Commemorative Air Force Blogs

Welcome to the Commemorative Air Force Blogs. A great way to stay informed about what is going on with the CAF.

12 Planes of Christmas – It’s time to submit your airplanes!

12 Planes of Christmas – It’s time to submit your airplanes!

As we approach the end-of-year giving season it is time once again to choose the CAF’s 12 Planes of Christmas. Selected from across the nation 12 projects will be highlighted, offering donors a glimpse of the organization’s best projects. If you are working on a project and want to see it featured, now is your chance to submit it for consideration as one of the 12 Planes of Christmas.

Click here: https://cafhq.formstack.com/forms/12planes2017

to fill out your application for review by the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum Board – the deadline is just around the corner!

Last year cumulatively our aircraft raised more than $150,000 spearheaded by the efforts of the 12 airplanes selected to emphasize our Keep ‘Em Flying spirit. From unit to unit, success stories abound like Lake Superior 101 Squadron, who raised more than $11,000 for their PBY restoration exceeding their goal and the Dixie Wing who were able to gather over $16,000 towards the restoration of the CAF’s only Corsair!

Campaigning aircraft for 30 days during the holidays is certainly hard work, but 12 Planes of Christmas represents the best annual opportunity for units to crowd-fund their projects, restorations and maintenance efforts. 

What are you waiting for?

Submit your aircraft today!

Additional questions about aircraft eligibility and participation should be directed to Alan Brooks, Chairman of the AAHFM Board, at Albro47n@aol.com

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Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Robert Friend

The history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is inspirational to people of all ages. Their life lessons can impart a special meaning for people from all walks of life. From a child in awe of a red-tailed airplane, to the elderly veteran full of gratitude for their fellow war heroes, there is something in each of their stories that can inspire us all to live better, fuller and braver lives.

One such hero is Robert Friend, one of the oldest living original Tuskegee Airmen pilots.  Born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1920, Friend was interested in aviation from a young age. He read stories of World War I pilots in old magazines and made his own makeshift airplanes for imaginative play. Friend had wanted to enlist in the Army to fly for our country, but was turned away. Even though the country was making preparations for war, black Americans could not join the Armed Forces to serve as pilots.

While a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania – the first historically black college to grant college degrees – he took aviation-related courses. When the Civilian Pilot Training Program began in 1939 for college students, Friend eagerly applied and was accepted. He completed the program and earned his private pilot’s license. But this was only the first step to becoming a military pilot. When the program opened an opportunity for a segregated pilot training program at Tuskegee, Friend finally had his chance to join the war effort and earn his wings for his country.

Robert Friend young photoAfter successfully completing all phases of training, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and assigned to the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group. By that time, the country had officially entered the war. When he deployed overseas, Friend was first sent to North Africa, then to the Europe Theater as a Combat Operations Officer at the squadron and group levels. He was responsible for planning and organizing the implementation of strategic and tactical air missions.

He was a skilled pilot in the P-47 and P-51 aircraft. He flew wing man for Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who would later go on to be come the first black general of the United States Air Force. He flew 142 combat missions in World War II. His service extended in several other capacities during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He finished his education at the Air Force Institution of Technology.

His career with the Air Force included serving as Assistant Deputy of Launch Vehicles, working on important space launch vehicles such as the Titan, Atlas and Delta rockets and the Space Shuttle. He served as a Foreign Technology Program Director where he identified and monitored research and development programs related to national security. He was also the Director of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program, tasked with investigating unidentified flying objects.

After retiring from the military, his expertise was utilized to oversee the design and production of space products for the Space Shuttle program, lead a company that creates components for the International Space Station and other satellite systems, and direct the research and development for USAF weapons and missile programs.

When Friend was in the air during World War II, he flew a P-51D Mustang, slightly different from our P-51C model. A D model, painted up with his original “Bunny” bathing beauty, has been on static display at the Palm Springs Air Museum for a number of years, but had an extensive overhaul to make it airworthy once again, taking it’s first flight in decades in February 2015.

Although identical, this particular aircraft was not the one Friend flew, but was built near the end of the war and never saw combat. It’s almost certain that the P-51D Friend piloted himself never made it back to the states. When the war ended, it was too much trouble to return many of the combat aircraft to the U.S. and they were commonly scrapped in Europe, or if they were returned to the states they were sold to civilians for very little.

Also of credit to this inspirational Tuskegee Airman, Friend is an active participant in Ride 2 Recovery, cycling events that benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs for our country’s wounded veterans. Friend himself has ridden in the events, and plays a large role in helping to bring awareness to the program.FullSizeRender

Want to try to keep up with this active veteran? Follow him on Facebook to see what he’s up to and where he will be next.

Lt Col Friend, we salute you for your decades of service to our country, and for inspiring future generations to pursue their dreams and make a difference, just like you and your fellow Tuskegee Airmen.

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Paying respect to the birthplace of our P-51C Mustang “Tuskegee Airmen”

Paying respect to the birthplace of our P-51C Mustang “Tuskegee Airmen”

Did you know the CAF has a resident historical expert who is nothing short of a gold mine of WWII aviation history and knowledge? Keegan Chetwynd, CAF Education Coordinator and Curator, recently shared a wealth of information about the birthplace of our P-51 Mustang Tuskegee Airmen, and it is FASCINATING.

Following a CAF headquarters event in Dallas, Chetwynd led a tour to the famed North American Aviation plant, the iconic aerospace manufacturer responsible for the mass production of aircraft from WWII. Their facility in Dallas was opened as the country prepared for war, and their presence helped the local economy rise from the ruins of the depression that were still felt in the hard-hit state of Texas.

The plant is actually located adjacent to Grand Prairie, just west of the city of Dallas. As a special benefit to CAF members, Chetwynd led a foot tour of the area surrounding the facility for those interested in learning more about this often forgotten, but important piece of Dallas history. It was a rare treat for CAF members to catch a glimpse of what was an iconic factory supporting our troops in WWII.

