Tuskegee Airman celebrates Red Tails movie
By Senior Airman Martha Whipple, 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 02, 2012
Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas -- When a retired command chief from the 301st Fighter Wing saw the trailer for the movie "Red Tails," he couldn't wait to see it. The 301st, along with three other squadrons, carry on the heritage of the Tuskegee Airmen and their Red Tails.
Retired Chief Master Sgt. Brad Scott made plans for a date night with his wife... first dinner, then "Red Tails." Scott, who is a fan of their history, served on a team who brought the Tuskegee name to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base - the designation of Tuskegee Airmen Drive.
Scott connected with three of his retired military friends from NAS JRB, James White, Dale Dixon and Howard Daniel, and began talking about the movie and their association with the Red Tails when they decided to spend the evening together for dinner and the movie.
The four shared their plans with co-workers and other friends and soon there was a group of about 60 people who wanted to join them for the evening. To make this a truly memorable night, Dixon, a member of the Claude R. Platte Tuskegee Airmen Historical Chapter, invited a local Tuskegee Airman to join the group. Dr. Robert T. McDaniel, a former Red Tail member of the 477th Bombardment Group, became the guest of honor.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first all-black squadron in the U.S. military. They served during World War II, a time when blacks were fighting for social equality in America and in the armed forces. The military was segregated at the time and blacks were not allowed to hold a position of leadership.
"I appreciate the movie because it shows the contributions of Tuskegee Airmen to our country and our dedication to duty despite the bigotry and racism that paralyzed our efforts for equality and leadership roles," McDaniel said.
The Airmen persistently strived to uphold their pride, honor and dignity. The Airmen would soon earn the respect of the armed forces and would be revered for their bravery and heroism in combat.
McDaniel attributed his perseverance and professionalism to his high school teachers who prepared him for the social challenges he would face. His black teachers had faced the same extreme discrimination and racism, he said. The odds were stacked against blacks who were ambitious to succeed, he remarked.
The Army drafted him in 1943 assigning him to Midland Bombardier School and then to the pilot training program at Tuskegee, Alabama. McDaniel completed the pilot training program and was assigned to the legendary 477th Bombardment Group.
The group transferred to Freeman Field, Indiana, where the black servicemembers were not welcomed. The black officers were turned away from the officers club and from businesses in town. The German prisoners of war had more privileges than black servicemen who had already served in combat in Europe and North Africa.
McDaniel was one of 101 officers arrested in the Freeman Field Officers Club incident, depicted in the film, and faced court martial charges. The Airmen wanted to use the officers club, but were denied by a white commanding officer. The 101 officers went into the club anyway which led to their arrests.
The black officers were later exonerated, and the installation commander was relieved of his duties, replaced with a black commanding officer. McDaniel said the vindication of this incident was one of his greatest memories because it brought them a step closer to equality.
The Freeman Field Officer Club incident led to the integration of all officers clubs and other military facilities previously off-limits to black officers.
The 477th downsized as the war came to an end. Some of the officers, including McDaniel, were awarded honorary doctorate degrees. After the war ended, McDaniel moved back to Texas and began his 37-year career as an educator in the Fort Worth Independent School District.
An attendee of the event, Col. Kurt Gallegos, 301st Operations Group commander, felt a connection to the movie. Gallegos flew combat missions with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing in Iraq. The 332nd Fighter Squadron was the only Tuskegee unit to fly combat missions in World War II.
"It is humbling to be associated with a prestigious group of Airmen," he said. "The Tuskegee Airman modeled the Air Force core values of integrity, service before self and excellence. The heritage, history and spirit of the Red Tails continue to thrive in today's expeditionary and operational Air Force."
A fan and student of the Tuskegee heritage, Lt. Col. Max Stitzer, 301st Maintenance Group commander who served in three units which carry on the Tuskegee legacy, said the movie honors the airmen who executed ground-breaking work while enduring discrimination 70 years ago.
Most servicemembers learn about the Tuskegee units through professional military education, but now their history is on the big screen and the legacy of the Red Tails can fly forever.