African Americans were forbidden from flying in the U.S. military prior to 1940. One year later, in 1941, an all African-American squadron was formed in Alabama known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Producer/Director George Lucas has spent 23 years trying to tell their story. His new film, "Red Tails," premiered on Friday. The cast is almost entirely African-American.
“The black fighting man has never been elevated to larger-than-life superhero status,” said Aaron McGruder, who co-wrote the film, according to the Washington Post. “We got a black president before we got a black action movie.”
Tuskegee Airmen Inc. explains that Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat planes for the military was known as the Tuskegee Experiment. The Tuskegee Airmen had to battle through segregation and racism, and still become one of the most highly respected fighter squadrons in World War II.
The Tuskegee Airmen fought nearly 2,000 missions in Europe, and destroyed or damaged more than 400 enemy aircraft. The fighters earned nearly 100 Distinguished Flying Crosses. And in 1998, President Bill Clinton established the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, to commemorate the Airmen’s efforts.
The Gadsden Times reports that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a proclamation on Friday honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. Surviving airmen Herbert Carter, 94, and Oscar Gadson, 91, were in the Governor’s office for the signing. Carter flew 77 combat missions. He called Red Tails “outstanding.”
According to the Philadelphia Daily News, producer George Lucas defines Red Tails as an adventure movie for young people. The paper says much of the acting takes place in simulated cockpits. Lucas also has a 90-minute documentary that features surviving aviators, airing on the History Channel.