478th Fighter Group

478th Fighter Group

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478th Fighter Group

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To


The 478th Fighter Group (USAAF) was a home based training unit that served as a replacement training unit.

The group was constituted as the 478th Fighter Group on 12 October 1943 and activated on 1 December 1943. It was assigned to the Fourth Air Force in the US South-West, but it took several months to gain the required personnel and equipment. The group thus didn't become operational until March 1944, when it began work as a replacement training unit for the P-39.

On 31 March 1944 the group was disbanded as part of a reorganisation of USAAF training units, and some of its personnel formed the basis for the new 432rd AAF Base Unit (Fighter Replacement Training Unit, Single Engine), based at the same airfield at Redmond, Oregon.




1944: Bell P-39 Airacobra


12 October 1943Constituted as 478th Fighter Group
1 December 1943Activated with Fourth Air Force
March 1944Operations begin
31 March 1944Disbanded

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col John W Weltman: 7Dec 1943
Lt Col Ernest C Young: 31Jan-31 Mar 1944.

Main Bases

Hamilton Field, Calif: 1 Dec1943
Santa Rosa AAFld, Calif: 12 Dec1943
Redmond AAFld, Ore: 3 Feb-31Mar 1944.

Component Units

454th: 1943-1944
544th: 1943-1944
545th: 1943-1944
546th: 1943-1944

Assigned To

1943-1944: San Francisco Fighter Wing; IV Fighter Command; Fourth Air Force
1944: Seattle Fighter Wing; IV Fighter Command; Fourth Air Force


Fighter operations Edit

The 477th Fighter-Bomber Squadron was activated at Clovis Air Force Base, New Mexico in October 1957 [2] as the fourth North American F-100 Super Sabre of the 312th Tactical Fighter Wing. [3] The squadron deployed to Turkey for NATO rotational commitments. [ citation needed ] The squadron was inactivated in 1959 and transferred its personnel and equipment to the 481st Tactical Fighter Squadron when the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing moved on paper from Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas to Cannon to replace the 312th Wing. [4]

World War II training operations Edit

The 477th Bombardment Squadron was activated on 17 July 1942 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana as one of the original components of the 335th Bombardment Group, and was equipped with Martin B-26 Marauders. [1] [5] [6] The 476th acted as a Replacement Training Unit (RTU) for the B-26. [6] However, the AAF found that standard military units, whose manning was based on relatively inflexible tables of organization were not well adapted to the training mission. Accordingly, in the Spring of 1944, the 335th Group, its components and supporting units at Barksdale, were disbanded on 1 May and replaced by the 331st AAF Base Unit (Medium, Bombardment). The squadron was replaced by Section U of the new base unit. [5] [7] [8]

Consolidation Edit

The squadrons were consolidated as the 477th Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron on 19 September 1985. [9]


  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1984. ISBN 0-91279-912-9.

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Origins Edit

Background Edit

Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African-American had been a U.S. military pilot. In 1917, African-American men had tried to become aerial observers but were rejected. [6] African-American Eugene Bullard served in the French air service during World War I because he was not allowed to serve in an American unit. Instead, Bullard returned to infantry duty with the French. [7]

The racially motivated rejections of World War I African-American recruits sparked more than two decades of advocacy by African-Americans who wished to enlist and train as military aviators. The effort was led by such prominent civil rights leaders as Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, labor union leader A. Philip Randolph and Judge William H. Hastie. Finally, on April 3, 1939, Appropriations Bill Public Law 18 was passed by Congress containing an amendment by Senator Harry H. Schwartz designating funds for training African-American pilots. The War Department managed to put the money into funds of civilian flight schools willing to train black Americans. [6]

War Department tradition and policy mandated the segregation of African-Americans into separate military units staffed by white officers, as had been done previously with the 9th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry, 24th Infantry Regiment and 25th Infantry Regiment. When the appropriation of funds for aviation training created opportunities for pilot cadets, their numbers diminished the rosters of these older units. [8] In 1941, the War Department and the Army Air Corps, under pressure — three months before its transformation into the USAAF — constituted the first all-black flying unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron. [9]

Because of the restrictive nature of selection policies, the situation did not seem promising for African-Americans, since in 1940 the U.S. Census Bureau reported there were only 124 African-American pilots in the nation. [10] The exclusionary policies failed dramatically when the Air Corps received an abundance of applications from men who qualified, even under the restrictive requirements. Many of the applicants already had participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, unveiled in late December 1938 (CPTP). Tuskegee University had participated since 1939. [11]

Testing Edit

The U.S. Army Air Corps had established the Psychological Research Unit 1 at Maxwell Army Air Field, Montgomery, Alabama, and other units around the country for aviation cadet training, which included the identification, selection, education, and training of pilots, navigators and bombardiers. Psychologists employed in these research studies and training programs used some of the first standardized tests to quantify IQ, dexterity and leadership qualities to select and train the best-suited personnel for the roles of bombardier, navigator, and pilot. The Air Corps determined that the existing programs would be used for all units, including all-black units. At Tuskegee, this effort continued with the selection and training of the Tuskegee Airmen. The War Department set up a system to accept only those with a level of flight experience or higher education which ensured that only the most able and intelligent African-American applicants were able to join. [ citation needed ]

Airman Coleman Young, later the first African-American mayor of Detroit, told journalist Studs Terkel about the process:

They made the standards so high, we actually became an elite group. We were screened and super-screened. We were unquestionably the brightest and most physically fit young blacks in the country. We were super-better because of the irrational laws of Jim Crow. You can't bring that many intelligent young people together and train 'em as fighting men and expect them to supinely roll over when you try to fuck over 'em, right? (Laughs.) [12]

First Lady's flight Edit

The budding flight program at Tuskegee received a publicity boost when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt inspected it on March 29, 1941, and flew with African-American chief civilian instructor C. Alfred "Chief" Anderson. Anderson, who had been flying since 1929 and was responsible for training thousands of rookie pilots, took his prestigious passenger on a half-hour flight in a Piper J-3 Cub. [13] After landing, she cheerfully announced, "Well, you can fly all right." [14]

