The World war II era Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American pilots in U.S. military service. Because Tuskegee was the only training facility for black pilots in the United States during World War II, potential pilots came from all over the country. The first African American flying unit was the 99th Fighter Squadron, which deployed in the spring of 1943. The 99th earned a Distinguished Unit Citation flying missions against enemy targets over Italy. The second flying unit, the 332nd Fighter Group, flew several successful bomber escort missions throughout the war. Its P-51 fighters had distinctively painted red tails, earning the unit and its planes the nickname “Red Tails”. In 1948, President Truman issued an Executive Order mandating the racial integration of all military services. The way was paved by the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, and in 2007, President Bush collectively awarded them a Congressional Gold Medal.
Photos courtesy of: Alamy, Archive.org