Tuskegee Airmen Display Coming to Humanities Center
Memorabilia from the Tuskegee Airmen will be on display at the Hitchcock Humanities Center from Monday, July 18-30. The display will consist of posters, photos, models, uniforms and other items provided by the Alfonza W. Davis Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Incorporated.
Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II. Officially, they formed the 33rd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Force. The name also applies to the navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks, and other support personnel for the pilots.
“The official definition of Tuskegee Airmen is anyone who was stationed at or worked at Tuskegee Army Air Field from 1941 to 1949,” said Bob Rose, an Air Force Veteran and President of the Chapter. “The operative term there is anyone. It doesn’t say black, it doesn’t say male, it doesn’t say pilot. It says anyone.”
The group was formed at a time when the military was segregated.
“In 1925, the Air War College actually released a study that said blacks were incapable of handling sophisticated equipment -- couldn’t and wouldn’t take orders,” Rose said. “Organizations such as the Tuskegee Airmen and Red Ball Express – the combination of success by these groups led to President Truman signing the executive order to integrate the military. In my humble opinion, that changed the fabric of American Society.”
The exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen have been documented by Hollywood over the last decades, first with the HBO movie The Tuskegee Airmen in 1995 and more recently with George Lucas’ Red Tails in 2012.
“It was kind of fascinating. Most Tuskegee Airmen didn’t know that they were Tuskegee Airmen until the movie came out in 1995 and they certainly didn’t know that they were heroes,” Rose said. “Most of the awareness took place after the HBO movie.”
The mission of the Davis Chapter today is to educate and inspire.
“Our mission is to perpetuate and preserve the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. We use aviation, aeronautics, and airplanes as a hook to get kids interested and then try to convince them that, just like the Tuskegee Airmen, if you’re prepared you can do anything,” Rose said.
“In today’s world, prepared is spelled STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. We have various programs. Our primary program at the moment is out at Offutt Air Force Base. We have nine kids out there today flying the KR 135 flight simulator. It’s a very unique program -- a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
In addition to being the namesake for the chapter, Alfonza W. Davis has a middle school named for him in the Omaha Public School System. Davis was the first African-American aviator from Omaha to be awarded his wings. A recipient of the Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Unit Citation, Davis was assumed to be dead after going missing on or about July 30, 1945 over the Adriatic Sea.