The subsequent brouhaha over the First Lady's flight had such an impact it is often mistakenly cited as the start of the CPTP at Tuskegee, even though the program was already five months old. Eleanor Roosevelt used her position as a trustee of the Julius Rosenwald Fund to arrange a loan of $175,000 to help finance the building of Moton Field. [14]

Formation Edit

A cadre of 14 black non-commissioned officers from the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments were sent to Chanute Field to help in the administration and supervision of the trainees. A white officer, Army Captain Harold R. Maddux, was assigned as the first commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron. [17] [18]

A cadre of 271 enlisted men began training in aircraft ground support trades at Chanute Field in March 1941 until they were transferred to bases in Alabama in July 1941. [19] The skills being taught were so technical that setting up segregated classes was deemed impossible. This small number of enlisted men became the core of other black squadrons forming at Tuskegee Fields in Alabama. [20] [21]

While the enlisted men were in training, five black youths were admitted to the Officers Training School (OTS) at Chanute Field as aviation cadets. Specifically, Elmer D. Jones, Dudley Stevenson and James Johnson of Washington, DC Nelson Brooks of Illinois, and William R. Thompson of Pittsburgh, PA successfully completed OTS and were commissioned as the first Black Army Air Corps Officers. [17]

In June 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was transferred to Tuskegee, Alabama and remained the only Black flying unit in the country, but did not yet have pilots. [18] The famous airmen were actually trained at five airfields surrounding Tuskegee University (formerly Tuskegee Institute)--Griel, Kennedy, Moton, Shorter and Tuskegee Army Air Fields. [2] The flying unit consisted of 47 officers and 429 enlisted men [22] and was backed by an entire service arm. On July 19, 1941, thirteen individuals made up the first class of aviation cadets (42-C) when they entered Preflight Training at Tuskegee Institute. [18] After primary training at Moton Field, they were moved to the nearby Tuskegee Army Air Field, about 10 miles (16 km) to the west for conversion training onto operational types. Consequently, Tuskegee Army Air Field became the only Army installation performing three phases of pilot training (basic, advanced, and transition) at a single location. Initial planning called for 500 personnel in residence at a time. [23]

By mid-1942, over six times that many were stationed at Tuskegee, even though only two squadrons were training there. [24]

Tuskegee Army Airfield was similar to already-existing airfields reserved for training white pilots, such as Maxwell Field, only 40 miles (64 km) distant. [25] African-American contractor McKissack and McKissack, Inc. was in charge of the contract. The company's 2,000 workmen, the Alabama Works Progress Administration, and the U.S. Army built the airfield in only six months. The construction was budgeted at $1,663,057. [26] The airmen were placed under the command of Captain Benjamin O. Davis Jr., one of only two black line officers then serving. [27]

During training, Tuskegee Army Air Field was commanded first by Major James Ellison. Ellison made great progress in organizing the construction of the facilities needed for the military program at Tuskegee. However, he was transferred on January 12, 1942, reputedly because of his insistence that his African-American sentries and Military Police had police authority over local Caucasian civilians. [28] [29]

His successor, Colonel Frederick von Kimble, then oversaw operations at the Tuskegee airfield. Contrary to new Army regulations, Kimble maintained segregation on the field in deference to local customs in the state of Alabama, a policy that was resented by the airmen. [25] Later that year, the Air Corps replaced Kimble. His replacement had been the director of training at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Major Noel F. Parrish. [30] Counter to the prevalent racism of the day, Parrish was fair and open-minded and petitioned Washington to allow the Tuskegee Airmen to serve in combat. [31] [32]

The strict racial segregation the U.S. Army required gave way in the face of the requirements for complex training in technical vocations. Typical of the process was the development of separate African-American flight surgeons to support the operations and training of the Tuskegee Airmen. [33] Before the development of this unit, no U.S. Army flight surgeons had been black.

Training of African-American men as aviation medical examiners was conducted through correspondence courses until 1943, when two black physicians were admitted to the U.S. Army School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Field, Texas. This was one of the earliest racially integrated courses in the U.S. Army. Seventeen flight surgeons served with the Tuskegee Airmen from 1941-49. At that time, the typical tour of duty for a U.S. Army flight surgeon was four years. Six of these physicians lived under field conditions during operations in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. The chief flight surgeon to the Tuskegee Airmen was Vance H. Marchbanks Jr., MD, a childhood friend of Benjamin Davis. [33]

The accumulation of washed-out cadets at Tuskegee and the propensity of other commands to "dump" African-American personnel on the post exacerbated the difficulties of administering Tuskegee. A shortage of jobs for them made these enlisted men a drag on Tuskegee's housing and culinary departments. [34]

Trained officers were also left idle, as the plan to shift African-American officers into command slots stalled, and white officers not only continued to hold command, but were joined by additional white officers assigned to the post. One rationale behind the non-assignment of trained African-American officers was stated by the commanding officer of the Army Air Forces, General Henry "Hap" Arnold: "Negro pilots cannot be used in our present Air Corps units since this would result in Negro officers serving over white enlisted men creating an impossible social situation." [35]

Combat assignment Edit

The 99th was finally considered ready for combat duty by April 1943. It shipped out of Tuskegee on April 2nd, bound for North Africa, where it would join the 33rd Fighter Group and its commander, Colonel William W. Momyer. Given little guidance from battle-experienced pilots, the 99th's first combat mission was to attack the small strategic volcanic island of Pantelleria, code name Operation Corkscrew, in the Mediterranean Sea to clear the sea lanes for the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The air assault on the island began May 30, 1943. The 99th flew its first combat mission on June 2nd. [36] The surrender of the garrison of 11,121 Italians and 78 Germans [37] due to air attack was the first of its kind. [38]