Bill Shepard, CAF Red Tail Squadron Leader and CAF Vice President of Education, attended the event. Visiting the site where our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen rolled off the production line, built by the hands of what were very much artisans, was in his words, a very awe-inspiring moment.

“I don’t think people realize the impact that North American Aviation had on not just the socio-economic front, but how the work they provided the community helped to bridge some very large social gaps,” recalls Shepard. “People of many different backgrounds worked together washing the slate not clean, but cleaner. These folks worked together side by side, regardless of race, for a common goal. That was practically unheard of at the time.”

The effects of the wartime employment North American offered the Dallas area was felt for a long time. “The work being done on their shop floors at that point of time was very innovative for our society and helped to break down barriers. These opportunities brought people out of the fields and gave them the opportunity to earn a living wage and increase their station in life and that of their families. People in these communities today are the fruits of their parents’ labor. Its impact has been felt for generations.”

North American Aviation’s plant in Dallas was a place where tens of thousands of people were gainfully employed in a time of economic hardship, giving each person a chance to use their hands and intellect to help end the war. Up to 40,000 people were employed at the plant at its peak. They hired “outside the box,” employing men that were younger and older than the draft age, women, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans. And each employee at North American was encouraged to share their ideas for innovation, the implementation of which lead to safer practices and significant cost savings. This 24-hour-a-day operation was a focal point of manufacturing at that time in the U.S., and their contributions to the processes of manufacturing resonated across the industry.

Shepard lived near the facility in his youth. “My dad was stationed across the runway from here. As a kid I had no idea I was in close proximity to such important history,” Shepard remembers. “Looking at the shell of a building that was once there, Keegan colorized in our minds people in mass transitions, herds of people coming through to work. They worked to improve their lives and help end the war. It must have been an amazing sight.”

No books have been published to capture the story of North American’s important historical presence in Dallas. This was the largest aircraft production factory in WWII by volume, and it’s the only facility of its scale still standing today. There are many impressive statistics, including:

-       - The plant was built in 120 days

-       - They often produced aircraft faster than they could be picked up

-       - 83% of all AT-6 Texan aircraft were produced at this plant

-       - At it’s peak, 250 Mustangs per month came off the production line

-       - Every C model Mustang ever built came from this plant

-       - The site spans 272 acres and contains 2.9 million square feet in 85 buildings

-       - The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP), the all-female pilot group that served the country stateside, picked up many of the planes and ferried them to their forward deployment locations

-       = An entire community known as Avion Village was built in record time to accommodate the workers, and people still live there today

To learn more, watch the CAF’s webinar, “The Forgotten History of North American Aviation in Dallas.” See historic photos, learn about the people who made their mark on our country’s airpower in WWII, and get a deeper look into a forgotten piece of American history.

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Restoration Grants for CAF Units

Restoration Grants for CAF Units

Several CAF units have benefitted from the CAF’s Restoration Grant Program. An internal program in which Units can apply for a matching grant from the CAF Headquarters; enabling CAF Units/Sponsor groups to accelerate their efforts of returning their aircraft to flying condition.

Those Units with aircraft restoration projects that fit the criteria will need to send a grant request as soon as possible. In the next few weeks decisions will be made to determine the projects most suitable for this program.

For those aircraft nearing completion or finished- You can do the paperwork, but aircraft that are mostly finished will have a lower priority (paint is part of restoration), but will be considered.

Please review the CAF Restoration Grant Guide and use the document as a guide for submitting a request.

NOTES- Don’t spend much time on unit history; concentrate on a timeline with milestones to finish the restoration and cost for each phase of the project. There needs to be enough information to see what you are spending money on. It is best to specifically ask for an amount of ½ of specific things you can accomplish in 12 months. If you have received a grant previously, just include the old request with an update on the work ahead and timeline. The money is a matching grant, so you will need to have, or raise money and the grant needs to be spent in one year.

For Questions, email rstenevik@cafhq.org.

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Hear P-51C Mustang pilot Bill Shepard and Tuskegee Airman Col McGee’s latest interview!

We are fortunate to spend 42 weeks out of the year on the road, zigzagging across the country to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen through the exciting RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen. We are honored to have members of the media interested in what we do and we certainly enjoy their support. Getting the word out about our mission in this way is helping us achieve our mission to educate audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen!

Even though it was Labor Day weekend and like you all of us here at the CAF Red Tail Squadron were scrambling to enjoy the last days of summer, P-51C Mustang pilot and Squadron champion Bill Shepard was on point speaking about our efforts with the folks from Frontlines of Freedom, a radio show supporting American veterans. You can listen to the entire interview online and hear how Bill’s enthusiasm for the Squadron is helping to share our inspirational message!

As an added treat, original Tuskegee Airmen Col Charles McGee is also a guest on the same show, so enjoy hearing directly from this fine American about his experience serving our country as a pilot in both WWII and the Korean War. Inspiration at it’s finest!

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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We love the Northeast!

We love the Northeast!

As we write this, we have packed up the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile theater back into its 53’ semi trailer and are on the road to the west coast! (Look out Washington and Oregon!!) We spent six weeks in the Northeast meeting many new friends and sharing our inspirational message with hundreds of kids and adults. Here’s a quick roundup on where we’ve been!

We started out in Pittsburgh where we set up at the Beaver County Airport. The event was part of the Air Heritage Museum’s Beaver County History Weekend Celebration. The CAF Red Tail Squadron partnered up with members from Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and the Tuskegee Memorial project for the event. Our P-51C Mustang made a special flyover appearance of the dedication ceremony carrying a VIP passenger, the daughter of original Tuskegee Airman Lt Calvin Smith. Our Mustang and Exhibit got lots of positive attention from the local media as well!

