Airman Speaking at Free Event in Red Wing September 12

Dr. Brown book coverThe CAF Red Tail Squadron is excited to announce an event in their hometown with Dr. Harold Brown, World War II pilot with the famed Tuskegee Airmen. The Squadron is hosting his appearance in Red Wing, which will inspire the local community through his remarkable experience as one of our nation’s first black military pilots.

The public is invited to meet this American hero in person and hear him speak about his personal experience from his new book, “Keep Your Airspeed Up: The Story of a Tuskegee Airman,” co-authored with his wife Dr. Marsha Bordner. The FREE event open to the public will be held Tuesday, September 12 at 6:00 p.m. at Sheldon Theater. All ages are welcome to attend.

Dr. Brown is a Minneapolis native and North High School graduate. He flew with the famed 332nd Fighter Group in World War II, the famed all black military pilots who overcame great adversity to fly and flight for our country. He graduated from the Tuskegee Institute’s segregated pilot training program and was commissioned as an officer in the then U.S. Army Air Corps in 1944. During his time in combat, Dr. Brown completed missions strafing targets on the ground and protecting bombers in the air. On his 30th mission, he was shot down over enemy territory, bailing out of his badly damaged P-51 and being taken as a prisoner of war.

Dr. Brown served his country for 23 years. He retired in 1965 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, experienced in 20 different military aircraft and with a post at Strategic Air Command under his belt during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dr. Brown went on to earn a Ph.D., eventually retiring from Columbus Technical College as Vice President of Academic Affairs. His many successes after the war illustrate his passion for education and community service, which he has carried with him until today, speaking to countless groups and students to inspire them with his own personal story of struggle and success.

The event at Sheldon Theater will include a short video, a presentation by Dr. Brown, a question and answer session, and opportunity for autographs. Mark your calendar to meet, learn from and be inspired by this living legend. Sheldon Theater is located at 443 W 3rd St. in Red Wing. No tickets are required for this free event.

In addition to the event at Sheldon Theater, Dr. Brown has also made time to speak with local students and at a correctional facility in the area to encourage all to “rise above” their challenges and find success.

His visit to Red Wing is made possible by the CAF Red Tail Squadron, a non-profit group based in Red Wing that works to ensure the inspirational legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen lives on for generations to come.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Howard Baugh

Like many children who grew up during the post-World War I golden age of aviation, young Howard Baugh dreamed of earning his wings and a seat in the cockpit. But a country mired by systemic racism severely restricted the opportunities for Baugh, and all people of color, and as a young man he faced a harsh reality that this vision of flight may never come true.

Baugh was born January 20, 1920 to William and Carrie Baugh in Petersburg, Virginia. One of five siblings, the family endured enforced segregation and limited civil liberties because of the state’s Jim Crow laws. Baugh attended Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) in Petersburg, one of the nation’s first historically black colleges founded in the mid-Atlantic region. He graduated in 1941, and in February of the following year he married his college sweetheart, Constance Layne.

As World War II geared up to change the course of the country, Baugh would soon get a chance to earn his wings. With the U.S. Army Air Corps opening up the opportunities for black Americans to fly and fight for their country, he enlisted, and was sent to pilot training in Tuskegee, Alabama in March of 1942, just six weeks after he was married. He passed the rigorous courses and was commissioned as an officer in November of 1942. The first time he had ever been in an airplane was when he was training to become a pilot. Baugh had his wings, and was ready to serve his country in the air war over Europe.

CaptHowardBaugh99thFSIn July 1943, Baugh was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron. He flew a total of 135 combat missions in the P-40 and P-51 fighter aircraft during his 16 months in combat operations overseas. In honor of his wife, he painted the nose of his aircraft with “Connie Jean.”

On January 27, 1944, Baugh was part of a formation of 16 fighter aircraft of the 99th involved in a mission over the Anzio beachhead in Italy, part of the Battle of Anzio. Upon spotting 15 German FW-190’s, the group took down 10 of the enemy planes. Baugh was credited 1.5 aerial victories for the effort, taking down one himself and another along with his wingman.

Baugh earned many accolades for his skill and heroism during the war including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal.

After his time overseas, Baugh was assigned to Tuskegee Army Airfield in November of 1944 where he served as a flight instructor in the T-6 trainer and B-25 bomber and was further promoted to Director of Flying Training.

Their family grew, and the Baugh’s welcomed a total of three boys over the years, Howard Jr., David and Richard. Howard Baugh Jr. would follow in his father’s footsteps as a military aviator, getting his first flying lesson from his father.

His career in the military spanned 25 years of active duty and many interesting assignments. After his time at Tuskegee, he served as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor at Howard University, Wing Commander and Professor of Aerospace Studies at Tennessee State University. Upon retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1967, he had logged 6,000 flight hours, including 250 in combat and 1,100 in four types of jet aircraft. His impressive lineup of military aircraft flown include the PT-13, PT-17, BT-13, L-20, AT-6, P-40, P-47, P-51, B-25, B-26, C-45, C-47, B-57, B-66, T-33, F-80, SA (HU)-16, F-15 and FA-18.

