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C-17A S/N 97-0042
Accepted - September 18, 1998  (delivered to Charleston AFB)
Transferred  to McChord in 2002




PHOTO BY ERNEST WHITE II                                                                                 McCHORD AIR MUSEUM

The Spirit of the Tuskegee Airmen is pictured here making one of it's first landings at McChord as a member of the 62d Airlift Wing the aircraft would later be reassigned to Altus AFB..

PHOTO BY VANDELL COBB                                                                                                      EBONY MAGAZINE

The first all-Black crew on a C-17 are joined with 9 original members from the famed Tuskegee Airmen during the groups  35th annual convention in Phoenix, AZ on 9 Aug 2006.


History comes full circle for black aviators 

By Capt. Wayne Capps - 315th Airlift Wing Charleston AFB, SC


8/9/2006 - PHOENIX (AFPN) -- The past and present came together Aug. 4 as black aviators from different generations took part in a historic flight aboard a C-17 Globemaster III.

An all-volunteer, black aircrew from the 315th and 437th Airlift Wings at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and the 446th AW at McChord AFB, Wash., flew nine original Tuskegee Airmen on an orientation flight aboard the C-17 named "The Spirit of the Tuskegee Airmen" as part of 35th annual Tuskegee Airman Convention in Phoenix.

"This flight united African-American aviators from two very different generations," said Master Sgt. Terry Grant, one of the event planners who is assigned to Air Force Reserve Command's 300th Airlift Squadron. "These original Tuskegee Airmen had the opportunity to witness the fruits of their labor and see today's black aviators doing what they made possible."

The Tuskegee Airmen were America's first black Airmen. At that time, many people thought that black men lacked the intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism to become aviators.

From 1942 through 1946, 994 pilots graduated at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Tuskegee, Ala. Black navigators, bombardiers and gunnery crews trained at various military bases elsewhere in the United States.

Sergeant Grant said that Charleston AFB has a close personal tie to the Tuskegee Airmen because Walterboro, S.C., 40 miles southwest of Charleston, was used as a training base for the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

"I am jealous," said Charles Lane, an 81-year-old original Tuskegee Airman who participated in the flight. "I wish I could give up about 55 years and fly with them."

Mr. Lane, a seasoned war veteran who flew 26 combat missions from Ramatalli, Italy, during World War II, trained as a P-51 Mustang pilot in Tuskegee and Walterboro.

The idea to take an all-black C-17 crew and fly with original Tuskegee Airmen came from the mission's aircraft commander, Capt. Terry Troutman, from the 701st Airlift Squadron.

This mission was about influencing future generations of black aviators, Captain Troutman said.

"There were more African-American pilots in 1943 and 1944 with the development of the Tuskegee Airmen than we have in 2006," the captain said. "This is about getting the word out to younger generations that their goals can be reached."

Eugene Richardson, an 81-year-old former P-40 and P-47 pilot, who also trained in Walterboro, said the flight was "fantastic."

"(The aircrew) did almost as good as I did back then," he said with a laugh.

Mr. Richardson said he felt a special connection with the crew.

"They are close to my heart," he said.

"I am glad that they recognize that it is these old guys that made what they do possible," Mr. Richardson said as he walked off the plane. "It is just a great feeling to see all these black pilots around."

(Courtesy of Air Force Reserve Command News Service)


                                                   "Tuskegee Airmen" - Edward Clay Wright


Tuskegee Airmen

Although a rigid pattern of racial segregation prevailed in the United States during World War II, nearly 1,000 Black military aviators were trained at an isolated complex near the town of Tuskegee, Alabama, and at Tuskegee Institute. As a result of this “Tuskegee Experiment” 450 Black fighter pilots under the command of Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Fought in the aerial war over North Africa, Sicily, and Europe, flying, in succession, P-40, P-39, P-47, and P-51 type aircraft. These gallant men flew 15,553 sorties completing 1,578 missions with the 12th and 15th Air Forces. Not one friendly bomber was lost to enemy aircraft attack during the 200 escort missions. This success was unique because no other fighter unit with nearly as many missions could make the same claim.

Known as the Schwartze Vogelmenshen (Black Birdmen) by the Germans who both feared and respected them. The were also known as the `Red Tail Angels' by white bomber crews because of their red paint on their tail assemblies and their reputation for not losing bombers to enemy fighters as they provided fighter escort over strategic targets in Europe.

The 99th Fighter Squadron then merged with three other Black squadrons: the 100th; the 301st, and; the 302nd to form the 332nd Fighter Group, comprising the largest fighter unit in the 15th Air Force. From Italian bases they also destroyed enemy rail traffic, coastal surveillance stations, and hundreds of vehicles on air-to-ground strafing missions.

Sixty-six of these pilots were killed in aerial combat while another thirty-two were either forced down or shot down and captured as prisoners of war. The Airmen returned home with over 150 decorations including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, and the Red Star of Yugoslavia.

Another group, trained for medium bombardment duty was joined by the 332nd combat returnees to form the 447th Composite Fighter-Bomber Group. Although they never entered combat because of the surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, the 477th's demands for parity and recognition as competent military professionals combined with the superb wartime record of the 99th and the 332nd led to review of the U.S. War Department's racial policies.

For every Black pilot there were ten other civilian or military Black men and women on ground support duty. Many of them remained in the military during the post-World War II era and spearheaded the integration of the armed services with the integration into the U.S. Air Force in 1949. Thus the “Tuskegee Experiment” achieved success rather than the expected failure. Three of these pioneers rose to flag rank: the late General Daniel “Chappie” James, our nation's first Black Four-star General; Lt. General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. USAF Ret., and; Major General Lucius Theus, USAF, Ret. 

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McChord AFB, WA. 98438-0205
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