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Moving on to Maryland, we made a visit to the Carroll County Regional Airport for their open house that included history, activities, events, patriotic music, food and more. For three days leading up to the event, the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit hosted many groups to view the original movie “Rise Above” in our mobile theater and learn about our guiding Six Principles - Aim High, Believe In Yourself, Use Your Brain, Be Ready To Go, Never Quit, Expect to Win.

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Carroll County Airport Md 024

During the event in Maryland, our P-51C Mustang took a little side trip to Washington, DC to participate in the Arsenal of Democracy, a large-scale flyover of our nation’s Capitol to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Our Mustang, the Tuskegee Airmen, joined dozens of vintage WWII-era aircraft for this historic event. Each formation that passed was a compelling sight, especially with the awe-inspiring Washington Monument as its backdrop. But when the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen made its entrance with its formation group, the crowd erupted in cheers and applause. These fighters, even 70 years after the fall of the Nazis, elicit a great deal of pride and excitement.

Darius Jezewski

Then we were on to Massachusetts for the Great New England Air Show, hosted by Westover Air Reserve Base and the Galaxy Council.  This HUGE event featured the awe-inducing Navy’s Blue Angels, the Canadian Snow Birds and the F-22 Raptor, along with many other stunning military aircraft in the air show and on static display. The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and our P-51C Mustang were a fantastic addition to the event’s line up and droves of people - young and old alike - learned a great deal about the Tuskegee Airmen over the course of this two-day show.

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Moving south, we made a stop at the Erie International Airport in Erie, PA. The event was made possible by the Urban Erie Community Development Corporation (UECDC), which provides educational services and employment preparation skills to the impoverished, disadvantaged and at-risk individuals of the Erie Community. Again, we hosted many, many school and youth groups to privately tour the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and see the Mustang up-close on static display. For these very important educational outreach visits, CAF Red Tail Squadron staff and volunteers are on-hand to speak directly to the students, sharing our inspirational message and how it can be applied to their own lives. The kids really enjoy meeting our P-51 pilots in person and learning not only about history, but aviation, science and technology as well.

Erie Pa 114

We wrapped up our Northeast tour with a VERY fun stop at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend in Reading, PA. This fun event featured warbirds, reenactments and performers for history and aviation enthusiasts alike. Our RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and P-51C Mustang was the perfect accompaniment for this exciting event.

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As I’m sure you’re well aware when you gas up your own vehicle at the pump, taking our RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and P-51C Mustang out on the road (and into the skies!) across the country takes a lot of fuel, which is not cheap commodity these days! But because of donors and supporters like YOU we are able to have a big impact with this unique educational outreach program.

Want to see us in your town? Know where our inspirational message could make an impact? Interested in supporting this great cause? Contact LaVone Kay, CAF Red Tail Squadron marketing director, at info@redtail.org or (888) 928-0188. One-time or recurring donations can be made securely online at https://secure.qgiv.com/for/crts or sent to the CAF Red Tail Squadron at 971 Hallstrom Drive, Red Wing, MN 55066.

Ensuring the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is not forgotten is a collective effort, and we are grateful to our donors and supporters to who keep their inspirational message alive!

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Soar through the skies of Washington and Colorado in our P-51C Mustang!

Soar through the skies of Washington and Colorado in our P-51C Mustang!

Imagine hearing the purr of the P-51C’s Merlin engine, from INSIDE the cockpit! You could be strapped into the jump seat of our vintage warbird for the ride of a lifetime with one of our accomplished pilots, and help support the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s educational outreach efforts at the same time!

We will be in Grand Junction, Colorado and Olympia, Washington this month and will be selling 30-minute rides in the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen. Flying in an authentic warbird like ours is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and YOU could be flying in this majestic aircraft, just like the heroes of WWII!

To participate in this unique opportunity and to find out more about how to purchase your flight, contact Marvona Welsh, CAF Red Tail Squadron Logistics Coordinator, at 812-240-2560. Proceeds from the flights are used to fund the Squadron’s unique and important educational outreach initiatives. Learn more about these inspirational outreach efforts on our website.

Here are the details:

Saturday June 20 and Sunday June 21 (Father’s Day)

CAF Rocky Mountain Wing

Grand Junction Regional Airport, 780 Heritage Way in Grand Junction, Colorado

 

Saturday June 27 and Sunday June 28

Olympic Air Show

Olympia Regional Airport, 7643 Old Hwy 99 SE in Olympia, Washington

 

Flight times are limited so contact us soon to reserve your spot! See you in the skies!

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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CAF Red Tail Squadron Releases 2015 Summer and Fall Event Schedule

CAF Red Tail Squadron Releases 2015 Summer and Fall Event Schedule

Minneapolis, Minn. – June 1, 2015 – The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Red Tail Squadron, America’s tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, today announced the summer and fall event schedule for their RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile theater and P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen. These innovative outreach vehicles are a unique and FREE opportunity for all ages to experience the inspiring story of the Tuskegee Airmen – America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel.

The mission of the CAF Red Tail Squadron is to educate audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen so their strength of character, courage and ability to triumph over adversity may serve as a means to inspire others to RISE ABOVE obstacles in their own lives and achieve their goals. Each stop offers locals the opportunity to learn about one of the most remarkable and little-known groups of American history.

“The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is designed to take visitors on a journey through time, then virtually through the air with our panoramic cinema experience. And there is nothing quite like seeing our Mustang and hearing the roar of the engine in person,” said Brad Lang, CAF Red Tail Squadron leader and one of the pilots of their P-51C Mustang. “This is an unique and inspirational way for people to see first-hand the struggles and challenges faced by the Tuskegee Airmen. These fine Americans showed extraordinary courage as they fought for their right to serve our country, and it’s a part of our history that simply must be heard.”

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is using the excitement of aviation as a tool to help change lives, and these events are a platform to bring this inspirational message to audiences everywhere. The group kicked off their travel season earlier this spring with a tour through Florida and the Northeast before heading across the country to continue the summer portion of their outreach visits. The remaining 2015 event schedule includes the following locations, although event schedules are subject to change.

