Red Tails recalls dark time for Tuskegee Airmen

In 1925 the Army War College performed a study that concluded “Blacks are mentally inferior to the white man, by nature subservient … cowardly … and therefore unfit for combat.”

In 1944 an elite unit of Tuskegee Airmen better  known as the Red Tails proved this statement to be fallacious and  ludicrous.

Just in time for Black History month and inspired by true events the movie Red Tails tells a story that defines our nation’s history and reveals to the world that courage has no color. It begins in the heart of World War II.

As America waged war overseas, African-American fighter pilots fought segregation from the American armed forces, which declared them unfit for war because of the color of their skin.

These aviators were in the 1 percent of African-Americans who held college degrees at that time, but despite their intellect, they were still considered “inferior” by their own military.

“And you all thought what? You’d sign up. You’d get shiny boots, a uniform and that’d be the end of 100 years of bigotry? You’re colored men in the white man’s army,” says Maj. Emanuelle Stance (played by Cuba Gooding Jr).

As second-in-command of the group his harsh words rang true.

“It’s a miracle you’re flying fighters in Italy and not mopping latrines in Milwaukee.”

The intelligent and well-trained men, who acquired their nickname for painting the back of their P-51 planes red, were issued faulty equipment and ordered to be 100 miles away from the front line.

Col. A.J. Bullard (played by Terrance Howard), commander of the Red Tails, refused to allow racism to keep his skilled pilots from seeing combat. Bullard attempted to convince his superiors of the fact that the pilots were ready for war and pointed out that they had already exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“When we came under your command, Colonel, you stated very clearly that we would never find Negroes who could pass the pilot’s exam, make it through flight school, survive basic combat. We’ve done all of that,” he explained to his racist superiors. “We have a right to fight for our country, the same as every other American. We will not go away.”

Bullard was right, the Red Tails did not go away.

After accomplishing their first mission, they were assigned to buffer and protect U.S. bomber groups from German war planes.

The pilots went above and beyond the call of duty and earned the respect of the nation. They demonstrated that duty, honor and intelligence are not just qualities given to white men, but to all men.

Despite the controversy over the movie’s all black cast, interracial relationships, finances and historical views, Red Tails is still an epic movie about the perseverance of a few who paved the way for many.

The film has its flaws, such as its predictable story line, but its strengths outweigh its weaknesses. This movie tells a story not just about African-American history, but American history.

By the end of World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen had flown more than 1,500 missions. They were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts.

Ultimately, the Red Tails helped America win the war, and their rallying cry became the driving force behind their triumph: “We count our victories by the husbands we return to their wives, by the fathers we give back to their children. From the last plane, to the last bullet, to the last minute, to the last man, we fight. We fight!”


Author: Nicole Johnson

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