Today, I am going to blog a History Channel Documentary: Dogfights: Tuskegee Airman Break Barriers.
July 18, 1944, the Tuskegee Airman are escorting bombers to bomb an airbase in Austria. Suddenly, the enemy is spotted. The airmen are sent into action and they start fighting. They are led by a pair that has the nickname “The Gruesome Twosome.” Captain Wendall Pruitt and Lee Archer are leading the way in the dogfight. They are on the tail of a German aircraft.
However, there is something wrong with Pruitt’s plan. The guns are jammed and Archer takes on the chase. He locks on his target and shoots. This is Archer’s first victory in the skies. Archer and Pruitt return to the fight. Another fighter goes after a German plane. He gives chase and shoots him down. He narrowly avoids crashing as the plane in front of him explodes. His aircraft is unscathed. Then he spots another target and goes after this second target. He goes after a third target and the German crashes into the mountain. He returns to his unit. The Tuskegee Airmen shot down 12 aircraft in one day.
At the start of World War II, African American men were regulated to support roles. They were deemed as inferior and unable to learn how to fly a plane, let alone a fighter plane. However, with increasing pressure, African American men were allowed to train as fighter pilots. They were trained at the Tuskegee Institute and the efforts to train the men were deemed as “an experiment.” World War II was the first time African American men could be assigned to combat uniforms.
In April 1943, the 99th Air Squadron was sent to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Two additional squadrons were also sent, they would be assigned the number 332nd Squadron and they would be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen would be fighting against a veteran and tenacious enemy. The Tuskegee Airmen would be tested like never before.
The 332nd Squadron is heading to Czechoslovakia and an airfield there. The enemy is alerted and is going to engage with the Tuskegee airmen. The Tuskegee airmen are going to go toe to toe with Germany’s most advanced single-engine fighter. One fighter pair goes after one of the German fighters and it is led by a fighter named McGee. The German fighter does whatever he can to try to lure the Tuskegee airman to an airfield that was bombed earlier by the Americans. The German fighter hoped to take out an American air fighter.
The German did not succeed. He made a mistake. He turned towards McGee and McGee opened fire on him. The German fighter is done for, he hits the ground exploding on contact. McGee lives to fight another day, McGee’s wingman who had gotten lost in the chase catches up with McGee, and they return to the position guarding bombers. Their reputation for being a good escort as well as a fighter grew. Stars and Stripes, a military magazine, wrote about the squadron and their reputation.
The Tuskegee Airmen flew mission after mission as the bombers went after dams, airfields, marshaling yards, and oil rigs. They flew all over Eastern Europe. To continue to learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen continue to watch this episode.
If you are interested in military history or aviation history, then you should watch this episode. There was a discussion on the specs for the fighters. At 15:00 minutes there is the discussion of the two fighter planes and aerial combat strategies. If you have an independent study student, then you can recommend this episode for them to watch. This would also be a good episode to show during an American History class on World War II.
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