Mukilteo, Wash. – June 19-21

Historic Flight Foundation

(RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit only)

 

Grand Junction, Colo. – June 20

CAF Rocky Mountain Wing Open House

(P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen only)

 

Olympia, Wash. – June 27-28

Olympic Air Show

 

Tacoma, Wash. – July 3-5

Tacoma Freedom Fair Airshow

 

Arlington, Wash. – July 9-11

Arlington Fly-In

 

Hillsboro, Ore. – July 17-19

Oregon International Air Show

 

Oshkosh, Wis. – July 20-26

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

(P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen only)

 

Aurora, Colo. – August 15-16

Rocky Mountain Airshow

 

Kansas City, Mo. – August 22-23

Kansas City Aviation Expo Air Show

 

Brantford, Ontario – September 3

Brantford Municipal Airport Open House

(P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen only)

 

Cleveland, Ohio – September 5-7

Cleveland National Air Show

 

Toledo, Ohio – September 12-13

Toledo Express Airport Open House

 

Port Clinton, Ohio – September 19-20

Liberty Aviation Museum

 

Findlay, Ohio – September 26

Findlay Airport Open House

 

Auburn, Ala. – October 10

Auburn University Regional Airport Open House

 

Tallulah, Ala. – October 17

Tallulah Regional Airport Open House

 

New Orleans, La. – October 25-26

CAF AirPower History Tour at the National WWII Museum

 

San Antonio, Tex. – October 30-November 1

Joint Base San Antonio Air Show & Open House

 

Houston, Tex. – November 4-7

Texas Flying Legends Open House

 

Visit the group’s calendar at redtail.org/calendar for event details and up-to-date schedule information. Entrance to the Exhibit is always free, although tickets may be required for entry to individual events.

While on tour, the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit schedules additional visits to area schools where students are encouraged to think critically about the group’s guiding Six Principles – Aim High, Believe In Yourself, Use Your Brain, Be Ready To Go, Never Quit and Expect to Win. For the vintage aviation enthusiast, rides in the P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen are available for purchase when time and conditions allow. Contact Marvona Welsh, CAF Red Tail Squadron logistics coordinator, at marvona@redtail.org or (812) 240-2560 for more information about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or to schedule an appearance of the Exhibit or the Mustang in your community.

Individuals, businesses, community organizations and foundations that are interested in supporting the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s mission can learn more about sponsorship opportunities by contacting LaVone Kay, marketing director, at info@redtail.org or (888) 928-0188. One-time or recurring donations can be made securely online at https://secure.qgiv.com/for/crts or sent to: CAF Red Tail Squadron, 971 Hallstrom Drive, Red Wing, MN 55066.

About the CAF Red Tail Squadron

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Their three-fold outreach program includes an authentic, fully restored WWII-era P-51C Mustang, the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen; the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit 53’ mobile theater featuring the original panoramic film “Rise Above”; and educational materials and programs for teachers and youth leaders. The CAF Red Tail Squadron is part of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). To learn more about the organization, its mission or to become a donor, visit http://www.redtail.org or follow the Squadron on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cafredtailsquadron.

About the Commemorative Air Force

Collecting and flying warbirds for over half a century, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is the largest flying museum in the world. The CAF is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to honoring American military aviation history through flight, exhibition and remembrance. The organization feels this is best accomplished by keeping the aircraft flying. The CAF has approximately 11,000 members and a fleet of over 160 airplanes assigned to 70 units across the country. These units, comprised of CAF volunteer members, restore and operate the planes, which are viewed by more than 10 million spectators annually. Visit http://www.commemorativeairforce.org or call (877) 767-7175 for more information.

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P-51D Mustang becomes airworthy once again in honor of one of the oldest living original Tuskegee Airman

P-51D Mustang becomes airworthy once again in honor of one of the oldest living original Tuskegee Airman

Hat tip to our friends at Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. (TAI) for the inside scoop on this remarkable story!

Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend celebrated a milestone at the end of February, turning 95 years old, holding the record as one of the oldest living original Tuskegee Airman. President Barak Obama, former President George W. Bush and General Mark Welsh III of the United States Air Force acknowledged the occasion by sending their personal birthday wishes to Friend.

“On behalf of the men and women of the United States Air Force, happy 95th birthday! You belong to a treasured generation of selfless Airmen and your service continues to inspire our Airmen today. The Tuskegee Airmen, especially Red Tail pilots, proved time and time again to be among the most courageous trailblazers of America’s “Greatest Generation,” and we celebrate your role in that elite group.”

~ General Welsh

Friend served with the 332nd Fighter Group stationed in Europe as Combat Operations Officer at the squadron and group levels, flying 142 combat missions during his service in WWII. He flew wing on Colonel Benjamin Davis (later General Benjamin Davis, the first African American General in the U.S. Air Force). His U.S. Army service extended in several other capacities during the Korean and Vietnam wars as well. After leaving the Army, he began a career with the Air Force and served as Assistant Deputy of Launch Vehicles, Foreign Technology Program Director and Director of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program.

When Friend was in the air as a Red Tail during WWII, his aircraft was a P-51D Mustang, slightly different from our P-51C model, but a signature aircraft of the Airmen none the less. A D model painted up with his original “Bunny” bathing beauty has been on static display at the Palm Springs Air Museum for a number of years, but recently had an extensive overhaul to make it airworthy once again.

According to the TAI, the aircraft was not the one Friend flew in the war, although it was identical. This particular plane was built near the end of WWII, and never saw combat. It’s almost certain that the P-51D Friend piloted himself never made it back to the states. At the end of the war, it was too much trouble to return many of the combat aircraft to the U.S. and they were commonly scrapped in Europe, or if they were returned to the states they were sold to civilians for very little.

