Black Wings

Tuskegee Airmen — 1941 – 1945

First cadets, Tuskegee

The Tuskegee Army Air Field became the vital center for training African Americans to fly fighter and bomber aircraft.

In 1941, the U. S. Army Air Corps (predecessor to the modern-day U.S. Air Force) was a segregated part of the military. With World War II near at hand, it was decided to offer training to African Americans as pilots and mechanics. The new air base at Tuskegee, Alabama, became the center for the training program of black air personnel. First with the 99th Fighter Squadron and later with the 332nd Fighter Group, African Americans made their contribution to the war effort, serving in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy during the war. Called the "Tuskegee Airmen," these airmen made a pioneering contribution to the war and the subsequent drive to end racial segregation in the American armed forces.

On The Home Front — Noel F. Parrish

At segregated Tuskegee, Parrish offered inspired leadership for the training of black pilots and airmen.

A career Army Air Corps pilot, Noel F. Parrish took a keen interest in promoting black involvement in military aviation. In the late 1930s, he befriended Cornelius Coffey and admired the flying program of his Challengers Air Pilots' Association in Chicago.

Lt. Col. Parrish took command of Tuskegee Army Air Field in 1941 and oversaw the training of airmen for black fighter and bomber squadrons. He held that post throughout World War II. Parrish did much to make the Tuskegee program a success. He provided enlightened leadership and promoted high morale among the cadets at a time when the armed forces remained segregated. As base commander, Parrish made sure the program was fair and evenhanded, which enhanced morale among the cadets.

 


Noel Parrish

Into Combat — Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

Davis led the Tuskegee airmen during World War II in air combat over North Africa and Italy and long-range bomber escort missions over Nazi Germany.

The story of the Tuskegee Airmen is linked directly to the life and career of Benjamin O. Davis Jr. The son of an Army general and a 1936 graduate of West Point, Davis was a member of the first class of five cadets to earn their wings at Tuskegee. He was selected to lead the new 99th Pursuit Squadron, the Army Air Corps' first all-black air unit.

Davis led the 99th and later the 332nd Fighter Group in Europe during World War II. His inspired and disciplined leadership played a major role in the Tuskegee Airmen's success. Under Davis, the 332nd escorted American bombers in missions over the Mediterranean and central Europe.

After the war, Davis continued his military career in the newly independent and integrated U.S. Air Force. He achieved the rank of lieutenant general and played a key leadership role during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

 


Benjamin O. Davis Jr. in P-51

Linkwood Williams

Linkwood Williams, a civilian flight instructor, at the Tuskegee Army Field in World War II.

 


Linkwood Williams

Lieutenant Lee A. Archer

A native of New York City, Archer became one of the most proficient pilots in the 332nd, being highly regarded for his skill, aggressiveness, and gallantry in air combat.

 


Lee A. Archer

Charles Hall

Hall was from Brazil, Indiana. He downed an FW-190 while on an escort mission on July 21, 1943. This marked the first air victory for the United States by a black airmen in the European Theater.

 


Charles B. Hall