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National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Tuskegee Airmen made it to the fight in the spring of 1943. They first flew P-40s like the one here. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As the United States commemorates the 70th anniversary of World War II, visitors to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force can learn about African Americans who served during that war.

Near the B-24D Liberator in the World War II Gallery is the museum’s exhibit on the famed Tuskegee Airmen. On July 19, 1941, the AAF began a program in Alabama to train black Americans as military pilots. Primary flight training was conducted by the Division of Aeronautics of Tuskegee Institute, the famed school of learning founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881. In addition to telling the story of their distinctive combat record, the exhibit presents uniforms, photos and other mementos of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Read more about the Tuskegee Airmen and see photos online at http://bit.ly/c4stSS or view a 360 degree image of the exhibit at http://bit.ly/rrJxIE (click on World War II - 026 on the map).

During the Second World War, African Americans served in other roles as well.

Although the U.S. military segregated them into separate units, the U.S. Army Air Forces gave blacks a unique opportunity to do sophisticated engineering work in segregated Engineer Aviation Battalions. These specially trained units constructed, concealed, maintained and defended airfields in every theater.

Eventually, these black Airmen disproved the unfortunate belief that blacks could not do complicated construction or engineering work. The museum’s exhibit, located near the C-46D Commando, portrays a scene of black aviation engineers working on an airfield in the China-Burma-India Theater.

Read more about the Engineer Aviation Battalions and see photos online at http://bit.ly/J33n2g or view a 360-degree image of the exhibit at http://bit.ly/rrJxIE (click on World War II - 036 on the map).

On June 1, 1949, the Air Force published regulations dismantling segregation, thus becoming the first of all U.S. military service branches to complete integration of black personnel into all white units. This story is presented in an exhibit titled “Integration of the USAF,” which features Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr., the Air Force’s first black four-star general; Lt. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the first of the famous Tuskegee Airmen to become a general; and the 332nd Fighter Group, a segregated black unit stationed at Lockbourne Air Base near Columbus, Ohio, that won first place in the conventional class category of the 1949 U.S. Air Force Fighter Gunnery Competition.

Read more about the integration of the U.S. Air Force and see photos online at http://bit.ly/JayZ7o or view a 360-degree image of the exhibit at http://bit.ly/rrJxIE (click on World War II - 037 on the map).

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Street, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission and parking are free.

For more information about the museum, visit: www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.

May/June 2012 Warbirds

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