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February 19

 

February 19, 1942

Tuskegee Airmen Take to the Skies

The U.S. military was segregated by race throughout World War II, and in the early months of the war black servicemen were given limited roles. Then, in 1941, the Army began training African-Americans as combat pilots.

In all, 992 black pilots completed training and joined the "black air force." On this date in 1942, the 100th Fighter Squadron was activated and assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group -- better known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

The 332nd spent 14 months flying combat missions in Europe, destroying more than 400 enemy aircraft while operating more different kinds of warplanes than any other unit in the Air Corps. (The Airmen received their training at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Today, the institute is Tuskegee University and the World War II training base is being developed as a national historic park.)

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