Members Only Tuskegee Spitfire T-Shirt
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC), a precursor of the U.S. Air Force. They formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces. In this month’s Shirt Club we honor the 332nd Fighter Group! Trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, they flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II. Their impressive performance earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Unit Citations, 744 Air Medals and helped encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces. In all, 992 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941–1946. 355 were deployed overseas, and 84 lost their lives.
The pilots of the 332nd began flying P-51 Mustangs to escort the heavy bombers of the 15th Air Force during raids deep into enemy territory. The tails of their planes were painted red for identification purposes, earning them the enduring nickname “Red Tails.” After segregation in the military was ended in 1948, the veteran Tuskegee Airmen now found themselves in high demand throughout the newly formed United States Air Force.
Contrary to negative predictions from some quarters, Tuskegee Airmen were some of the best pilots in the U.S. Army Air Forces due to a combination of pre-war experience and the personal drive of those accepted for training. The Motto of the fighter group? Spitfire! The motto serving as a reminder to the pilots of their aggressive tenacity to protect allied bombers and the flaming destruction of enemy fighters.
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