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HOUSTON – Before Tuskegee Airmen, African Americans were not allowed to become U.S. military pilots.

In 1917, African American men attempted to become aerial observers, but were rejected. The rejections motivated African American men to enlist and train as military aviators.  In 1939, The Air Corps and Public Law 18 bill officially passed – designated funds and equipment will be given to African Americans in aviation training.

In 1941, the Army Air Corps and the United States Department of War created the 99th Pursuit Squadron — the first all-black flying unit. In Sept. 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron activated in Rantoul, Illinois at Chanute Field. In the same year, the airmen began the Tuskegee program at Tuskegee University.

On Feb. 19, 1942, the Tuskegee Airmen were initiated into the United States Armed Forces and were able to fight in World War II.

The Tuskegee Airmen painted their plane tails red for identification purposes, earning them the nickname Red Tails.

The Airmen became known as the 332nd Fighter group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Corps. Shortly after World War II, 992 men graduated from Tuskegee University – carrying out more than 200 bomber escort missions, damaging about 409 German planes, destroying over 900 rail cars and more.

The Tuskegee Airmen left a legacy that will forever be known. Their courage and lack of fear made them earn history!

A few achievements earned by the Tuskegee Airmen:

Silver Star award

96 Distinguished Flying Crosses

14 Bronze Stars

744 Air Medals

8 Purple Hearts

Congressional Gold Medal