The 99th then moved on to Sicily and received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for its performance in combat. [39]

By the end of February 1944, the all-black 332nd Fighter Group had been sent overseas with three fighter squadrons: The 100th, 301st and 302nd. [40]

Under the command of Colonel Davis, the squadrons were moved to mainland Italy, where the 99th Fighter Squadron, assigned to the group on May 1, 1944, joined them on June 6th at Ramitelli Airfield, nine kilometers south-southeast of the small city of Campomarino, on the Adriatic coast. From Ramitelli, the 332nd Fighter Group escorted Fifteenth Air Force heavy strategic bombing raids into Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Germany. [41]

Flying escort for heavy bombers, the 332nd earned an impressive combat record. The Allies called these airmen "Red Tails" or "Red-Tail Angels," because of the distinctive crimson unit identification marking predominantly applied on the tail section of the unit's aircraft. [42]

A B-25 bomb group, the 477th Bombardment Group, was forming in the U.S., but was not able to complete its training in time to see action. The 99th Fighter Squadron after its return to the United States became part of the 477th, redesignated the 477th Composite Group. [42]

Active air units Edit

The only black air units that saw combat during the war were the 99th Pursuit Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group. The dive-bombing and strafing missions under Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr. were considered to be highly successful. [43] [44]

In May 1942, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was renamed the 99th Fighter Squadron. It earned three Distinguished Unit Citations (DUC) during World War II. The DUCs were for operations over Sicily from May 30th - June 11, 1943, Monastery Hill near Cassino from May 12-14, 1944, and for successfully fighting off German jet aircraft on March 24, 1945. The mission was the longest bomber escort mission of the Fifteenth Air Force throughout the war. [39] [45] The 332nd flew missions in Sicily, Anzio, Normandy, the Rhineland, the Po Valley and Rome-Arno and others. Pilots of the 99th once set a record for destroying five enemy aircraft in under four minutes. [43]

The Tuskegee Airmen shot down three German jets in a single day. [46] On March 24, 1945, 43 P-51 Mustangs led by Colonel Benjamin O. Davis escorted B-17 bombers over 1,600 miles (2,600 km) into Germany and back. The bombers' target, a massive Daimler-Benz tank factory in Berlin, was heavily defended by Luftwaffe aircraft, including propeller-driven Fw 190s, Me 163 "Komet" rocket-powered fighters, and 25 of the much more formidable Me 262s, history's first operational jet fighter. Pilots Charles Brantley, Earl Lane and Roscoe Brown all shot down German jets over Berlin that day. For the mission, the 332nd Fighter Group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation. [41]

Pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group earned 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses. Their missions took them over Italy and enemy occupied parts of central and southern Europe. Their operational aircraft were, in succession: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft. [43]

Tuskegee Airmen bomber units Edit

Formation Edit

With African-American fighter pilots being trained successfully, the Army Air Force now came under political pressure from the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to organize a bomber unit. There could be no defensible argument that the quota of 100 African-American pilots in training at one time, [47] or 200 per year out of a total of 60,000 American aviation cadets in annual training, [48] represented the service potential of 13 million African-Americans. [N 4]

On May 13, 1943, the 616th Bombardment Squadron was established as the initial subordinate squadron of the 477th Bombardment Group, an all-white group. The squadron was activated on July 1, 1943, only to be inactivated on August 15th of 1943. [34] [49] [50] [51] By September 1943, the number of washed-out cadets on base had surged to 286, with few of them working. In January 1944, the 477th Bombardment Group was reactivated—an all-Black group. [49] [50] [51] At the time, the usual training cycle for a bombardment group took three to four months. [52]

The 477th would eventually contain four medium bomber squadrons. Slated to comprise 1,200 officers and enlisted men, the unit would operate 60 North American B-25 Mitchell bombers. [N 5] The 477th would go on to encompass three more bomber squadrons–the 617th Bombardment Squadron, the 618th Bombardment Squadron, and the 619th Bombardment Squadron. [54] The 477th was anticipated to be ready for action in November 1944. [55]

The home field for the 477th was Selfridge Field, located outside Detroit, however, other bases would be used for various types of training courses. Twin-engine pilot training began at Tuskegee while transition to multi-engine pilot training was at Mather Field, California. Some ground crews trained at Mather before rotating to Inglewood. Gunners learned to shoot at Eglin Field, Florida. Bombers-navigators learned their trades at Hondo Army Air Field and Midland Air Field, Texas or at Roswell, New Mexico. Training of the new African-American crewmen also took place at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Scott Field, Belleville, Illinois. Once trained, the air and ground crews would be spliced into a working unit at Selfridge. [56] [57]

Command difficulties Edit

The new group's first commanding officer was Colonel Robert Selway, who had also commanded the 332nd Fighter Group before it deployed for combat overseas. [58] Like his ranking officer, Major General Frank O'Driscoll Hunter from Georgia, Selway was a racial segregationist. Hunter was blunt about it, saying such things as, ". racial friction will occur if colored and white pilots are trained together." [59] He backed Selway's violations of Army Regulation 210-10, which forbade segregation of air base facilities. They segregated base facilities so thoroughly that they even drew a line in the base theater and ordered separate seating by races. When the audience sat in random patterns as part of "Operation Checkerboard," the movie was halted to make men return to segregated seating. [60] African-American officers petitioned base Commanding Officer William Boyd for access to the only officer's club on base. [61] [62] Lieutenant Milton Henry entered the club and personally demanded his club rights he was court-martialed for this. [63]

Subsequently, Colonel Boyd denied club rights to African-Americans, although General Hunter stepped in and promised a separate but equal club would be built for black airmen. [64] The 477th was transferred to Godman Field, Kentucky before the club was built. They had spent five months at Selfridge but found themselves on a base a fraction of Selfridge's size, with no air-to-ground gunnery range and deteriorating runways that were too short for B-25 landings. Colonel Selway took on the second role of commanding officer of Godman Field. In that capacity, he ceded Godman Field's officers club to African-American airmen. Caucasian officers used the whites-only clubs at nearby Fort Knox, much to the displeasure of African-American officers. [65]

