This Day in Black History: Feb. 19, 1942

The Tuskegee Airmen were initiated into the armed forces.

Posted: 02/19/2013 08:00 AM EST
Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen blazed their way into history as the first African-American pilots who fought in World War II in the 1940s and maintaining the aircrafts.

Officially known as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Corps, the group was subjected to segregation and discrimination during their time in the army despite being as brave in fighting enemies as the rest of the military. Meanwhile, racism in America was still very much alive through Jim Crow laws.

Every African-American pilot (and five Haitians) who served in the squadrons were trained at Tuskegee Institute and the group earned the nickname "Red Tail Angels" because the bombers they escorted saw them as angels and their planes' tails and propellers were painted in red.

By the end of WWII, 992 men had graduated from Tuskegee. They carried out more than 200 bomber escort missions, damaged 409 German planes, 950 ground units and sank a battleship.

 

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(Photo: PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

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