After leaving the Air Force, Baugh went on to have a successful career with Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Baugh eventually retired back in their hometown of Petersburg, where he gave of his time and talent speaking to and encouraging young people to understand the importance of education. He often spoke about his experience as a Tuskegee Airman, and that it was his good education that propelled his success in the military and in life.

“The most important message that I can give students is to stay in school, get the best education as they can so they can prepare themselves to get in a position to enjoy life,” he said in an interview several years ago.

In these years, Baugh was greatly admired for the service he had given to his country, as well as for his passion for helping others. He was known to be kind, generous and humble, and always eager to help. He shared his experiences to many groups and clubs, even speaking at prisons and traveling to Germany to speak with former war pilots who would have been his foes during the War. Along with three other original Tuskegee Airmen, Baugh was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 2004. He was inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 2003, the Howard Baugh chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. organization in Petersburg was founded in his honor. His sons remain active in the organization, which is currently working towards erecting a statue in Baugh’s honor. The group has commissioned sculptor Joel Randell for the life-sized bronze statue, who Baugh had selected himself.   

When invited to the Pentagon in 2005 with other Tuskegee Airmen to meet with the secretary of defense, Baugh said, “Back in the '40s and prior to that, the military services of the United States were the most racist and segregated segment of our society. Today, it is the most fair and integrated segment of our society. And the Armed Forces are leading the rest of society in acceptance and tolerance of diversity in our society.”

Howard Baugh passed away August 21, 2008, and rests at Arlington National Cemetery alongside his wife. His legacy will continue to inspire young people for generations to come.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Come to KidVenture to Meet a Legendary Tuskegee Airman Pilot in Person!

Harry StewartWe are excited to announce that original Tuskegee Airman pilot Harry Stewart will make a special appearance with us at the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit inside KidVenture at EAA Airventure!

Join us to meet Mr. Stewart, thank him for his service and get his autograph. He will be at the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit inside KidVenture Thursday, July 27, Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day.

Visitors to the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater will be treated to an original film about the Tuskegee Airmen on a dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen. The experience creates the feeling of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the iconic aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen.

While you’re there, pick up a Tuskegee Airmen Trivia Card to earn prizes, including a dog tag featuring the Six Guiding Principles of the Tuskegee Airmen: Aim High, Believe In Yourself, Use Your Brain, Be Ready To Go, Never Quit and Expect to Win.

In addition to the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, KidVenture will feature many fantastic hands-on activities for young people to bring their dreams of aviation to life. Located inside the EAA AirVenture convention grounds at Pioneer Airport, KidVenture is open Monday, July 24 through Saturday, July 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday, July 30 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Join us as we honor original Tuskegee Airman Harry Stewart, and be inspired to make YOUR dreams take flight!

About Harry Stewart

Retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Harry Stewart Jr. flew 43 combat missions in World War II with the 332nd Fighter Group, known today as the Tuskegee Airmen. As part of our nation’s first black military pilots, Stewart amassed an outstanding record. He was one of only four Tuskegee Airmen with three aerial victories in one day, amazingly taking down three German Focke-Wulf 190s on April 1, 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the effort, and earned a place in the history books. In 1949, Stewart was a part of the team from the 332nd Fighter Group that won the first ever USAF fighter gunnery competition, the Air Force’s version of “Top Gun.” Despite flying in obsolete single engine P-47 aircraft for the event, they led from the start and won in the conventional aircraft division. However, the official record of the victory listed the winner “unknown” until 1995 when Stewart ensured the record was corrected. The trophy had mysteriously disappeared and was not recovered until 2004. Stewart was discharged from active duty in 1950, serving as a Reservist for several more years. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from NYU and retired from his civilian career as the Vice President of the ANR Pipeline Company in Detroit, Michigan.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Kids! (And Grownups!) Learn about the Tuskegee Airmen at EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin!

Popsicles, swimming pools and sunshine… but if you love airplanes, nothing says summer quite like Oshkosh!

Many aviation enthusiasts point to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin as the pinnacle of summer. People of all ages gather for the “World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration,” treated to a full week of dazzling airshows, workshops, entertainment and, of course, airplanes of all eras and varieties. Better yet? WE will be there!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron has been a fixture at AirVenture for some time, but this year we’re excited to be an exclusive part of their KidVenture programming! Sharing the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen with kids is at the heart of our educational outreach, and KidVenture is a GREAT place to spread this important piece of history.

For families in the Oshkosh area, we welcome you to come visit the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit at AirVenture July 24 – 30. While you’re there, pick up one of our new Trivia Cards to earn your own dog tag featuring the Six Guiding Principles of the Tuskegee Airmen. Find us in KidVenture, along with a lot of other fantastic hands-on activities for young people to bring their dreams of aviation to life!

KidVenture is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We look forward to meeting you and having you check out the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater. Be inspired by the legendary Tuskegee Airmen…. and watch your dreams take flight!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Attention Minnesotans! Meet Legendary Tuskegee Airmen at the Waseca County Free Fair!

