In honor of Black History Month, US Family Health Plan salutes the Tuskegee Airmen for their exceptional bravery and achievements during World War II.
The Tuskegee Airmen were formed on March 19, 1941, activated at Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois. At the inception, this unit consisted of 271 enlisted men. This group of enlisted men formed the core of other black squadrons at Tuskegee and Maxwell Fields in Alabama. Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African American had ever been a U.S. military pilot. By mid-1942, over 3,000 were stationed at Tuskegee, and were commanded by Major James Ellison, who made great progress in creating the infrastructure for the training facility at Tuskegee. By April 1943, the 99thwas deemed ready for combat.
By April 1943. Their first combat mission was to attack the small island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean Sea, to clear sea lanes for the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. The mission was successful and the 99threceived a Distinguished Unit Citation for its performance in combat.
All in all, 992 African American pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941 to 1946. 355 of these pilots were deployed overseas and 84 lost their lives in accidents or combat. 32 were captured as prisoners of war.
Overall, their accomplishments included:
· 1,578 combat missions
· 179 escort missions
· 112 enemy aircraft destroyed
· 950 enemy rail cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles destroyed
· One Italian destroyer ship put out of action (the Guiseppe Missouri)
· 40 boats and barges destroyed
Their awards and decorations included:
· 99th Pursuit Squadron: 30 May – 11 June 1943 for actions over Sicily
· 99th Fighter Squadron 12-14 May 1944: for successful airstrikes against Monte Cassino, Italy
· 332rd Fighter Group (and it’s 99th, 100th and 301st Fighter Squadrons) 24 March 1945: for a bomber escort mission to Berlin, during which pilots of the 100th FS shot down three enemy jets.
· At least one Silver Star
· 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses to 95 Airmen
· 14 Bronze Stars
· 744 Air Medals
· 8 Purple Hearts
Tuskegee Airmen, we at US Family Health Plan – a TRICARE Prime Health Program – salute you for Black History Month. You valor and victories in World War II helped preserve freedom for us all today.