Another irritant was a professional one for African-American officers. They observed a steady flow of white officers through the command positions of the group and squadrons these officers stayed just long enough to be "promotable" before transferring out at their new rank. This seemed to take about four months. In an extreme example, 22-year-old Robert Mattern was promoted to captain, transferred into squadron command in the 477th days later, and left a month later as a major. He was replaced by another Caucasian officer. Meanwhile, no Tuskegee Airmen held command. [66]

On March 15, 1945, [67] the 477th was transferred to Freeman Field, near Seymour, Indiana. The white population of Freeman Field was 250 officers and 600 enlisted men. Superimposed on it were 400 African-American officers and 2,500 enlisted men of the 477th and its associated units. Freeman Field had a firing range, usable runways, and other amenities useful for training. African-American airmen would work in proximity with white ones both would live in a public housing project adjacent to the base. [68] [59]

Colonel Selway turned the noncommissioned officers out of their club and turned it into a second officers club. He then classified all white personnel as cadre and all African-Americans as trainees. One officers club became the cadre's club. The old Non-Commissioned Officers Club, promptly sarcastically dubbed "Uncle Tom's Cabin", became the trainees' officers club. At least four of the trainees had flown combat in Europe as fighter pilots and had about four years in service. Four others had completed training as pilots, bombardiers and navigators and may have been the only triply qualified officers in the entire Air Corps. Several of the Tuskegee Airmen had logged over 900 flight hours by this time. Nevertheless, by Colonel Selway's fiat, they were trainees. [67] [69]

Off base was no better many businesses in Seymour would not serve African-Americans. A local laundry would not wash their clothes and yet willingly laundered those of captured German soldiers. [67]

In early April 1945, the 118th Base Unit transferred in from Godman Field its African-American personnel held orders that specified they were base cadre, not trainees. On 5 April, officers of the 477th peaceably tried to enter the whites-only officer's club. Selway had been tipped off by a phone call and had the assistant provost marshal and base billeting manager stationed at the door to refuse the 477th officers entry. The latter, a major, ordered them to leave and took their names as a means of arresting them when they refused. It was the beginning of the Freeman Field Mutiny. [70]

In the wake of the Freeman Field Mutiny, the 616th and 619th were disbanded and the returned 99th Fighter Squadron assigned to the 477th on June 22, 1945 it was redesignated the 477th Composite Group as a result. On July 1, 1945, Colonel Robert Selway was relieved of the Group's command he was replaced by Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr. A complete sweep of Selway's white staff followed, with all vacated jobs filled by African-American officers. The war ended before the 477th Composite Group could get into action. The 618th Bombardment Squadron was disbanded on October 8, 1945. On March 13, 1946, the two-squadron group, supported by the 602nd Engineer Squadron (later renamed 602nd Air Engineer Squadron), the 118th Base Unit, and a band, moved to its final station, Lockbourne Field. The 617th Bombardment Squadron and the 99th Fighter Squadron disbanded on July 1, 1947, ending the 477th Composite Group. It would be reorganized as the 332nd Fighter Wing. [71] [72]

War accomplishments Edit

In all, 992 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941–1946. 355 were deployed overseas, and 84 lost their lives. [73] The toll included 68 pilots killed in action or accidents, 12 killed in training and non-combat missions [74] and 32 captured as prisoners of war. [75] [76]

The Tuskegee Airmen were credited by higher commands with the following accomplishments:

  • 1578 combat missions, [77] 1267 for the Twelfth Air Force 311 for the Fifteenth Air Force [78]
  • 179 bomber escort missions, [46] with a good record of protection, [75] losing bombers on only seven missions and a total of only 27, compared to an average of 46 among other 15th Air Force P-51 groups [79]
  • 112 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air, another 150 on the ground [46] and 148 damaged. This included three Me-262 jet fighters shot down
  • 950 rail cars, trucks and other motor vehicles destroyed (over 600 rail cars [46] )
  • One torpedo boat put out of action. The ship concerned was a World War I-vintage destroyer (Giuseppe Missori) of the Italian Navy, that had been seized by the Germans and reclassified as a torpedo boat, TA22. It was attacked on June 25, 1944 and damaged so severely she was never repaired. She was decommissioned on November 8, 1944, and finally scuttled on February 5, 1945. [80][81]
  • 40 boats and barges destroyed [46]

Awards and decorations included:

  • Three Distinguished Unit Citations
    • 99th Pursuit Squadron: May 30th – June 11, 1943 for actions over Sicily
    • 99th Fighter Squadron: May 12th - 14, 1944: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy <
    • 332nd Fighter Group (and its 99th, 100th, and 301st Fighter Squadrons): March 24, 1945: for a bomber escort mission to Berlin, during which pilots of the 100th FS shot down three enemy Me 262 jets. The 302nd Fighter Squadron did not receive this award as it had been disbanded on March 6, 1945.

    Controversy over escort record Edit

    On March 24, 1945, during the war, the Chicago Defender said that no bomber escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen had ever been lost to enemy fire, under the headline: "332nd Flies Its 200th Mission Without Loss" [85] the article was based on information supplied by the 15th Air Force. [86] [87]

    This statement was repeated for many years, and not publicly challenged, partly because the mission reports were classified for a number of years after the war. In 2004, William Holton, who was serving as the historian of the Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, conducted research into wartime action reports. [85]

    Alan Gropman, a professor at the National Defense University, disputed the initial refutations of the no-loss myth, and said he researched more than 200 Tuskegee Airmen mission reports and found no bombers were lost to enemy fighters. [85] Dr. Daniel Haulman of the Air Force Historical Research Agency conducted a reassessment of the history of the unit in 2006 and early 2007. His subsequent report, based on after-mission reports filed by both the bomber units and Tuskegee fighter groups, as well as missing air crew records and witness testimony, documented 25 bombers shot down by enemy fighter aircraft while being escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen. [86]