We are excited to announce that original Tuskegee Airmen Fred Henry and Washington Ross will be our special guests at the Waseca County Free Fair July 12-16. Come meet these living legends and visit the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, a FREE panoramic movie theater experience that inspires and educates all ages with the remarkable history of the Tuskegee Airmen!

For too long black Americans were excluded from meaningful military service opportunities, relegated to menial roles that denied the U.S. Armed Forces of their potential talent and contribution. But with the demands of World War II and pressure from civil rights groups, a new segregated flying squadron was created to allow black Americans the chance to serve their country as part of the air war, by training to be combat pilots and their support personnel. These brave Americans achieved great success in the war and became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Meet these living legends and step inside the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, an air-conditioned mobile movie theater featuring the original film “Rise Above.” This immersive experience is housed in a 53’ semi trailer with expandable sides and equipped with a ramp and hydraulic lift to ensure access to all. Because of its dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen, the film creates the feeling of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the iconic signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen. Admission to the Traveling Exhibit is always FREE!

Fred HenryHenry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and was sent to Tuskegee Army Air Field for training in the newly created Tuskegee program for aspiring black pilots and support personnel. He served in many important support roles, including base security and military police. After his war service, Henry worked for the New York City Central Railroad, then the Ford Motor Company, where he spent the remainder of his career before he retired after 30 ½ years of service. Henry has also held the distinguished position of president of the Warren, Michigan chapter of Disabled Veterans of America.

Ross served as a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, training in Tuskegee, Alabama then Selfridge, Michigan before being sent overseas to Ramitelli, Italy to fly and fight with the legendary 332nd Fighter Group. During his time in the War, he flew the P-39 Aircobra, P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang. His duties included escorting bomber aircraft and ensuring their safety on their important missions over Germany and Austria to lead the Allied powers to victory in Europe. After the War he served as a flight instructor for the B-25 Mitchell bomber. Upon leaving active duty, he served 20 years in the United States Air Force Reserves, retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Ross is a graduate of Hampton Institute, University of Detroit and D'etre University, and worked for the Detroit Board of Education for 29 years. He is enshrined in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.  

Washington RossThe gentlemen will also make a special appearance at Latham Place assisted living in Waseca to visit with residents that are not able to attend the fair.

Join us for this fun and FREE event to meet these living legends! RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Make plans to attend a special event to honor legacy of Tuskegee Airmen at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is excited to announce that they will again participate in the Tuskegee Airmen Legacy Open House, two days of FREE events in Alabama June 22 and 24 in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the 100th Fighter Squadron, one of the first squadrons of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen – our country’s first black military pilots.

Experience the thrill of flight at this family-friendly event featuring modern and vintage aircraft in the air and on the ground, plus hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities and more. All ages are welcome!

This is the third annual event organized by Legacy Flight Academy, a non-profit organization that conducts character-based youth aviation programs that draw upon the LEGACY of the Tuskegee Airmen. The group’s founder, United States Air Force Major Kenyatta Ruffin, is a fighter pilot who is dedicated to developing and leading innovative programs that help young people experience first-hand the exciting opportunities in aviation, aeronautics, engineering, technology and the military.

On Thursday, June 22, visit the National Tuskegee Historic Site at historic Moton Field in Tuskegee for an Open House from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

On Saturday, June 24, join the 187th Fighter Wing and 100th Fighter Squadron of the Alabama Air National Guard at Montgomery Regional Airport for an Open House from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (Please, no backpacks, coolers or pets at the June 24 event.)

To ignite excitement and build a deeper understanding of aviation-related career opportunities, this exciting event will feature military aircraft on static display for hands-on and interactive viewing, up-close sights and sounds of aircraft in flight, an American flag skydiving exposition, and guest speakers sharing insights on careers in the military and the aerospace industry. Career opportunities are continuing to expand in aviation, and Legacy Flight Academy wants young people to understand what those are and how to create a path to achieve their dreams.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to experience the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, a mobile movie theater featuring the original film “Rise Above” about the inspirational history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Because of its dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen, the film creates the feeling of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the iconic aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.

Come join us for this exciting and inspirational event, celebrating the birthplace of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Do you have Tuskegee Airmen artifacts? The CAF Red Tail Squadron wants to talk to you!

Journal pages of Harold BrownThe CAF Red Tail Squadron needs the help of our fellow CAF units. We are looking for artifacts, mementos and memorials of the Tuskegee Airmen!

We hope to create a virtual showcase of these personal items to further humanize the experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen which will help people better relate to them and learn more about these important Americans. World War II may be slipping farther into the past, but, as we all know, the lessons to be learned from the Tuskegee Airmen are TIMELESS!

Here's what we need from you. If you have any artifacts (items from a uniform, log books, notes, medals, anything physical that belonged to an original Tuskegee Airmen) or know of any memorials, please get in touch with us. We will collect a photo and information from you that will be used to launch this new project and help make it a success.

Do you have any artifacts or know someone who does? Or are there any at your local air museum? Give us a call or email!

