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War service

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War service

When the pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen earned their wings and deployed to the warfront, they carried an extra burden of proving their worth to military leaders, simply because of the color of their skin. It was a commonly held belief at the time that these men, although thoroughly trained using the same protocol and standards as white pilots, lacked equal capacity in skill and courage. It would take an extraordinary record to prove otherwise, and the Tuskegee Airmen made their place in history by doing just that. And they did it despite numerous obstacles set before them. They are an example of courage and perseverance for generations to come.

Pilots of a U.S. Army Air Forces fighter squadron, credited with shooting down 8 of the 28 German planes destroyed in dog-fights over the new Allied beachheads south of Rome, on Jan. 27, talk over the day's exploits at a U.S. base in the Mediterranean theater. Archive photo credits: Air Force Historical Research Agency Tuskegee Airmen pilots credited with shooting down 8 of the 28 German planes destroyed in dogfights over the new Allied beachheads south of Rome, talk over the day’s exploits at a U.S. base in the Mediterranean theater.

During WWII, the Tuskegee Airmen (then known as the “Red Tails”) flew:  1267  missions and 6381  combat sorties with the 12th Air Force (June, 1943 to May, 1944)  311  missions and 9152  combat sorties with the 15th Air Force (June, 1944 to May, 1945)   Total Missions: 1578  Total Combat Sorties: 15,533  Total Aerial Kills: 112

Records and highlights:

  • 992 pilots trained at Tuskegee Army Airfield
  •  There were 44  classes that graduated during the “Tuskegee Experience.”
  • 352 pilots deployed overseas
  • 744 air medals awarded
  • 3 Presidential Unit Citations awarded
  • 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses awarded
  • 1 Legion of Merit awarded
  • 1 Legion of Merit awarded
  • 1 Silver Star awarded
  • 2  Soldier Medals awarded
  • 8 Purple Hearts awarded
  • 14 Bronze Stars awarded
  • 1  Red Star of Yugoslavia awarded
  • 3 German jets shot down
  • 112 enemy aircraft destroyed

Statistics provided by the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

It is important to note, however, that it is a commonly held myth that the Tuskegee Airmen did not lose a bomber on any of their escort missions. The Airmen did in fact lose bombers on their escort missions, but they lost significantly less than other fighter groups at the time.

The Fight Song

Contact –
Joy stick back –
Sailing through the blue
Gallant sons of the 99th –
Brown men tried and trueChorus:
We are the Heroes of the night –
To hell with the Axis might
FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
Fighting 99th.
Rat-tat, Rat-tat-tat –
Down in flames they go
The withering fire of the 99th –
Sends them down belowChorus:
We are the Heroes of the night –
To hell with the Axis might
FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
Fighting 99th.
Drink up, Drain your cup –
To those daring men
Flying torch of flame, Oh GOD–
Red White and Blue – Amen.
For We Are –Chorus:
Heroes of the night
To Hell with the Axis might
FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!
Fighting 99th WINGS!!