    In a subsequent article, "The Tuskegee Airmen and the Never Lost a Bomber Myth," published in the Alabama Review and also by New South Books as an e-book, and included in a more comprehensive study regarding misconceptions about the Tuskegee Airmen released by AFHRA in July 2013, Haulman documented 27 bombers shot down by enemy aircraft while those bombers were being escorted by the 332nd Fighter Group. This total included 15 B-17s of the 483rd Bombardment Group shot down during a particularly savage air battle with an estimated 300 German fighters on July 18, 1944 that also resulted in nine kill credits and the award of five Distinguished Flying Crosses to members of the 332nd. [88]

    Of the 179 bomber escort missions the 332nd Fighter Group flew for the Fifteenth Air Force, the group encountered enemy aircraft on 35 of those missions and lost bombers to enemy aircraft on only seven, and the total number of bombers lost was 27. By comparison, the average number of bombers lost by the other P-51 fighter groups of the Fifteenth Air Force during the same period was 46. [79]

    The historical record shows several examples of the fighter group's losses. A mission report states that on July 26, 1944: "1 B-24 seen spiraling out of formation in T/A [target area] after attack by E/A [enemy aircraft]. No chutes seen to open." The Distinguished Flying Cross citation awarded to Colonel Benjamin O. Davis for the mission on June 9, 1944 noted that he "so skillfully disposed his squadrons that in spite of the large number of enemy fighters, the bomber formation suffered only a few losses." [89]

    William Holloman was reported by the Times as saying his review of records confirmed bombers had been lost. Holloman was a member of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., a group of surviving Tuskegee pilots and their supporters, who also taught Black Studies at the University of Washington and chaired the Airmen's history committee. [85] According to the March 28th 2007 Air Force report, some bombers under 332nd Fighter Group escort protection were even shot down on the day the Chicago Defender article was published. [86] The mission reports, however, do credit the group for not losing a bomber on an escort mission for a six-month period between September 1944 and March 1945, albeit when Luftwaffe contacts were far fewer than earlier. [90]

    Postwar Edit

    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. Nevertheless, the Tuskegee Airmen continued to have to fight racism. Their combat record did much to quiet those directly involved with the group, but other units continued to harass these airmen. [91] In 1949, the 332nd entered the annual U. S. Continental Gunnery Meet in Las Vegas, Nevada. The competition included shooting aerial targets, shooting targets on the ground and dropping bombs on targets. Flying the long range Republic P-47N Thunderbolt (built for the long range escort mission in the Pacific theatre of World War II), the 332nd Fighter Wing took first place in the conventional fighter class. The pilots were Capt. Alva Temple, Lts. Harry Stewart, James Harvey III and Herbert Alexander. Lt. Harvey said, "We had a perfect score. Three missions, two bombs per plane. We didn't guess at anything, we were good." [92] They received congratulations from the Governor of Ohio, and Air Force commanders across the nation. [93]

    After segregation in the military was ended in 1948 by President Harry S. Truman with Executive Order 9981, the veteran Tuskegee Airmen now found themselves in high demand throughout the newly formed United States Air Force. Some taught in civilian flight schools, such as the black-owned Columbia Air Center in Maryland. [94] On 11 May 1949, Air Force Letter 35.3 was published, which mandated that black Airmen be screened for reassignment to formerly all-white units according to qualifications. [95]

    Tuskegee Airmen were instrumental in postwar developments in aviation. Edward A. Gibbs was a civilian flight instructor in the U.S. Aviation Cadet Program at Tuskegee during its inception. [96] He later became the founder of Negro Airmen International, an association joined by many airmen. USAF General Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. (then Lt.) was an instructor of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later a fighter pilot in Europe. In 1975, he became the first African-American to reach the rank of four-star general. [97] Post-war commander of the 99th Squadron Marion Rodgers went on to work in communications for NORAD and as a program developer for the Apollo 13 project. [98]

    In 2005, seven Tuskegee Airmen, including Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Carter, Colonel Charles McGee, group historian Ted Johnson, and Lieutenant Colonel Lee Archer, flew to Balad, Iraq, to speak to active duty airmen serving in the current incarnation of the 332nd, which was reactivated as the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group in 1998 and made part of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing. "This group represents the linkage between the 'greatest generation' of airmen and the 'latest generation' of airmen," said Lt. Gen. Walter E. Buchanan III, commander of the Ninth Air Force and US Central Command Air Forces. [99]

    As of 2008 [update] no one knew how many of the original 996 pilots and about 16,000 ground personnel were still alive. [100] In August 2019, 14 documented original surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen participated at the annual Tuskegee Airmen Convention, which is hosted by Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. [101] [102]

    Willie Rogers, one of the last surviving members of the original Tuskegee Airmen, died at the age of 101 on 18 November 2016 in St. Petersburg, Florida following a stroke. Rogers was drafted into the Army in 1942 and was part of the 100th Air Engineer Squad. Rogers also served with the Red Tail Angels. He was wounded in action, shot in the stomach and leg by German soldiers, during a mission in Italy in January 1943. [103] In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the 300 surviving Tuskegee Airmen, but Rogers was not present. He was given a medal in 2013 after he revealed his previously undisclosed involvement. His pastor Rev. Irby said Rogers was a "passionate oral historian."

    Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, 24, had gone missing while flying a P-51 Mustang, 28 May 1944 – 4 May 1945 fighter, escorting a reconnaissance flight to Prague from Italy, on 23 December 1944. He was on his 68th mission and had previously been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. On 27 July 2018, his remains, which had been recovered in Austria a year earlier, were conclusively identified and confirmed to his daughter – included with them was a ring inscribed from her mother to her father and dated 1943. The day prior to the announcement, his wing-man, 2nd Lt. Robert L. Martin, had died at 99, in Olympia Fields, Illinois. Dickson's wife Phyllis died on 28 December 2017. The bodies of 26 other Tuskegee Airmen who disappeared in WWII remain unrecovered. [104] [105]

    In 2019, Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend, one of 12 remaining Tuskegee Airmen at the time, died on 21 June in Long Beach at the age of 99. [106] He had flown 142 combat missions in World War II as part of the elite group of fighter pilots trained at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. A public viewing and memorial was held at the Palm Springs Air Museum on 6 July. [107] He had spoken about his experiences in many different events prior to his death, such as in John Murdy Elementary School's "The Gratitude Project" in Garden Grove. [108]

    The 302d was one of four African-American fighter squadrons to enter combat during World War II. It saw combat in the European Theater of Operations and Mediterranean Theater of Operations from 17 February 1944 – 20 February 1945.

    The squadron trained in the Reserve for and performed search and rescue (SAR), in addition to some medical air evacuation missions, mainly in the southwestern United States, from 1956-1974.

    In 1974, its mission changed to training for a combat SAR role, while continuing to perform some search and rescue. The squadron's mission changed again, in 1987, to a fighter role and trained for counterair, interdiction, and close air support missions. (The unit that had been the 302d was reflagged as the 71st Special Operations Squadron and physically relocated to Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. Concurrently, a new AFRES fighter squadron was raised at Luke AFB and took over the 302d lineage.) It deployed several times since late 1992 to Turkey to help enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq and to Italy to support UN air operations in the Balkans. Ώ]

    Oscar Lawton Wilkerson, Jr.

    Oscar Lawton “Wilk” Wilkerson, native Chicagoan and Tuskegee Airman, pauses for a photo during the Army Reserve’s 85th Support Command’s African American/Black History Month observance at their unit headquarters, Feb. 7. During the observance, Wilkerson discussed his experiences in the service and held a questions and answers portion with the soldiers there. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Berogan/Released)

    Oscar Lawton Wilkerson, Jr.
    February 9, 1926 –
    Class: 45-F-TE 9/8/1945 2nd Lt. 0843249 Chicago Hgts. IL
    Unit: 617th Bombardment Squadron of the 477th Bombardment Group

    Tuskegee Airman and radio programming executive Oscar Lawton Wilkerson Jr. was born on February 9, 1926 in Chicago Heights, Illinois to Oscar L. and Elizabeth Wilkerson. After his graduation from Bloomfield Township High School in 1944, Wilkerson entered the U.S. Army Air Force’s Aviation Cadet training program in Tuskegee, Alabama. He was assigned to the 617th Bombardment Squadron, where he was trained to fly the B-25 “Billy Mitchell” bomber.

    Wilkerson received his commission as a 2nd lieutenant and his “wings” as a B-25 pilot in 1946.

    In 1947, he graduated from the New York Institute of Photography. Wilkerson also graduated from the Midwest Broadcasting School in 1960. Wilkerson became a weekend disc jockey and community relations director at WBEE-AM in Harvey, Illinois in 1962. As an on-air personality, he was known as “Weekend Wilkie.” As community relations director, he launched a weekly radio show hosted by Chicago Alderman Charles Chew, as well as publicity campaigns for the NAACP, the Chicago Urban League, the Committee of 100 and other organizations. Wilkerson was promoted to the position of program director at WBEE in 1965. Under Wilkerson’s supervision, WBEE launched the radio career of Merri Dee, who became known as “Merri Dee, the Honey Bee.” In 1969, he oversaw the station’s switch to a more jazz-oriented format, and took on the additional responsibilities of operations manager. Wilkerson also hosted his own program, Wilk’s World, on weekday mornings. Wilkerson left WBEE in 1971 to become the public affairs director at WMAQ Radio. In that role, he was responsible for all public service material aired on the station. Wilkerson was named program director at WMAQ in 1973, and served there until his retirement in 1988.

    Following his retirement, Wilkerson served as president of the Multi Media Ministry at New Faith Baptist Church in Matteson, Illinois. He is one of the “Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen” (DOTAs), and is active in the Chicago “DODO” chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc., helping minority and at-risk youth fly for free through the “Young Eagles” program.

    Wilkerson regularly visits schools around the United States to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. He lives in Markham, Illinois.

    *Note: The 617th Bombardment Squadron was one of four Tuskegee Airmen bomber squadrons during WWII that made up the 477th Bombardment Group. The 477th Bombardment Group and its assigned 616th, 617th, 618th, and 619th Bombardment Squadrons, never deployed overseas for combat during World War II.

    In 2007, the 477th Bombardment Group became the 477th Fighter Group, bringing with it the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen to Alaska.

    478th Fighter Group - History

    By BRIAN FERGUSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 14, 2020

    Col. Jason Camilletti took command of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, where he will help oversee the arrival of the first U.S. F-35 fighter jets to be based in Europe.

    Camilletti, the former 48th Operations Group commander, called operating the F-35A Lightning II out of England “a game changer” for Europe during a ceremony Friday.

    “We will continue to ensure that the airmen from RAF Lakenheath are always ready to own the skies, we will prioritize surety and conventional readiness with an emphasis on the high-end fight, and we will continue to make preparations for the arrival of our first F-35A Lightning II late next year,” Camilletti said in an Air Force statement.

    Camilletti takes over from Col. Will Marshall, who will become the 3rd Air Force vice commander at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

    “If you empower your people and have good people working for you, they will do tremendous things,” Marshall said, according to the statement. “It’s been an honor of a lifetime. We will miss you all.”

    Marshall’s command saw the wing generate more than 21,000 sorties, 46,000 flying hours and deploy about 5,600 personnel to 26 countries, the statement said.

    F-22 Raptor News

    "I am thrilled and humbled to have made it to 1,000 hours in the Raptor" said Newkirk. "There is a ton that goes into any pilot reaching this milestone in a relatively young airframe, and I couldn't have done it without all the awesome support from the maintainers and the rest of our ops support folks over the years."