Reach out to darcy@redtail.org or (203) 297-4994. Don't wait! We need your help now!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Joint mission rallies, inspires kids with message of the Tuskegee Airmen

Bill Shepard, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot and Vice President of Education for the Commemorative Air Force, shares his thoughts on a recent event in Detroit that made a big impression on local youth. Thanks Bill for your hard work and dedication to honor the Tuskegee Airmen and inspire people through their story!

As a member and supporter of several entities that honor the Tuskegee Airmen –Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum and the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron – I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with several groups, while wearing multiple hats (or as a warbird pilot, should it be parachutes?!).

Bill Shepard at Coleman Young airport eventIn May, I represented the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen in a joint mission with the Detroit TAI chapter and the National Museum to support this summer’s air show and open house at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. This location plays an important role in the history of the Tuskegee Airmen experience, and when the call came to participate in their educational event, I agreed that this was a great opportunity for collaboration to engage kids and the community with our important message. Working together, that message was even more impactful.

The event at Coleman Young Airport gave local students a chance to experience many new aspects of aviation. They learned about both civilian and military aviation-related careers, including exciting opportunities outside the cockpit that they may not have considered or known about.

Giving kids the chance to touch, feel, hear and see a warbird up close is exciting and inspiring itself, but these aircraft help to humanize the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen and are a tangible way for young people to relate to something that ordinarily may seem too far removed from their modern life.

Together, we were all able to collectively utilize our passion and understanding of the Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy to help infuse these young people with inspiration to make good choices and set and pursue high goals for themselves. This is the power of the Airmen’s narrative, and the power of our organizations to be such a strong force for positive change in our communities.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron will also be in the Detroit area for several other events this year, including Focus: HOPE and Thunder Over Michigan. The Selfridge open house will be held August 19-20, and will include the CAF’s RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater and the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen. We will be at the event to continue to share the stories of the Airmen at this historic home of the Tuskegee Airmen’s 477th Bombardment Group.

We’re proud to show our support for the youth of Detroit. Thanks to all the members and volunteers who made this joint mission a success!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Robert Friend

The history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is inspirational to people of all ages. Their life lessons can impart a special meaning for people from all walks of life. From a child in awe of a red-tailed airplane, to the elderly veteran full of gratitude for their fellow war heroes, there is something in each of their stories that can inspire us all to live better, fuller and braver lives.

One such hero is Robert Friend, one of the oldest living original Tuskegee Airmen pilots.  Born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1920, Friend was interested in aviation from a young age. He read stories of World War I pilots in old magazines and made his own makeshift airplanes for imaginative play. Friend had wanted to enlist in the Army to fly for our country, but was turned away. Even though the country was making preparations for war, black Americans could not join the Armed Forces to serve as pilots.

While a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania – the first historically black college to grant college degrees – he took aviation-related courses. When the Civilian Pilot Training Program began in 1939 for college students, Friend eagerly applied and was accepted. He completed the program and earned his private pilot’s license. But this was only the first step to becoming a military pilot. When the program opened an opportunity for a segregated pilot training program at Tuskegee, Friend finally had his chance to join the war effort and earn his wings for his country.

Robert Friend young photoAfter successfully completing all phases of training, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and assigned to the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. By that time, the country had officially entered the war. When he deployed overseas, Friend was first sent to North Africa, then to the Europe Theater as a Combat Operations Officer at the squadron and group levels. He was responsible for planning and organizing the implementation of strategic and tactical air missions.

He was a skilled pilot in the P-47 and P-51 aircraft. He flew wing man for Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who would later go on to be come the first black general of the United States Air Force. He flew 142 combat missions in World War II. His service extended in several other capacities during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He finished his education at the Air Force Institution of Technology.

His career with the Air Force included serving as Assistant Deputy of Launch Vehicles, working on important space launch vehicles such as the Titan, Atlas and Delta rockets and the Space Shuttle. He served as a Foreign Technology Program Director where he identified and monitored research and development programs related to national security. He was also the Director of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program, tasked with investigating unidentified flying objects.

After retiring from the military, his expertise was utilized to oversee the design and production of space products for the Space Shuttle program, lead a company that creates components for the International Space Station and other satellite systems, and direct the research and development for USAF weapons and missile programs.

When Friend was in the air during World War II, he flew a P-51D Mustang, slightly different from our P-51C model. A D model, painted up with his original “Bunny” bathing beauty, has been on static display at the Palm Springs Air Museum for a number of years, but had an extensive overhaul to make it airworthy once again, taking it’s first flight in decades in February 2015.

Although identical, this particular aircraft was not the one Friend flew, but was built near the end of the war and never saw combat. It’s almost certain that the P-51D Friend piloted himself never made it back to the states. When the war ended, it was too much trouble to return many of the combat aircraft to the U.S. and they were commonly scrapped in Europe, or if they were returned to the states they were sold to civilians for very little.

Also of credit to this inspirational Tuskegee Airman, Friend is an active participant in Ride 2 Recovery, cycling events that benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs for our country’s wounded veterans. Friend himself has ridden in the events, and plays a large role in helping to bring awareness to the program.FullSizeRender

Want to try to keep up with this active veteran? Follow him on Facebook to see what he’s up to and where he will be next.

