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Jim Crow and Uncle Sam: The Tuskegee flying units and the US Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II

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Abstract

This article discusses the nature of race relations in the U.S. Army Air Forces during the Second World War. America's first all-black flying units, the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group, trained at segregated Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, carried out tactical and strategic missions over North Africa and southern Europe in the last two years of the war. While overseas, the black airmen experienced both positive and negative racial relationships with other fighter and bomber units of the Army Air Forces, relationships which often affected the morale and combat effectiveness of the 99th and 332nd. The wartime success of the "Tuskegee Experiment" gave impetus to President Harry S. Truman's integration of the U.S. armed forces in 1948.

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... 47 The inclusion of black men in the most advanced military training available at the time was preceded by the passage of the Civilian Pilot Training Act in 1939, which allowed for the acquisition of pilot licenses" and resulted in nine commercially qualified and two hundred sixty privately authorized black pilots before the war. 48 Initially refused admittance into the Army Air Corps due to an assessment that African American men were "by nature subservient and believe(d) himself to be inferior," and that therefore, "applications from colored men for this branch of the service cannot be considered," public pressure for the utilization of African Americans in combat and the need for qualified pilots created a demand that rescinded previously held assumptions. 49 As ~ 15 ~ pilots, equaling thirty-three men as representatives of twelve million African Americans. ...
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