The late Bob Pond, a famous player in the air racing community, purchased the aircraft in 1980. Pond was a founding sponsor of the Palm Springs Air Museum and put the aircraft on static display there, after repainting it to resemble Friend’s aircraft, complete with the Bunny bathing beauty. The aircraft took its first trip back in the air last week at an event to honor Friend and fellow Tuskegee Airmen at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

Also of credit to this inspirational Tuskegee Airman, Friend recently participated in Ride 2 Recovery, an event to benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs for our country’s wounded veterans and healing heroes that features cycling as the core activity. Friend himself has ridden in the events, and plays a large role in helping to bring awareness to the program.

The volunteers and staff of CAF Red Tail Squadron wish Lt. Col. Robert Friend a very happy 95th birthday, and we thank you for your continued service to our country!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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We’re up in the air and ready for sunny FLORIDA!

We’re up in the air and ready for sunny FLORIDA!

Thanks to our great support team at Air Corps Aviation, our P-51C Mustang is back in tip-top shape and in the skies once again! The recent maintenance and repairs were intensive, but well worth the wait. And as you can see, the view is glorious!

We are on the road and ready to take Florida by storm in March and April. If you’re near any of the areas we will be visiting, we hope you will come out and see us in person. Our supporters are our family and we want to welcome you personally to see our RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and the P-51.

Here’s the line-up:

Miami – Join us for a special event at the Wings Over Miami Air Museum Saturday March 7 and Sunday March 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Ft. Lauderdale – Find us at the Paul Kramer’s Learn to Fly Center at the Pompano Beach Airpark Saturday March 14 from 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

DeLand – Come meet our allies from the CAF Florida Wing as we join them at their hangar AND get an up close look at several other vintage warbirds from the CAF collection Saturday March 21 and Sunday March 22.

Tallahassee – On Saturday March 28 find us at the Tallahassee Regional Airport for a community open house.

DeFuniak Springs – We are proud to be a part of the 5th Annual Marvel of Flight - Rising Over Adversity Fly In & Aviation Expo at the DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport Friday April 10 and Saturday April 11.

New Smyrna Beach – Find us at the exciting New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest Friday April 17 to Sunday April 19 at the New Smyrna Beach Airport.

Lakeland – We will wrap up our sunshine-infused tour through the state of Florida at SUN ‘n FUN for 6 days of fantastic inspiring events! Join us April 21 through 26 at Lakeland Linder Airport.

As always, you can find out about all our events on our calendar at www.redtail.org/calendar/. Not in Florida? No problem! We’re going to be at lots of locations around the country in 2015 to STAY TUNED and keep your eyes on this blog, the calendar and our newsletter for the latest information about how YOU can come see the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen in the “flesh” and get inspired to RISE ABOVE!

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Behind the “pen” with our blog writer Darcy Castro

Behind the “pen” with our blog writer Darcy Castro

If you’ve been a follower of the CAF Red Tail Squadron blog for the last year or so, you know that we’ve put out some pretty interesting articles, including pilot profiles, interviews with Tuskegee Airmen and in-depth looks at what the Squadron is doing and how you can help. Who’s behind the pen or (more appropriately) the keyboard? Darcy Castro, a member of our team who is responsible for our creative writing and communications outreach.

Castro came to the Squadron with a flair for aviation, and a deep commitment to non-profit and service-based organizations, with a particular passion for associations that collectively work towards a just common goal. She has had the privilege of being a contributing writer and reporter to several publications, including the Dallas Morning News. She is a 15-year veteran of the public relations industry.

“When I was in college I took a fascinating and enlightening course on the Harlem Renaissance of the 20’s and 30’s, and had the opportunity to broaden the discussion to topics like the Tuskegee Experience. Surely, someone in our country should not have to be at the university level to learn about these great Americans,” said Castro. “Working with the CAF Red Tail Squadron is a privilege, plain and simple. To be able to bring this important piece of history to kids – and adults! – is a beautiful cause and I am excited to be a part of the effort.”

Outside of the office, Darcy prides herself on being a mother of four, devoted Air Force wife and spare-time (ok, someday) author. Fun fact and claim to fame? She was the Executive Director of the Miss Portland Scholarship Program and guided a young Katie Harman through her organization on up through the ranks to become Miss America 2002. These days she gives her volunteer hours to members of the active duty military making the transition to the civilian workforce by providing complementary resume review and writing services. Contact her at darcycastro.com to learn more.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Going too Far in the Cockpit

Going too Far in the Cockpit

I was forwarded a link to a great and relevant article, that I invite all CAF members to read. It is especially good information to keep in mind and has certainly something that has come up recently.

Click the link below to read article from Aviation Week.

FAR Part 91.13: What Is ‘Careless or Reckless?’

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Good news from the hangar: Engine coming along nicely!

Good news from the hangar: Engine coming along nicely!

The second half of January ended up being pretty quiet around the hangar. The team at AirCorps Aviation was waiting patiently for the needed engine parts for our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen to come in, and they were finally shipped back late last week. They got started on putting the engine back together ASAP and we are happy to report that the banks are back on the engine, but we are still waiting on the pivot shafts for the landing gear. The finish line is coming!

An interesting side note, the Tuskegee Airmen’s engine is a Rolls-Royce Merlin, the technologically-ahead-of-its-time machinery that allowed the P-51 to become the powerhouse it is known for in WWII. The advent and installation of this engine into the Mustang fleet during the war transformed their performance, and ultimately the outcome of the fight in Europe, by making the aircraft a mechanically-matched contender with its German counterparts. The decision to re-engine the Mustang gave it the fame of being called "the plane that won the war.” Impressive.

Although the Tuskegee Airmen needed some pretty important maintenance and repairs, this magnificent aircraft is in no way in danger of being grounded for the long haul. We put the aircraft’s condition and safety as the highest priority, and since we set the standards so high we have a lot to do to get it back in the pristine condition it deserves.