Lt Col Friend, we salute you for your decades of service to our country, and for inspiring future generations to pursue their dreams and make a difference, just like you and your fellow Tuskegee Airmen.

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Units team up to bring inspiration to school in need

In April, several CAF units hit the road for Kansas City, Missouri to bring their message to a school that was especially in need of the kind of inspiration only CAF can provide. The team effort included Vice President of Education Bill Shepard and members of the new Red Bird Squadron, Heart of America Wing and Red Tail Squadron. Shepard was particularly eager to bring the program back to an area he used to call home, and infuse a local school in need with this important piece of history.

Leaders and volunteers from Friendship Baptist Church set out last fall on a “Power of Positive Change” campaign for George Melcher Elementary, organizing programs to help improve the overall culture of the school. Their efforts were based around the Red Tail Squadron’s Six Guiding Principles, based on the life lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen. The CAF’s special event was the pinnacle of the church’s work at the school this academic year.

Dr. Merlyne Starr, longtime supporter of the Red Tail Squadron and volunteer at Friendship Baptist Church, is credited with the idea behind the campaign, building it upon the Six Guiding Principles and inviting the CAF to participate in the final event.

What better way to educate and inspire students to rise above their own obstacles, just like the Tuskegee Airmen, than to bring the excitement of aviation direct to their doorstep! Students were treated to attention-grabbing activities like CAF’s interactive C-47 That’s All Brother cockpit simulator. Stepping inside, students got a sense of what it’s like to be in command of a real cockpit, in an aircraft that led the Allies in the invasion of Normandy. The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit’s mobile panoramic movie theater gave them the sights and sounds of the Tuskegee Airmen and their aircraft.

“CAF units worked together to expose these kids to something they have never seen before and most likely would not have access to,” said Shepard. “Melcher Elementary is a school with some of the greatest challenges, and it was an honor to partner with the volunteers of Friendship Baptist Church and support their program to help change the culture and future of this school. We both believe in the power of the Tuskegee Airmen to inspire students to rise above their own obstacles and achieve success.”

The event’s organizers were impressed not only by what CAF brought for the students, but by their dedication and enthusiasm.

“The CAF volunteers and staff had a wonderful attitude about working with our youth,” said Dr. Mary Long, co-chair of the Positive Change Campaign and owner of the Kansas City-based Diversified Leadership International. “They were so friendly and focused on their interactions with the children. We observed our students realize new goals and dreams for themselves, and change their way of thinking.”

Melcher students rotated through six unique stations designed to emphasize the lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen, including CAF’s new “Flight Plan for Life” activity. Based on the premise that every pilot needs to have a well organized and thought out plan in order to have a successful mission, so does a young person. This goal-setting activity helped the students create a path to success while articulating their life goals.

“Our Wing understands the need and importance of educational outreach, and the opportunity to be involved in this event fit perfectly with that,” said Jarrett Bertoncin, PIO and Safety Officer for the Heart of America Wing. “We are building out our own education program, and working on follow-up plans at the school. We’re hopeful to tie in the Air Power History Tour with these students and the Rise Above message.”

Actor Willie Minor, of the HBO original film “Tuskegee Airmen,” also made a special appearance and brought another rousing element to the event. He gave the kids a fantastic real-life message about being a “champ or a chump”…. and the only difference is “u”! Members of the Kansas City chapter of the Black Pilots of America were also on hand to guide the students and share their perspectives.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to share how the Tuskegee Airmen have shaped American history,” said Melcher Elementary Principal Patricia Hayes. “The program taught valuable principles – like always believe in yourself, never quit, don’t be afraid to think – to our students in a unique, inspirational format.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: William Holloman

The passion that fills one’s heart for aviation can be a powerful force. Since the age of four, William Holloman wanted to fly, and that lust for the freedom of the skies stayed with him until adulthood, leading him to a long and prosperous career in the military. His illustrious time in the service and the extremes of racism that he experienced fueled his volunteer service in retirement. He spent years educating as many people as he could about the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, inspiring them to identify and achieve their own lofty goals.

Holloman was born August 21, 1924 in St. Louis. Growing up, he was fascinated by airplanes. He was known to regularly walk two miles to a local airfield to watch the aircraft takeoff and land. He was hooked, and no amount of unjust racial stereotypes or discrimination was going to keep him out of the cockpit.

In August of 1942, Holloman completed his aviation cadet exam and began training to become what are known today as the Tuskegee Airmen. He graduated from training at Tuskegee and received his wings from the U.S. Air Corps in September of 1944. Assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron, he flew 19 missions out of the segregated air base in Ramitelli, Italy in 1944 and 1945. Protecting bombers, strafing targets on the ground and engaging in fighter sweeps was done with great skill in his P-51. He went to war to serve his country, but to also fulfill his dream to be an airman, flying and fighting from the air.

He has said that he didn’t fully understand at the time how racist our country was when he was a young man, because growing up he didn’t feel the sting of that injustice until he was older. During the war, his fighter group was segregated in Ramitelli, the white bomber crews they were heralded for protecting stationed elsewhere. In an interview with Smithsonian’s Air & Space Magazine in 2007, Holloman remembers the significance of that separation.

