Cover image for Freedom flyers : the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II
Title:
Freedom flyers : the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II
ISBN:
9780195386554
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 2010.
Physical Description:
vii, 241 p.. [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm.
Contents:
Prologue: "This is where you ride" -- The use of Negro manpower in war -- The Black Eagles take flight -- The experiment -- Combat on several fronts -- The trials of the 477th -- Integrating the Air Force -- Epilogue: "Let's make it a holy crusade all around".
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Summary

Summary

As the country's first African American military pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen fought in World War II on two fronts: against the Axis powers in the skies over Europe and against Jim Crow racism and segregation at home. Although the pilots flew more than 15,000 sorties and destroyed more than 200German aircraft, their most far-reaching achievement defies quantification: delivering a powerful blow to racial inequality and discrimination in American life.In this inspiring account of the Tuskegee Airmen, historian J. Todd Moye captures the challenges and triumphs of these brave pilots in their own words, drawing on more than 800 interviews recorded for the National Park Service's Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project. Denied the right to fullyparticipate in the U.S. war effort alongside whites at the beginning of World War II, African Americans - spurred on by black newspapers and civil rights organizations such as the NAACP - compelled the prestigious Army Air Corps to open its training programs to black pilots, despite the objectionsof its top generals. Thousands of young men came from every part of the country to Tuskegee, Alabama, in the heart of the segregated South, to enter the program, which expanded in 1943 to train multi-engine bomber pilots in addition to fighter pilots. By the end of the war, Tuskegee Airfield hadbecome a small city populated by black mechanics, parachute packers, doctors, and nurses. Together, they helped prove that racial segregation of the fighting forces was so inefficient as to be counterproductive to the nation's defense.Freedom Flyers brings to life the legacy of a determined, visionary cadre of African American airmen who proved their capabilities and patriotism beyond question, transformed the armed forces - formerly the nation's most racially polarized institution - and jump-started the modern struggle forracial equality.


Author Notes

J. Todd Moye is an Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Oral History Program at the University of North Texas. A historian of the American civil rights movement, he directed the National Park Service's Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project from 2000 to 2005.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Moye, associate professor of history at the University of North Texas, updates a now familiar story in this excellent history of the first African-American military pilots. Under pressure from black newspapers and the NAACP to open pilot training to blacks (and facing a re-election fight), President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 authorized the creation of a segregated flight school at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and an all-black fighter squadron. The program trained almost 1,000 fliers, and nearly half served in combat during WWII, compiling an impressive record flying 15,000 sorties in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Despite official skepticism and occasional hostility, the Tuskegee Airmen successfully demonstrated "that racial segregation of troops was inefficient and... hindered national defense." Their record helped persuade the air force-largely for "reasons of operational self-interest"-and President Harry Truman to seek the immediate desegregation of the military after the war. The author directed the National Park Service's Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project and mined some 800 interviews for his exhaustive research. Moye's lively prose and the intimate details of the personal narratives yield an accessible scholarly history that also succeeds as vivid social history. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

Moye draws on records from the Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project while recalling the intense political negotiations behind the group's origins and development. Rather than focusing on their much-lauded combat achievements in Europe, he recounts how individuals were selected for training and their all-too-frequent encounters with racism in the Deep South. In several particularly moving passages, veterans recall the heavy load they carried to attain not only personal success but also achievement for their entire race. They knew the world was watching. Although readers may find the general history familiar, the personal nature of the examples Moye cites make it a far deeper and richer narrative then typical WWII fare. The expected framework from the NAACP to Eleanor Roosevelt is present, but so are dozens of names and events far beyond traditional mention. As both civil rights and U.S. military history, the Tuskegee Airmen comprise a worthy subject, while the author's friendly style should open the title up to even casual readers. Copious endnotes and a full bibliography add value.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2010 Booklist


Choice Review

As director of the Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project, Moye (oral history, Univ. of North Texas) supervised the collection of 800 interviews with those involved with the Tuskegee Army Air Field, the remarkable all-black virtual city that developed as part of the Army Air Corps' segregated training of black pilots. These interviews serve as the basis for an enriching, deeply humane, and academically rigorous volume on the project. Some of the Tuskegee airmen served in combat, where they performed well (albeit not as flawlessly as later "never lost a bomber" myth had it); others itched to serve but never had a chance. All were critical in bringing the Air Force, and the military as a whole, to its astonishingly rapid move to desegregation after WW II. Overseas, one of the airmen who was shot down was picked by a white southern man to be his roommate in a German POW camp, in the knowledge that he was not a German spy. Back home, disembarking from his ship, one airman veteran heard a private order "whites to the right, Negroes to the left." For the men, everything had changed; for the US, nothing had changed--yet. Summing Up; Recommended. All levels/libraries. P. Harvey University of Colorado at Colorado Springs


Kirkus Review

Moye (History/Univ. of North Texas) takes a sober, probing look at the complicated segregated context in which black men trained and were deployed as pilots during World War II. Integration of the Armed Services came by President Truman's executive decree in 1948, and then as a political re-election nudge, but it was largely due to the valiant performance and active advocacy for equal rights by the black pilots such as those trained at Tuskegee Army Flying School. Before WWII, segregation reigned in all aspects of American life, and the Army War College maintained strict racist stereotypes regarding black soldiersthey were superstitious, "susceptible to the influence crowd psychology" and "unmoral [sic]," according to the "pseudoscientific" 1925 study "The Use of Negro Manpower in War." However, by June 1941 Roosevelt was aware of the danger of alienating blacks from an all-out war effort, recognizing the significance of their power: "Our problem is to harness and hitch it up for action on the broadest, daring and most gigantic scale." Thanks to lobbying by presidents of historically black colleges like Wilberforce, Hampton and Tuskegee, the creation of the Civilian Pilot Training Act of 1939 allotted allowances for the training of black pilots as well as whites. The NAACP and others objected to the segregation of black pilots at Tuskegee as a creation of "a Jim Crow air squadron." Nonetheless, nearly 1,000 pilots graduated from the program, and nearly half of them flew in combat, proving mightily to the world their capabilities. Moye follows the careers of many of these pilots, their experience of discrimination in the Army and shameful treatment afterward, and how vigorous efforts by Eleanor Roosevelt, William H. Hastie and others helped change perceptions. A scholarly but accessible treatment of a significant forerunner of the civil-rights movement. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Table of Contents

Prologue: "This Is Where You Ride"p. 1
1 The Use of Negro Manpower in Warp. 13
2 The Black Eagles Take Flightp. 41
3 The Experimentp. 70
4 Combat on Several Frontsp. 98
5 The Trials of the 477thp. 123
6 Integrating the Air Forcep. 145
Epilogue: "Let's Make It a Holy Crusade All the Way Around"p. 171
Acknowledgmentsp. 187
Notesp. 191
A Note on Sourcesp. 217
Bibliographyp. 221
Indexp. 233