Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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December 18th
The Tuskegee Airmen
During World War II, the U.S. military had a policy of racial segregation. Blacks trained and fought in separate units from whites. Before 1941 blacks weren’t allowed to serve as pilots. Many people said they weren’t smart or disciplined enough to fly combat aircraft. But that year, under pressure from black leaders and Congress, the Army Air Corps opened an air base in Tuskegee, Alabama, and began to train black airmen.

The Tuskegee Army Air Base trained not only pilots but navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and all the other personnel needed to keep planes in the air. Soon the Tuskegee Airmen were proving that they could fly aircraft as well as anyone else. Still, some people asked, “How will they do in combat?”

Beginning in 1943, the Army sent 450 Tuskegee pilots to North Africa and Europe to fight in the war. They flew fighters that escorted bombers over enemy territory. The Tuskegee Airmen painted the tails of their fighters red, and as their reputation for protecting planes grew, bomber crews started asking for the “Red Tail Angels” as escorts.

The Tuskegee Airmen flew hundreds of missions and rarely lost a bomber they were assigned to protect from enemy fire. Many became decorated war heroes. About 150 Tuskegee pilots lost their lives in combat or in accidents.

In 1946, after the war was over, training at Tuskegee ended. By then 992 pilots had graduated from the program. They had shown the world they could fly with the best, and their superb record paved the way for ending racial discrimination in the military.

American History Parade
1777
Americans observe the first national day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the surrender of a British army at Saratoga, New York, two months earlier.

1787
New Jersey becomes the third state to ratify the Constitution.

1813
During the War of 1812, the British capture Fort Niagara in New York.

1932
In Chicago, the Bears defeat the Portsmouth Spartans 9–0 in the first ever NFL playoff game, which was held indoors because of a blizzard.

1943
The 99th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the Tuskegee Airmen, flies almost every day during December 1943 in support of Allied bombers based in Italy.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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