“When we went to town, we had lots of contact with them. In Italy, we were all stationed separately but within 25 or 30 miles of each other. They embraced us when we went to town. They wouldn’t let us buy our own drinks. They were very friendly. We were all brothers in arms in a combat area,” he said. “Segregation didn’t show itself until we got back to American soil. You get off the boat, and it’s all right there. I don’t think that I really hated the social structure of the United States until I came back from Italy. It was kind of sad.”

After World War II, Holloman didn’t stop flying. He took jobs that included crop dusting in Central America and flying for a regional commercial airline in Canada. With the country drawn shortly after into the Korean War, Holloman was called back to service, attending airborne electronics school then becoming the first black helicopter pilot in the United States Air Force.

He was again activated in 1966 for the Vietnam War. He became a leading instrument examiner, check pilot and director of safety and standards. Holloman retired from the service as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1972, designated as a Master Aviator with 17,000 flight hours in military aircraft, an impressive feat at any standard. Listen to Holloman talk about his memories from his time as a pilot in an interview with the Planes of Fame Air Museum shortly before his passing.

After his four decades of service, Holloman dedicated much time and effort to speaking out and organizing events to bring attention to the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, who had little widespread recognition before the Hollywood adaptations of their story. Among many activities and appearances, he was active in the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. organization, was a technical advisor for the film “Red Tails,” and provided a great deal of research assistance to the historical reference book The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History.

He also earned degrees in business administration from the University of Maryland and in history from the University of Washington. The Seattle area became his home, and he developed a very close relationship with their Museum of Flight. There he helped develop the museum’s Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and participated in numerous panels to educate people about the Tuskegee Airmen, veterans issues and the history of black Americans in the military. His original flight jacket is also proudly displayed in Seattle’s Northwest African American Museum.

CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot Alan Miller had the distinct pleasure of spending time with Holloman and enjoying his friendship for many years. Holloman was very close with original Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, both sharing details of their service and experiences as Tuskegee Airmen with Miller.

“Bill was the life of the party everywhere he went,” remembers Miller. “He and Alex were often found together, and now Alex speaks for both of them. He is carrying the torch to make sure others know about the amazing lives they and the other Tuskegee Airmen led, and how we can all learn from their experience.”

Holloman may have retired from the military, but in a sense he never stopped serving his country. His personal dedication to educating and inspiring others through the important history of the Tuskegee Airmen left an impact on the audiences he reached.

Holloman passed away in 2010, leaving behind his wife Adele and their six children and many grandchildren. Lt Col Holloman, we salute you for your service.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Monument set to honor resting place of brothers who were Tuskegee Airmen pilots

Among the family and friends laid to rest in the Alton, Illinois, town cemetery, war heroes and brothers George and Arnold Cisco hold a unique distinction, tucked away unnoticed for decades. They both served in World War II as part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, our nation’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. After all these years, members of the Alton community want to ensure their service - and the mark it left on history - will be honored and remembered for future generations.

The Tuskegee Airmen Cisco Memorial Committee of Alton has been leading a crowdfunding campaign to commission an upright granite memorial to the men. Unfortunately, the obscure, flat gravestones that currently mark their resting place do not give any indication of their important service as Tuskegee Airmen. Their project aims to change that with a monument that will include their images and that of the infamous fighter aircraft they flew in the war, educating and inspiring people about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.

Committee members include local residents Charlie Baird, United States Army veteran; Eugene Jones Baldwin, a researcher and interviewer in the Department of the Interior’s National Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project; Lorenzo Small, nephew of George and Alton Cisco; and members and staff of the Alton Museum of History and Art.

“The Cisco brothers had remained relatively unknown for 70 years and it is well past time they got the recognition they deserve,” said Brian Combs, president of the Alton Museum of History and Art. “Our museum has labored a long time to preserve our community’s history and bring an appreciation to the stories and contributions of people like George and Arnold Cisco.”

Alton’s black heritage includes helping slaves find safety in their free state. Its proximity to the Mississippi River made it an important part of the Underground Railroad, and is part of nine such sites in the region. The graves of the Cisco brothers are near the tomb and monument of Elijah P. Lovejoy, an outspoken abolitionist who was a minister and owner of the Alton Observer. In 1847, Lovejoy was killed by a pro-slavery mob that destroyed his printing press in an attempt to hinder abolitionist writings.

The monument is expected to be unveiled June 3, 2017, although efforts are ongoing to raise the last of the funds needed to finish the project. Those interested in contributing can visit their crowdfunding site to learn more and make a donation. Honoring the Cisco brothers is an important step towards shining a light on an important and overlooked piece of local history.

To help educate the community about the Tuskegee Airmen and the Cisco Brothers, the Alton Museum of History and Art hosted a free screening of “In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen” in early March. Additional events and fanfare are planned to mark the unveiling of the monument in June, including another opportunity for the community to view the film.

George and Arnold Cisco were born in 1918 and 1920 respectively and raised in Jerseyville with their parents, Roscoe and Flora Cisco, and younger brother Harlow. The rural town was just 20 miles north of Alton. Their father was a well-known musician in the area, playing piano and teaching music.