    Newkirk is now the fourth pilot assigned to the 477th Fighter Group to reach the 1,000 hour milestone. Col. David Piffarerio, 477th Fighter Group commander, was the first in the Group and the entire USAF and Maj. Jonathan Gration, 302nd FS F-22 pilot, was the second in the Group and the fourth in the USAF.

    "I am excited to further increase the overall level of Raptor experience in the Hellions" said Newkirk "and to continue training and employing with our Active Duty partners."

    The 477th FG is integrated in every F-22 mission set with their partners in the active duty 3rd Wing.

    Freeman field mutiny: victory for integration of segregation?

    A slightly cropped Image of part of a group of 101 African-American United States Army Air Forces officers of the 477th Bombardment Group (Medium) at Freeman Field, Indiana, about to board air transports to take them to Godman Field, Kentucky.

    The "Freeman Field Mutiny" is usually depicted as a victory for integration over segregation. After all, more than 100 black officers risked their careers, and perhaps even their lives, to defy an order to sign a base regulation requiring segregated officers' clubs, and the commander who issued that order and regulation was replaced. The incident is often hailed as a forerunner of the modern Civil Rights Movement, in which peaceful non-violent resistance resulted in the desegregation of facilities. The more immediate consequence of the Freeman Field incident, however, was more segregation. An organization with both black and white personnel was converted into one with only black personnel, and a base with both blacks and whites was converted into one with blacks only.

    In April, 1945, one hundred and twenty black officers of the 477th Bombardment Group and associated organizations at Freeman Field, Indiana, were arrested, in two waves, for protesting the attempt of the group's white commander, Colonel Robert R. Selway, Jr., to have two separate officers clubs, one restricted to whites only, and one for blacks only. The arrestees were eventually all exonerated, and the white commander of the group, who had attempted to enforce the segregation policy despite Army regulations, was replaced by another commander who threw out his predecessor's policy. Eventually, the 477th Bombardment Group was reassigned to its former base, Godman Field, Kentucky, redesignated as the 477th Composite Group, and all of its white personnel were reassigned to other units at other bases. How did that happen?

    The 477th Bombardment Group was the first black bombardment group in American military history. Like the 332nd Fighter Group, the first black fighter group, its pilots were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field, and were thus eventually called Tuskegee Airmen. The group was first active as a white bombardment group in Florida in 1943, before it was a Tuskegee Airmen organization, and it was inactivated after only three months. When it was activated again, on January 15,1944, at Selfridge Field, Michigan, it had a white commander, Colonel Selway, a West Point graduate who had commanded and helped train the black pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group at Selfridge before that group moved overseas. Top officers in the group were also white, but most of the group's new personnel, during its second period of activation, were black. The group was designed to train 5-man black crews to fly B-25 twin engine medium bombers and prepare them to deploy overseas for combat. After the training was finished, the group was designed, like the 332nd Fighter Group, to become all black.

    The 477th Bombardment group moved from Selfridge to Godman Field, Kentucky on May 6, 1944. Godman Field was next to Fort Knox. It had one officers' club, but only black officers of the group attended that club. The white officers of the 477th went next door to the all-white Fort Knox officers club. After all, the Army Air Forces was still part of the Army, and the two bases were adjacent to each other. The group's white officers were used to attending a club without blacks, while the group's black officers were used to attending the only officers club at Godman Field.

    When the 477th Bombardment Group moved from Godman Field to Freeman Field, Indiana, during the first week of March 1945, there was no other white base next door. Freeman Field was a larger base than Godman Field. It was large enough to hold all four bombardment squadrons assigned to the group, and also the 387th Air Service Group and a Replacement Crew Training Program. It had formerly been a white base, and there was only one officers club. The white officers of the 477th, who had used the all-white Fort Knox officers club when the group was stationed at Godman Field, wanted an officers' club of their own, while the black officers expected to use the only officers' club on base. Colonel Selway was eager to accommodate the white officers, partly because he was one of them. He had had some experience enforcing segregated facilities at Selfridge, for both the 332nd Fighter Group and later the 477th Bombardment Group. He established a policy of having two officers clubs at Freeman Field, one for trainers, who were almost all white, and for trainees, who were all black.

    On March 7-9, several black officers of the 477th Bombardment Group entered the officers' club at Freeman Field that was assigned to "base and supervisor" personnel, and were told to leave. They were later called together and told that they were to use the other officers' club. For a time, they complied, and the policy of segregated officers clubs at Freeman Field prevailed.

    More black personnel, assigned to the 115th and 118th Army Air Forces Base Units, arrived at Freeman Field on April 5. On the evening of the same day, thirty-six of them attempted to enter the white officers' club. Three of them pushed Assistant Base Provost Marshal out of the way and forced their way into the club, insisting they were base personnel. The next day, twenty-five additional black officers attempted to enter the officers' club reserved for white "base and supervisory" personnel. They and the thirty-six officers who attempted to enter the "white" club the day before, a total of sixty-one, were arrested in quarters and charged with disobeying an order of a superior officer, three of them also charged with using violence.

    Colonel Selway, who was then commander of both the 477th Bombardment Group and Freeman Field, needed to fortify his legal position, because there were those who argued that Army Regulation 210-10 regarding officers clubs said nothing about separate clubs for blacks and whites, and even stated that an officer at a base was entitled to join the officers club on the base. On April 9, all but three of the sixty-one black officers who had been arrested were released. The other three were kept for court martial because of alleged use of violence. Selway then issued Base Regulation 85-2 spelling out which recreational facilities were for which groups of officers. He was careful to use non-racial terms, dividing the facilities between trainers (whites) and trainees (blacks). All officers were required to sign the new regulation, acknowledging it, so that if they violated it later, they could be charged with disobeying an order.

