The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated and determined young African American men who enlisted in the military during World War II to become America's first black military airmen. They trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Ala., and served their country with distinction.
The luncheon speaker will be Tuskegee Airman Roger "Bill" Terry, a flight instructor and pilot. In 1945, he participated in a nonviolent protest at Freeman Field in Indiana that helped to pave the way for the desegregation of the United States military. He later served as president of the Assn. of Tuskegee Airmen.
A total of 450 pilots who trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field served overseas in either the 99th Fighter Squadron or 332nd Fighter Group. The 99th flew combat missions over North Africa, Sicily and Italy. The 332nd flew patrols over Naples Harbor and the Mediterranean Sea. In April 1944, the Fighter Group transferred to Italy's Adriatic Coast and began conducting long-range heavy bomber escort missions for the 15th Strategic Air Force.
The 99th received two Presidential Unit Citations for outstanding tactical air support and aerial combat. The 332nd received the Presidential Unit Citation for its longest bomber escort mission to Berlin, conducted on March 24, 1945.
The Germans, who both feared and respected the Tuskegee Airmen, referred to them as the Schwartze Vogelmenshe (Black Birdmen). The white bomber crews called them the Red Tail Angels because of the distinctive red paint on their tail assemblies and for their reputation for not losing bombers to enemy fighters as they provided fighter escort over strategic targets in Europe.
An American bomber pilot who was escorted by the Red Tails will also speak at the luncheon.
Spring semester classes get under way Monday at Orange Coast College.