The two brothers graduated with honors from Jerseyville High School and went on to earn degrees from the University of Illinois where they were both members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

All three sons served their country in the armed forces. George had enlisted in the Army and graduated from officer training school as a second lieutenant in 1943. He was originally assigned to the 761st Tank Battalion, a segregated unit. He transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps and earned his wings as a Tuskegee Airman on May 23, 1944.

George CiscoTragically, at age 26, George was killed in a training accident before he ever served overseas, and was the first person of color from Jersey County to lose his life in the war effort. During a routine training mission on August 16, 1944, George’s aircraft was on the runway at an airfield in Walterboro, South Carolina, when it was struck by another plane coming in for a landing. He left behind his wife, Claire, and their infant daughter, Donna.

Arnold earned his wings as a Tuskegee Airman and was assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron, eventually deployed to Ramitelli Air Base in Italy. There he flew the infamous P-51 Mustang fighter in ground strafing and bomber escort missions. His wartime service earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters, World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal and the European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.

In another tragic turn of fate for the Cisco family, Arnold was tragically killed at the young age of 26 during military leave to visit his family. On May 19, 1946, the transport plane he was on hit power lines during a storm and crashed near Tuskegee, Alabama. He had been in Chicago to visit his wife, Hinnie, who was pregnant at the time with their son, and was on his way back to Tuskegee where he was to be promoted to the rank of Major before returning to fight overseas.Arnold Cisco 

Because the family lost two of their three children to the war, their youngest son, Harlow, was honorably discharged after three years of service in the Army when the Korean War broke out. According to the Sole Survivor policy that was enacted in 1948, the military was compelled to excuse a family’s sole survivor from active service during wartime.

The history of the Cisco family is a lesson in service, sacrifice and determination to press on in the face of great adversity. The community of Alton and Jerseyville will proudly erect their monument so these forgotten heroes can stand as a beacon of inspiration and courage.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron salutes George and Arnold Cisco, and remembers the great sacrifice of their family.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: Dr. Fenton Sands

Screen Shot 2017 03 22 at 11.47.59 AMDefying expectations is a hallmark of the Tuskegee Airmen. It may seem unusual that a kid from the urban metropolis of New York City would emerge as an international agricultural expert, but original Tuskegee Airmen Dr. Fenton sands did just that, and much more. He would grow up to leave those crowded city streets for the Ivy League, serve his country, and go on to dedicate his post-war civilian career to people all over the world. Like other inspirational Tuskegee Airmen, Sands has left his mark on history.

Although Sands was born in Harlem in 1918, his family originally emigrated to the U.S. from the Bahamas to find better opportunities for work and education. The sentiment “Get an education!” ran strong in their family. The children knew that, no matter what, this was their path forward. Sands hit that first milestone in 1936, graduating from Stuyvesant High School, one of the best high schools in New York City at the time.

Now called Jackie Robinson Park, Sands was inspired by Colonial Park, 10 blocks of open space in Harlem that sparked his curious nature. Growing up across this street from this gem where city met nature, his love for science took root, eventually leading him to Cornell to study agriculture. He was defying odds – a black man from the big city majoring in agriculture at a rural and predominantly white college.

He studied hard at Cornell, learned to farm, worked for a power company, and was a resident of the now-famous Telluride House. Still in existence today, the Telluride House is a unique community of Cornell scholars – undergraduate, graduate and faculty – passionate about intellectual engagement, democratic self-governance, and community living. Within this setting, Sands was afforded a rich and intense academic experience. He graduated in 1942 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in horticulture and agronomy, the science of soil management and crop production. He was the first in his family to earn a college degree.

While still at Cornell, Sands applied to the U.S. Army Air Corps’ new flight training program for black men because of his interest in aviation. He also wanted the opportunity to do something worthwhile for his country that was previously restricted from black Americans. Many people in the country, like Sands, were eager to join the war effort, and wanted the chance to do so regardless of the color of their skin, in critical roles where their skills and education could make a marked difference in fighting the enemy.

In June of 1942, Sands passed the examination needed to qualify as a cadet in the Air Corps to the great delight and pride of his entire family. By December he was assigned to pre-flight training at the Army Air Force Advanced Flying Training School in Tuskegee, Alabama and his future in aviation was set in motion.

As a cadet, Sands was a part of the now iconic picture with then New York City mayor Firello LaGuardia with the first class of black aviation navigation cadets who would go on to fly bombers. The group was heralded on this historic visit to New York and many flocked to see them in a parade, amazed at the prospect of black Americans flying aircraft in the war effort.

Sands was commissioned as an officer February of 1944. By June he completed bombardier training and was later assigned to the 477th Bombardier Group, becoming a member of a unique, select group of black navigators-bombardiers, the first of their kind in the military.

The war ended before the 477th was deployed overseas and Sands was honorably discharged in December of 1945 and shortly after married Dorothy Holder. The two moved to Africa in 1946, working as missionaries in Liberia to help re-open and revitalize the church-run Cuttington College. Sands would work on the school’s agricultural program, and during that time their two first children were born.

