Westmont Magazine Tuskegee Warriors
Five members of the Los Angeles chapter of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen visited Westmont in February to speak to students.
These remarkable men belonged to the first African-American fighter pilot squadron in the United States. Established in 1939 in Tuskegee, Ala., the unit was a profoundly segregated part of the Army Air Corps in World War II.
Nearly 1,000 black military aviators were trained and 450 of them flew more than 15,553 sorties and 1,578 missions in the aerial war over North Africa, Sicily and Europe.
The airmen overcame tremendous social and political barriers to become an elite squadron that never lost a bomber to an enemy fighter. Their many honors include the Silver Star, 150 Flying Crosses and the Legion of Merits.
Each airman faced the same pattern of senseless prejudice. All five were college students at the start of the war and completely qualified to be pilots, yet they encountered significant discrimination. After they were commissioned, they were barred from the officers clubs on each base, and one of the five was court-martialed when a courageous group of black officers tried to integrate the clubs.