THE MOST SUCCESSFUL
DAY FOR THE RED TAILS
The Tuskegee Airmen clashed with members of KG(J) 27 during attacks on trains in Austria during 31 March and 1 April 1945.
The Tuskegee Airmen
African Americans that entered the service as pilots are today
known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The law that allowed them to be
trained as fighter pilots was enacted in 1939 as the result of pressure from human rights groups. A significant role to this end was
played by the visit to Tuskegee by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt,
and her flight with instructor Charles A. Anderson. This visit led to
the financing of the construction of the airfield at Moton by the The
Rosenwald Fund. Their road into fighter cockpits was nevertheless long and difficult. The rules of racial segregation were still in
effect in the United States during the Second World War, and the
Tuskegee Airmen were victims of it during their service as well
as outside of it. The air service rejected some of these rules, but
it often occurred that unofficially, they still were applied. Even the
post-war years were not easy, and the theme is a complicated one
that a full spectrum discussion of it is well beyond the scope of this
In all, 922 black pilots underwent pilot training at Griel Field,
Kennedy Field, Moton Field, Shorter Field and Tuskegee. In Africa,
and later Europe, 355 pilots from Tuskegee of the 12th and 15th Air
Forces, USAAF, served their country, and 68 died in combat. Another 32 were taken prisoner, while twelve died in air accidents.
Some formed the 99th Pursuit Squadron (later the 99th Fighter
Squadron), which operated in the Mediterranean area in April,
1943. Later, the unit joined up with the 332nd Fighter Group which
originally included the 100th, 301st, and 302nd Fighter Squadrons,
and was based in Italy from the beginning of 1944. African American pilots also made up the 477th Bombardment Group, flying B-25
Mitchells, but they were too late to see planned service in Asia.
The 332nd FG was tasked with escort duties flying Thunderbolts in
June, 1944 (converting to the Mustang in July). Other fighter units
within the 15th AF understandably had significantly more aerial
victories and combat experience. From this key point in time until the end of the war, the 332nd FG claimed 94 kills and left behind three Fighter Groups armed with the P-38. But the P-38 had
a shorter range than the Mustang and a correspondingly smaller
chance of meeting the enemy. Three Groups of their colleagues
flying P-51s each scored over 200 kills.
Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
The air battles that played out over Bavaria and Austria on March 31st, 1945, brought the
legendary 332nd Fighter group, known as ‘the Red Tails’, the greatest number of aerial kills
accumulated over a single day. Although many people had reservations over the question
as to whether or not African Americans could become competent pilots, their foes in these
encounters were left with very little doubt.
Future commander of 332nd Fighter Group Capt. Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., of Washington, D.C., climbing into an AT-6 Texan trainer aicraft at Tuskegee, Alabama in January 1942.
INFO Eduard - June 2021