Located in the museum’s World War II Gallery, the exhibit honors the black military pilots, navigators, bombardiers, armorers, maintainers, trainers, administrators and support personnel who fought during World War II.
The U.S. military remained racially segregated during the war, reflecting American society and law at the time. Most African American soldiers and sailors were restricted to labor battalions or other support positions, but the Tuskegee Airmen demonstrated conclusively that African Americans – if given equal opportunities and training – could fly in, command and support combat units as well as anyone.
“These men overcame tremendous challenges to prove their equality when it came to combat,” said Museum Historian Dr. Jeff Underwood, who curated the exhibit. “They served with distinction, and they contributed to the eventual integration of the U.S. armed services, with the U.S. Air Force leading the way. Their impact on American history continues to this day.”
The museum has had a Tuskegee Airmen exhibit since the 1970s, which was updated with new artifacts, photographs and documents in 2003. With the addition of the newly-restored Stearman PT-13D aircraft and more display cases, it was necessary to provide more space for the exhibit.
Visitors can see information and never-before-seen photos of this historic group, as well as many artifacts, including Col. (Ret.) Edward C. Gleed’s flight jacket, Maj. (Ret.) Charles Hall’s Distinguished Flying Cross, and objects from Lt. Col. (Ret.) Charles H. DeBow, one of the five men in the first class of pilots to graduate from Tuskegee. A diorama that includes the PT-13D and instructor and cadet mannequins helps tell the story of flight training during the war.
In addition to the exhibit opening, the Air Force Museum Theatre will show Red Tail Reborn at noon daily through Feb. 15 for a special price of $5 ($3 savings off the regular ticket price). This three-time Emmy Award-winning film, produced by Adam White, tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen and those keeping that story alive.
In addition, a 1/4-scale model painted to represent Lt. Col. (Ret.) Lee Archer’s “Red Tail” P-51 will be on display in the theatre lobby. The model aircraft is signed by Archer.
A Tuskegee Airmen convertible also will be on display in the museum’s visitor parking lot from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Feb. 11. The convertible is owned by Ernest Rosser Sr. and is signed by a number of Tuskegee Airmen.