    On the evening of [April 5], thirtysix of them attempted to enter the white officers' club

    At the time, there were about 400 black officers at Freeman Field. Most of them signed the segregation regulation, many of them stipulating their objections. One hundred one of the other black officers, members of the 477th Bombardment Group and the Army Air Forces Base Unit on the base, refused to sign. For insubordination, they were arrested. Forty-two of the 101 arrested in the second wave of arrests had been among the sixty-one who had been arrested earlier.

    On April 13, the 101 black officers who had refused to sign Base Regulation 85-2 were flown in six C-47 airplanes to Godman Field, Kentucky, the old base of the 477th Fighter Group, and kept under arrest there. The news of the arrests of the black officers spread like wildfire in the black press, and the War Department came under scrutiny for inconsistent policy. Officers higher than Selway, some of them supporting of his segregationist policy, came under pressure to intervene in favor of the arrested officers. On April 23, Major General Frank O'D Hunter, commanding general of the First Air Force, reluctantly ordered release of the 101, but not without administrative reprimands by Colonel Selway, black marks on their records that would haunt them for many years to come.

    On April 26-27, the 477th Bombardment Group was moved back from Freeman Field to Godman Field. The group continued to have both black and white officers. The black officers would use the only officers club at Godman Field, and the white officers would use the white only officers club at Fort Knox, next door, as was the policy when the group was at Godman before. The officers' club issue was temporarily resolved.

    On May 18, the War Department's McCloy Committee published its report on the Freeman Field incident. It determined that Selway's issue of the segregated officers' clubs base regulation on April 9, violated Army Regulation 210-10 and was therefore invalid. Selway knew then that his continued command of the 477th Bombardment Group was in jeopardy, and he had to wait only about another month for the other shoe to drop.

    On June 21,1945, Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., the black officer who had commanded the 332nd Fighter Group in combat before the war in Europe ended, the previous month, arrived at Godman Field to assume command of the 477th Bombardment Group, which on June 22, was redesignated as the 477th Composite Group, because a fighter squadron was assigned to it, and it already had a bombardment squadron. Colonel Selway was reassigned, along with all the other white officers of the group. The 477th became an all-black organization, and would remain so even after it moved to Lockboume Field on March 13, 1946. Lockboume Field, later Lockboume Air Force Base after the creation of the Department of the Air Force in September 1947, became the only all-black Air Force base in the Air Force, as Godman Field had been since Davis became commander. Like Godman in late 1945 and early 1946, Lockboume became the only base in the service under a black commander.

    Segregation remained the rule until the middle of 1949, when the [USAF] finally implemented . E. O. 9981

    The three black officers that were still being held, from the original sixty-one arrested, for allegedly using violence while attempting to enter the "white" officers club at Freeman Field in April, were court-martialed on July 2 and 3. The military court acquitted two of them, but convicted Lt. Roger C. Terry, a pilot who had trained at Tuskegee. The sentence was confinement to base for three months, and $50 fine for each of those three months, for a total fine of $150. It was a far lighter sentence than it could have been, but it plagued Terry for decades. In a sense, the conviction became a badge of courage, and Terry was eventually elected president of the Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, partly because of his reputation for opposing segregation and risking his career in the name of justice.

    In July 1947, the 477th Composite Group was inactivated, and the 332nd Fighter Group was activated in its place, at Lockboume. The squadrons were reassigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, and an all-black fighter wing, the 332nd Fighter Wing, was established and activated over the 332nd Fighter Group, at the same base. Lockbourne Air Force Base, the only all-black Air Force Base, was the home of the only all-black wing and the only all-black group, with the only all-black squadrons. Segregation remained the rule until the middle of 1949, when the Air Force finally implemented President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9981, issued in 1948, that mandated the desegregation of all the military services.

    One might say that the Freeman Field Mutiny resulted in not a victory for integration but a victory for segregation instead. The black and white 477th Bombardment Group, while not completely integrated, was transformed into the all-black 477th Composite Group, and it remained all-black until it was inactivated on 1 July 1947, when it was replaced by another all-black group, the 332nd Fighter Group. From June 21, 1945 until July 1, 1949, the black flying units were concentrated on only one base at a time, first Godman and then Lockbourne, and that base was all black. There was no question of whether or not blacks could use the officers' club at either base, because there was only one officers' club on the base, and all the base military personnel were black. Segregation seemed to have won.

    But in a larger sense, the Freeman Field Mutiny contributed to the integration of the Air Force, because in 1949, all the all-black organizations at the only all-black Air Force Base were inactivated and their personnel were transferred to formerly all-white organizations. While the heroic resistance of those black officers who defied segregation at Freeman Field had to wait four years for the integration of the Air Force as a whole, the ultimate result was a victory for integration.

    On August 12,1995, more than fifty years after Roger C. Terry's conviction in court martial, the Air Force set aside the verdict and exonerated him. At the same time, the Air Force removed the reprimands from the records of all the black officers who had received them, if they requested such removal. Some of the officers refused to request that the reprimands be removed, because they were proud to have suffered for the cause of freedom. The Freeman Field Mutiny demonstrated the lengths to which persons on both sides of the segregation/integration question would go for their cause. Although the early results were an apparent victory for segregation, the ultimate victory belonged to the advocates of racial equality and integration.

    Note on Sources: History of Freeman Field, Indiana, 1 March-15 June 1945 (AFHRA call number 283.28-6). Lineage and honors histories of the 477th Bombardment Group (later, 477th Composite Group) and the 332nd Fighter Group, in Maurer Maurer, Air Force Combat Units of World War II (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1983). Alan L. Gropman, The Air Force Integrates, 1945-1964 (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, 1985). Lt. Col James C. Warren, The Tuskegee Airmen Mutiny at Freeman Field (Vacaville, CA: The Conyers Publishing Company, 2001). LeRoy F. Gillead, The Tuskegee Aviation Experiment and Tuskegee Airmen, 1939-1949 (San Francisco, CA: Balm-Bomb in Gillead).

    Watch the video: Fighter group Maharashtra (December 2022).

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