Sands and his family returned to the states so he could pursue a doctorate, and in 1954 he graduated from Cornell once again, this time with a PhD in agriculture. With their third child born during this time, the growing family once again returned to Africa where Sands served as Cuttington’s Vice President and Director of Agriculture. Later he would go on to take an assignment with his family in Nigeria.

His important work in agriculture expanded to work with USAID and the World Bank, serving in such locations as South Sudan, Sudan, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Morocco, Tunisia, Madagascar, Greece, South Yemen, North Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Thailand and the Phillippines. He retired in 1982.

Dr. and Mrs. Sands continued to explore and travel the world in their retirement, and joined several civic organizations. He was a member of the General “Chappie” James chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., mentoring young people through his inspirational military service and civilian career experience.

Sands passed away in 1998. His commitment to education and life’s work inspired all three of his children and seven grandchildren attended college. For a more detailed account of his life and to see photos and original documents from him time as a Tuskegee Airmen and working around the world, read “A Tuskegee Airman and Much More” by his son, Fenton Sands Jr.

We salute you, Dr. Sands, for your service and worthy contributions to make our world a better place. RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Founding member Don Hinz inducted into CAF Hall of Fame

IMG 3496In 2010, the Commemorative Air Force established the CAF Hall of Fame to honor members who have made monumental contributions towards the success and worldwide impact of the organization. On March 4, 2017, the late CAF Red Tail Squadron founding member Don Hinz, retired Navy commander, was inducted into the CAF Hall of Fame for his outstanding efforts to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen through his volunteer service with the CAF.

Tragically, Don passed away in 2004 from injuries sustained in an engine malfunction in the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen, but his vision to bring the lessons of these important American heroes into every classroom in the country continues to fuel the work of the CAF Red Tail Squadron. The addition of the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to the CAF Red Tail Squadron was a direct result of that vision.

At the induction ceremony, CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot and founding member Doug Rozendaal presented the award to Don's son, USMC officer and pilot Ben Hinz, who accepted it on behalf of the entire Hinz family.

Hinz noted that his father would not have accepted the award solely for himself. “He would point to the men and women who, 75 years ago, stood on the grounds of the Tuskegee Institute and fought for the opportunity to defend their country in the skies above Europe. That’s where the honor really lies. And if I think about how we honor their story and their tradition, along with my dad, I think the answer is quite simple. We fulfill my dad’s vision to put the story into every classroom in America of courage in the face of adversity as embodied by the Tuskegee Airmen. Thank you to the CAF for continuing to fulfill his vision and honoring his memory tonight.”

Don’s respect and reverence for the experience of the Tuskegee Airmen brought a vintage warbird back to the skies to inspire an entire generation to RISE ABOVE, and not just wow the audience at air shows. He saw restoring the P-51C Mustang as a tool to engage and ignite conversations with people of all ages that would help bring about an appreciation for the sacrifices made by the Tuskegee Airmen to serve their country while fighting for their own equality.

CAF's tribute to Hinz from the 2017 CAF Hall of Fame induction ceremony includes an interview he gave in the early days of the project. He said, “This aircraft is going to represent the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans in World War II. It will travel the country – maybe even the world – telling their story, celebrating their history and educating youth about their ability to follow their dreams, overcome obstacles and find their success.”

Hinz left an indelible mark not only on the CAF Red Tail Squadron, but also on the entire Commemorative Air Force. “Don brought education to the forefront,” said Rozendaal. “He knew this was not about an airplane; it was a tool we needed to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. He was a great leader and an incredible guy. He made me a better man. Don Hinz made this a better organization.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron extends hearty congratulations to the Hinz family. Join us as we continue to honor his vision to inspire and educate people everywhere through the remarkable story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Officially taking to the airways TODAY!

We’re excited to report that CAF Red Tail Squadron P-51C Mustang pilot and Squadron Leader Doug Rozendaal has just taken final delivery of the Tuskegee Airmen after over a year of repairs. The aircraft is now officially back in service of the CAF Red Tail Squadron to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen to audiences around the country for the 2017 air show season!

Today Rozendaal is flying the Mustang to the CAF National Airbase at Dallas Executive Airport where the aircraft will rest for a short bit before hitting the air show circuit. The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s RISE ABOVE: Red Tail program has already launched its 2017 cross-country tour and is currently in Phoenix, Ariz. for private visits at local schools, with special guest original Tuskegee Airman Col Charles McGee.

The P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen is slated to make its public debut at the 2017 Yuma Airshow March 17 and 18 where it will wow the audience with an aerobatic performance in the show, and be on static display alongside the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit to inspire and inform people of all ages with the important message of the Tuskegee Airmen, our country’s first black military pilots and their support personnel.

The Mustang has been tapped to appear at many events around the country in 2017. To find out if the RISE ABOVE: Red Tail program, featuring the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen and the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, will be near you, keep tabs on our events calendar. Make plans to come see us in person, introduce yourself and leave inspired to RISE ABOVE any challenge, just like the Tuskegee Airmen.

Once again, welcome back to our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen! You are a treasure!

Photo Courtesy Adam Glowski March 2017 copy

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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