PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Theirs was the true African-American experience during World War II.
It wasn’t until years after the war was won that they got the recognition they deserved. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aviators in the United States military and on Thursday, the Airmen made a special visit to Lincoln High School in honor of Black History Month.
They overcame segregation and prejudice to become a crucial part of American history.
78 years from the start of the second World War, the Tuskegee Airmen shared life lessons with the students.
“For me, to see somebody who lived through all of these different experiences, anything is possible,” said Iveliz Garcia.
Named for the Tuskegee, Alabama Army Airfield, where they were trained, the 99th Fighter Squadron became the first African-American Black flying unit and also the first of its kind to fly in combat in 1943.
“America needed man power to go fight the Germans and the Japanese,” said Tuskegee Airmen Vincent Mallory.
By the summer of 1944, the Tuskegee Airmen were tasked with keeping other Americans safe during the war, escorting heavy bombers deep into enemy territory.
The elite pilots opened the door for Black Americans. They proved they could learn, innovate and successfully achieve all of their military pursuits. “The togetherness, again, is what can never be measured,” Mallory said. “We were supposed to fail. We were an experiment.”
Now, the war long over, the Tuskegee Airmen make it their mission to teach and show younger generations that anything is possible. The airmen told students that determination and discipline are at the core of everything they do.
In addition to breaking down the color barrier, their flight record is unmatched. They didn’t lose a single bomber to enemy fire in more than 200 combat missions.