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Scott Field Radio School trained Tuskegee Airmen

  • Published
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of primarily African-American military pilots (fighter and bomber) and support Airmen who fought in World War II. They formed the 332d Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group (Medium) of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). The term “Tuskegee Airmen” also applied to the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, radio operators/mechanics, cooks, and other support personnel.  The Tuskegee Airmen received praise for their excellent combat record earned while protecting American bombers from enemy fighters in the European Theater of Operations.. The group was awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations.

The 99th Pursuit Squadron (later the 99th Fighter Squadron) was the first African-American flying squadron, and the first to deploy overseas (to North Africa in April 1943, and later to Sicily and other parts of Italy). The 332nd Fighter Group, which originally included the 100th, 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons, was the first African-American flying group (wing). It deployed to Italy in early 1944.  In June 1944, the famous 332nd Fighter Group “Red Tails” began flying heavy bomber escort missions and, in July 1944, with the addition of the 99th Fighter Squadron, it had four fighter squadrons. The African-American 477th Bombardment Group trained with North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, arriving in the Pacific Theater in 1945 too late to serve in combat.

During WWII, the U.S. Armed Forces were strictly segregated by race.  In the summer of 1942, two African-American units, the 46th Aviation Squadron (Separate) and the 934th Quartermaster Platoon, completed basic training at Scott Field and were assigned to support duties on the post, such as Motor Pool, Post engineering section, and alert crew/security duties.  In January 1943, 330 members assigned to the 46th Squadron entered the Radio School to support the Tuskegee Airmen fighting in Italy.  The first class graduated in May 1943 and classes continued throughout WWII.  Radio School officials commended the African-American students on their fine scholastic performance and military bearing. 

The Tuskegee Airmen proved that African-American Airmen could excel in combat if given an opportunity and helped open the door for the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces by President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order in 1948.