In 1941, when fewer than 4,000 African Americans were serving in the military, the army decided to train a small number of black pilot cadets to help out in World War II. Dr. Frederick D. Patterson brought the first African American flight training program to a segregated air base in Tuskegee, Alabama. Soon, the Tuskegee Airmen, as they were called, were using their flying skills escorting and protecting American bombers from German fighter planes. They flew more than 15,000 sorties between 1943 and 1945.
The Tuskegee Airmen saw many successes and a few defeats. Only 66 of them died in combat—one of the lowest loss records for any escort fighter group. In all, they earned eight Purple Hearts, fourteen Bronze Stars, three Distinguished Unit Citations, and 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses by the end of the war. The success of the Tuskegee Airmen proved to the American public that African Americans, when given the opportunity, could effectively serve their country. The bravery and patriotism of these men set the stage for the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. Uncover the achievements of these accomplished servicemen in the following videos.