THANK YOU to those who have provided additional financial support to help ensure the utmost safety and longevity of our beloved and inspirational P-51C Mustang! We have been happy to hear from so many of you. Thanks for checking in to see how the Mustang is coming along. It’s great to know how many supporters we have that are as equally caring about this great cause as we are.

We will report more soon, so keep your eyes on our blog for the next update!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Get in the jumpseat with CAF President and CEO Stephan Brown!

Get in the jumpseat with CAF President and CEO Stephan Brown!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is proud to be a part of the Texas-based Commemorative Air Force, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to honoring American military aviation history through flight, exhibition and remembrance. The CAF has collected and flown warbirds for over half a century and is the largest flying museum in the world. Our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen is a part of this fleet of 162 aircraft, which interestingly enough began in 1957 with – you guessed it – a P-51 Mustang!

CAF President and CEO Stephan Brown sits down with us to share his perspective on the direction of the CAF, and his personal experience in the field of aviation. Brown is a former Army aviator and private pilot with more than 2,000 hours logged in military and civilian aircraft, and has almost 25 years of leadership, marketing and financial management experience.

Read on to get to know our leader better, and get inspired!

***

I see from your bio that you have a background as a helicopter pilot in the Army. What inspired you to pursue aviation?

As a kid, my father always expressed a love of aviation, even though he wasn't an aviator. He flew a bit as a crewman and in a small plane when he was young. So, his love of flying got me interested. When I was 19 I went to Kitty Hawk and paid $25 for 5 flights with Kitty Hawk Kites, which is still in business today. They were short hops, but it gave me motivation to work hard to obtain a flight school slot in the Army. When I was a rated helicopter pilot stationed in West Germany, I got to know the local German FBO owner. I was too young and naive to know any better, so I asked him how could I own my very own airplane. He helped me to get a bargain from a local German man who was selling a Cessna FR172 (made in Reims, France). So at age 26, I took private lessons and was the only owner on a base of 600 Army aviators with a private airplane (all of whom were more experienced than I). So, while my buddies were stuck on base over the weekends, I was flying off to the Alps! Another upshot of my pursuit of aviation was that I was able to teach my father to fly when he was in his 60's!

What piqued your interest in warbirds?

When I was the Chief Marketing Officer of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) I worked with the Warbirds of America and many of their key leaders became my friends - most notably, John Baugh. He was a mentor to me there and his love of warbirds translated over to me. Plus, who doesn't get excited by those big radial engines or the sound of a V12 Mustang?! Then, when I became the president of the CAF, my exposure was even more intense and I really fell in love with these airplanes and all the members who keep them flying.

What are initiatives of interest to the CAF in 2015?

Our key initiative internally is the CAF National Airbase project. We are moving the CAF headquarters to Dallas, a large metropolitan area, and endeavor to build a world-class aviation attraction like no other. To do that, we must work out the design and then raise the $40+ million it will cost. In the field, with our units, the goal is to continue to educate Americans by operating our aircraft and displaying them to the public in any venue that affords us that opportunity. Additionally there are units that are growing and striving to become an Airbase, which is a type of "super-unit." Arizona has already done it and the So Cal Wing is about to break ground on some new facilities, which will transform them into an Airbase.

How does the Red Tail Squadron benefit the CAF as a whole?

The Red Tail Squadron and its RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is the most significant national educational outreach program, especially to young people, that we have in the CAF. The ability to use the airplane and the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to inspire young people to RISE ABOVE their circumstances is very powerful. The Squadron also provides the opportunity to educate all Americans on the role of the Tuskegee Airmen in WWII and brings pride to the African American community because of their significant and inspirational contributions in this war.

What is your vision for the CAF in the years to come?

My dream and vision for the CAF is that we be recognized as the most impactful aviation association in America. I can envision this because our target audience is not just aviation enthusiasts - it is all Americans. Our mission is to educate, and with 70+ units around the country, operating 162 airplanes, we are uniquely positioned to accomplish that mission.

What would be your advice to young people who are interested in pursuing aviation?

As it is with anything worth pursuing, it takes drive and effort. My advice for a young person is to find a mentor who flies and start pestering them to take them flying to learn the basics! Then go online and learn what you can, including getting a private pilot course like they sell at Kings Schools or Sporty's. Work hard, save your money and start taking lessons. Flying has a few more barriers to entry, but you can get a pilot's license at the same age as you can get a driver's license! You might have to get a job and save your money, but what would be more exciting to say - "I'm gonna hop in my car and drive to a burger joint," or "I'm gonna fly to the next state to see something really fabulous!" Young people like cool things and there is nothing cooler than leaving the ground in an airplane that you are flying!

***

Follow Brown’s blog, “From the President's Desk,” as he chronicles his journey from unit to unit examining the big topics of the organization. Learn more about the CAF, see its fleet of historic warbirds – known as the Ghost Squadron – and find out about upcoming events at commemorativeairforce.org.

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Meet Ken Mist, our new volunteer coordinator!

Meet Ken Mist, our new volunteer coordinator!

Please join us in offering a warm welcome to Ken Mist, the new volunteer coordinator for the CAF Red Tail Squadron! Mist recently retired after 36 years with a global logistics company and is now graciously volunteering his time to help fulfill the Squadron’s mission!

To say Ken is an aviation enthusiast would be an understatement. Just check out his amazing photography to see for yourself. For years he has been working at air shows, first as a volunteer and then as chairman of the organizing committee for a static show in support of the Canadian Air & Space Museum.

“The camera came out and never went away,” said Mist. “I love to capture the feel of the air shows and aviation museums – the excitement, the people and of course the airplanes. I’m happy when someone likes my work and says it sparks a memory or emotion.”

Mist has been a supporter of the CAF Red Tail Squadron since 2012, after visiting the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit at an event in Dayton, Ohio. He had seen our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen at prior events, and knew Squadron pilot Bill Shepard. “The message of RISE ABOVE and the dedication of the squadron members is inspiring,” he says. “I am excited to play any part in sharing the story with today’s generation.”

