Tag Archives: United States Army

Saturday Short – The Tuskegee Airmen

blog-tuskegee-airmen-2Photo Credit: Tuskegee Airmen

Last night I watched a 1995 HBO film about the Tuskegee Airmen. They were the very first African-American military pilots. What an incredible story of how they had the opportunity to train as pilots (in 1941) and then how they entered the air battles of World War II (in 1943). As much as they confronted America’s enemy (Germany), they also faced the segregation and racism of that day.blog-tuskegee-airmen

Photo Credit: Tuskegee Airmen

The HBO film was based on the true stories of these men, but it’s hard to know, not having studied the Tuskegee Airmen before, what is true and what is Hollywood.

blog-tuskegee-airmen-getty-imagesPhoto Credit: Wikipedia

There is one scene that was especially timely then…and today.

It was some sort of hearing (some congressional committee) about the fitness of these pilots and whether the training program should be shut down. The African-American colonel who led this fighter squadron was able to speak for the men under his command. Below is his appeal and defense of these courageous fighter pilots…and of African-Americans. {Watch the clip below, as well. Moving.]

All we asked for was a chance to prove ourselves. A fair and impartial opportunity. 
We thought we had that chance.
But you invite us to a poker game,
hand us a fixed deck...
...and then wonder why we can't win?
Every colored pilot in the 99th...
...went through his own private hell

to wear those wings.
Each of those men carry...
...not only the dream
of becoming American Military Aviators...but the hopes of an entire people as well.

Am I the only one in this room
that understands what that means?
I was brought up to believe
that beneath it all...
...Americans are a decent people...
...with an abiding sense of integrity and fair play. The cheers I heard across this country
when Joe Louis and Jesse Owens...
...humiliated Hitler's "Master Race"...didn't just come from proud colored folks.

They came from everyone.
How are we to interpret that?

As a United States Army Officer...
...who gladly puts his life
on the line everyday...

...there's no greater conflict within me.

How do I feel about my country?
And how does my country...
...feel about me?

Are we only to be Americans
when the mood suits you?

A fair and impartial opportunity
is all we ask.

Nothing that you yourselves
wouldn't demand.*


Whether those words were spoken by that colonel or they were the words of a marvelous, insightful script writer…they resonate today.

“A fair and impartial opportunity is all we ask. Nothing that you yourselves wouldn’t demand.”

*The Tuskegee Airmen – Script

Red Tails (2012) – Lucasfilm Official Trailer