Maintenance window scheduled to begin at February 14th 2200 est. until 0400 est. February 15th


Forgot Password?

    Defense Visual Information Distribution Service Logo

    Tuskegee Airman, Newport News native visits Fort Eustis-based joint task force

    Tuskegee Airman, Newport News native visits Fort Eustis-based joint task force

    Photo By Brian Dietrick | Ezra Hill speaks to Joint Task Force Civil Support staff members during a Black...... read more read more



    Story by Deveney Wall 

    Joint Task Force Civil Support

    FORT EUSTIS, Va. - One of the original members of the Tuskegee Airmen visited Joint Task Force Civil Support Friday, to discuss the role the airmen played in World War II despite a segregated military.

    Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Ezra Hill – a Newport News, Va., native - spoke to more than 120 members of JTF-CS about how the airmen were given an opportunity to create the first black pilot program in a segregated military. By the end of the war, 992 men graduated from Negro Air Corps pilot training at Tuskegee, Ala.; 450 were sent overseas for combat assignment.

    During the same period, about 150 black pilots lost their lives while in training accidents or on combat flights, according to the National Museum of the United States Air Force’s website.

    “[They] had to fight the war – they were in the military, but they didn’t have to integrate,’ said Hill.

    The visit was part of a command-wide Black History Month recognition to showcase the significant contributions African Americans have made in United States history, including the acceptance of and contributions by African Americans in the military.

    Hill spoke to the group on how the black pilot program began as a test program to have black college students undergo academics referred to as the “Tuskegee Experiment,” due to the location of the training program located in Tuskegee, Ala. Tuskegee’s 99th Fighter Squadron became the first squadron of black pilots to face combat in World War II.

    Though the airmen were trained to fly, the “young Negroes were still not flying after Pearl Harbor,” said Hill. Meanwhile, the German Luftwaffe destroyed between “50 to 60 percent” of allied bombers daily over the skies in Europe, mostly because the bombers lacked fighter plane protection, according to Hill.

    Until American black fighter squadrons entered the war in Europe, the German Luftwaffe “ruled the skies,” said Hill.

    “Just think – of 100 bombers, 60 were coming back shot up,” said Hill. “That’s 600 pilots and crew lost in one mission.”

    Initially, the Tuskegee Airmen were given a chance to prove themselves in combat over Pantelleria, an island near Sicily, Italy, June 2, 1943. Three additional black air units–the 100th, 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons–joined the 99th in Italy in 1944 to form the 332nd Fighter Group. The 332nd became known as the Red Tails because of the distinctive tail markings on their aircraft. The Red Tails flew bomber escort missions and engaged in air combat as far north as Berlin.

    Shortly after the war, U.S. President Harry S. Truman, signed an executive order to end military segregation. This, in turn, began a footprint into civil rights movements that eventually led to the civil rights movement in the United States.

    In short, Hill said African-American service members fought a “war after the war” to help turn the tide on civil rights following World War II, including the integration of black troops into the military.

    “That’s what we fought for,” said Hill. “We want to be called one thing –‘American.’ We’ve been called many things; had many names, but we’re Americans first.”

    Hill followed the visit with a book signing session for JTF-CS staff; he penned “The Black Red Tail Angels: The Story of A Tuskegee Airman and the Aviators,” published in 2007.



    Date Taken: 02.25.2013
    Date Posted: 02.27.2013 09:27
    Story ID: 102610
    Location: FORT EUSTIS, VA, US
    Hometown: NEWPORT NEWS, VA, US
    Hometown: TUSKEGEE, AL, US

    Web Views: 131
    Downloads: 1