Are you interested in volunteering with the Squadron? If so, we want to hear from you! Whether you can commit to volunteering for an extended period of time on the road (for example, a two-week tour through a particular geographic region) or are able to meet us in your hometown for a specific event, we are looking for volunteer participation in one or more of the following areas:

- Setting up and tearing down the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, a state of the art 53-foot trailer that expands to create a 30-seat theatre with a 160-degree panoramic screen.

- Assisting in the registration of school groups and individuals to participate in the exhibit to see the free movie.

- Telling the story of the Tuskegee Airmen and how their courage and dedication resonates in today’s world.

- Working with our staff to make sure that our VIPs are comfortable, at times including original Tuskegee Airmen themselves.

If you would like to be considered for this incredible opportunity – and help preserve the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen and inspire audiences across the country – contact us with your questions at 888-928-0188 or volunteer@redtail.org, or go online to submit a volunteer application form!

“This is an incredible opportunity to share the story of the Tuskegee Airmen and spread the RISE ABOVE principles to today’s youth.  The message is more important now than ever,” said Mist. “The Greatest Generation could have no better representation than these Airmen and we owe it to all of them to carry their courage and dedication forward.  As their numbers dwindle the torch must be passed on!”

RISE ABOVE!

 

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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US Air Force veteran recalls experience with Tuskegee Airmen

US Air Force veteran recalls experience with Tuskegee Airmen

Lt Col John Lindsey has been retired from his service in the US Air Force for some time now. After a 29 year, 6 month and 25 day military career that spanned time in the National Guard, Reserve Officers’ Training Corp, active duty and reserves, he has much to share from his experiences serving our country during war and peacetime.

Early in his military career during the Korean War, Lindsey served with a man who had flown the B-24 bomber in crucial missions over Italy in WWII, and had a particularly impactful experience with the Tuskegee Airmen. On a trip back from a strike over Berlin, the pilot was limping his aircraft home on two engines, and many in his crew were seriously injured, a few even dead.

“Being still quite away from his landing site, he saw two planes with red noses and tails come up and take position off each wing, and thought that they were German fighters painted up to look like the Red Baron of WWI,” said Lindsey. “Then he saw six German fighter planes line up to come in for the kill. He thought for sure he was going to be a casualty.”

Much to this pilot’s surprise, he saw the two Red Tails attack the center of the German formation, and shoot down four of their planes and force the remaining two to turn back. They then took position to escort the crippled B-24 back to its base.

“He later learned that they were part of the Tuskegee Airmen,” recalls Lindsey. “After that incident, whenever the mission was to Berlin, he let it be known that if at all possible they ALL preferred the Tuskegee Airmen to be their escort.”

During his time in the service, Lindsey had the opportunity to meet many of the Tuskegee Airmen personally, and knows first hand of their strength of character and determination. “They were some of the best airmen we had.”

Another great personal account of the Tuskegee Airmen’s heroic performances in WWII, and how to truly earned the name “By Request.” Thank you Mr. Lindsey for your service to our country and for sharing this inspirational story with us!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Repair update from the hangar

Repair update from the hangar

Here’s the latest status on the repairs to our P-51C Mustang. The plane is in good hands and making ample progress towards completion. Thanks to AirCorps Aviation for keeping our inspirational flyer in good hands!

Over the past week, the P-51C has undergone the following work:

- New flexible brake lines have been fabricated and tested and are ready for install.

- A vacuum line from the pump to firewall was removed and repaired where it had chaffed on cowling.

- The tailwheel steering cables were given a routine adjustment and rig.

- The tailwheel tire was replaced and the spare wheel assembly received a new tire and tube.

- There was some corrosion that was removed from panels forward of the windscreen. The inside of the panels were repainted.

- The Robertshaw actuators for the radiator and oil cooler doors were inspected for where on the brushes and points.

- The ELT antenna was replaced with the correct antenna for the type of ELT installed.

- The right mag that was removed during the season for repair has been fixed and will be installed back on the aircraft. 

Check out these photos to follow the action!

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Keeping our Mustang in tip-top shape!

Keeping our Mustang in tip-top shape!

 

Our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen is under the weather, of sorts. After bringing in the aircraft for routine maintenance, it has been revealed that there are some major items that are in need of immediate repair, which will ground us until this larger scope of work is complete.

The radiator, one of the legs of the landing gear, a piston ring and damage to the aileron cables are all on the docket for repair, along with the Mustang’s regularly-schedule maintenance. Although none of these needs indicate a life-threatening problem to the aircraft, they certainly are very expensive and need to be attended to before it can be flown again.

Tye Halvas and the team at AirCorps Aviation are giving us the inside scoop on the maintenance and repair, and we are going to keep you updated with regular posts and pictures to follow along with the process. Keep your eyes on this blog for updates!

Current work in progress:

Engine - The banks and pistons are at Roush Aviation and will be done the first week of February. Right now they are in the disassembly and inspection process.

Landing gear - The pivot shafts are getting magnafluxed and cadmium plated. They are expected back January 13th. At that point that landing gear will be reassembled, serviced with fluid and nitrogen and installed in the aircraft.

Horizontal stabilizer - The patch has been completed and the paint process is done though primer. As soon as the landing gear is in and the aircraft is back on the ground it will be painted red.

Radiator - The radiator has been cleaned and inspected. Repairs have been made to the solder and the core is currently being tested.

Check out these great photos from the crew at AirCorps Aviation. Join us on this blog as we follow our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen back to pristine condition!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Extrapolating truth from fiction, and the truth is still pretty darn amazing!

Extrapolating truth from fiction, and the truth is still pretty darn amazing!

If you’re familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen then there’s probably a pretty fair chance you have heard it said that the group never lost a bomber on one of their escort missions during WWII. But logbooks and mission reports from the Airmen themselves, archived at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, paint a different (and historically accurate) picture.

The Tuskegee Airmen did in fact lose bombers on their escort missions, but they lost significantly less than other fighter groups at the time. They truly were outstanding aviators and American heroes that will inspire us for generations to come, and honoring them should be done with respect paid to their true achievements.

But how did the original misinformation make the leap from legend to wide acceptance? Like many similar circumstances, it was a domino affect fueled by lack of information and hearsay. It was born of the best intentions and excitement over the Airmen’s groundbreaking role in our country’s history. But through the diligence of several historians, the historically accurate mission records are now finding their rightful place in museums and informational literature.

Daniel Haulman, chief of the Organizational History Division at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, is the author of several books about the famed fighter pilots, and co-author of the popular The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History, 1939-1949. His research and experience, at times working alongside the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., has produced a roadmap of how the dominoes fell.

“Once a myth gets started, it’s hard to refute,” he says. “In March of 1945, when the Airmen were still flying missions, a journalist named Roi Ottley went to Italy to do a story for Liberty Magazine on the 332nd fighter group. Although the Airmen had already lost bombers, it was reported that they had not lost a bomber in 100 missions, which according to the records is not accurate.”

Ottley was a trailblazer in journalism at the time. He was a black man writing about black perspectives, speaking out on racial tensions and traveling abroad as a war correspondent. Unfortunately, he was criticized for being a “flawed journalist,” but his writings are nonetheless a pivotal piece of the WWII-era black history narrative.

This article led to another piece published in the Chicago Defender later that same month, printing that the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber in over 200 missions. From there, the misinformation grew until it evolved into the myth that the Airmen never lost a bomber at all. Because the history of the Tuskegee Airmen had been underrepresented and obscure for decades, people were forced to rely upon word of mouth, and the misinformation was easily perpetuated.

Hollywood adaptations - although helping to bring much-needed awareness to the Airmen and their struggles – relied on dramatic fictionalizations loosely based on historical fact, further blurring the lines of truth and legend. The most recent film, “Red Tails” by George Lucas, is a bit closer to the historical belt, although strays in favor of entertainment. An interesting side note, Haulman was tasked to provide an accurate chronological timeline to the movie’s producers, which can be found in The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History, 1939-1949.

It’s important to keep in mind that historical misconceptions are not unusual. For example, there are still widely accepted myths about the mission that shot down Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Marshal Admiral and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during WWII. Historians continue to search the records and put in the legwork necessary to ensure the accuracy of history lessons for generations to come.

“In the 179 escort missions flown by the Tuskegee Airmen, 27 bombers were lost,” says Haulman, who has painstakingly combed through the archives of the Airmen’s mission records. “In no way should this detract from their legacy. Other escort groups lost an average of 46 bombers on their missions.” For further information and a deeper dive, read Haulman’s paper, “Misconceptions About the Tuskegee Airmen” on our website.

The inspirational legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen needs no embellishment. It remains as strong as ever, and their strength of character, courage and ability to triumph over adversity speaks for itself. We will forever be indebted to them for helping our nation win a war, and having the perseverance to create the path to equality for future generations.

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Master Sergeant James Sheppard

Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Master Sergeant James Sheppard

In recent months we explored the importance of the Tuskegee Airmen support personnel in our blog, and even took a closer look at women in these roles. For every mission, many important players came together to create success through maintenance, training, flight skill and countless other crucial pieces of the puzzle. It simply cannot happen without a cohesive and dedicated team.

Another one of these important support personnel that the CAF Red Tail Squadron is honored to acknowledge is Master Sergeant James Sheppard.

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Sheppard, originally from Harlem, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 at the age of 18. He was already a certified aviation mechanic, having earned his education from the Haaren Aviation Technical School in New York City. Sheppard was then assigned to Tuskegee Army Air Field and the 301st Fighter Squadron.

During his time with the Tuskegee Airmen, he was trained as an Aviation Maintenance Technician, and acted as Crew Chief earning the rank of Staff Sergeant. He deployed with the Squadron to Italy where his skill and leadership played a key role in the success of the group’s aerial combat missions. Their aircraft included P-51C Mustangs, P-47 Thunderbolts, P-30s and Curtiss P-40s, all of which he worked on during his service.

Unfortunately, even a war hero such as Sheppard had to battle ongoing racial discrimination, making securing employment difficult. Like his fellow Tuskegee Airmen, it took strength of character and courage to triumph over this adversity. He re-entered the civilian workforce in 1945 after the war ended, working for various airlines out of New York as an aircraft mechanic. He also served as a US Air Force Reservist for 10 years, where his experience and work as a flight engineer with the 436th Troup Carrier Wing earned him the rank of Master Sergeant.

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Sheppard spent the rest of his career with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), retiring as a Supervisory Aviation Safety Inspector in the Flight Standards department who works to promote safe air transportation by setting the standards for certification and oversight of airmen, air operators, air agencies, and designees.

In 2011, CAF Red Tail Squadron pilot Alan Miller had the privilege of flying Sheppard in our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen. The Portland Press Herald covered the event with an article recounting the importance of the day, and how meaningful it was for Sheppard.

“As the loud engine shut off, Sheppard looked at those around him and said, ‘Now, can you imagine seeing 48 of those taking off at one time?’”

- MSgt James Sheppard

Portland Press Herald

September 2011

Another one of our pilots, Bill Shepard, also had the opportunity to meet Sheppard face-to-face. “We talked about our backgrounds and I got to hear first-hand about his experiences as a Tuskegee Airmen during the war. I have such admiration for him. What a wealth of experience,” he said. “I have pride for following in the footsteps of some great individuals, and they are proud of me for continuing the journey, and laying down more tracks for the new crop. Meeting airmen like James Sheppard simply makes me want to do better.”

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On behalf of the CAF Red Tail Squadron, we salute Tuskegee Airmen MSgt James Sheppard for his service to our country and for continuing to inspire generations to come with his example of determination and heroism.

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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