Tuskegee Airmen watch Obama’s swearing-in

By Laurie Bennett

January 21, 2013 at 6:03pm

Among the honored guests at the inauguration Monday were aged members of the Tuskegee Airmen, an African-American unit during World War II.

In wheelchairs, they watched from the terrace of the Capitol as the first black president took the oath for a second term. They joined the president in the inaugural parade reviewing stand.

“I never thought I would live to see it,” Clayton Lawrence, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, told the Associated Press.

The story of the unit was told in George Lucas’s film, “Red Tails.” A replica of the red-tailed fighter plane flown by the pilots was to be part of a float in the parade.

Although they faced widespread prejudice on the homefront, a number of the airmen achieved prominence after the war.

Coleman Young served as mayor of Detroit. Percy Sutton was Manhattan borough president and an attorney to Malcolm X.

Emmett Rice was a member of the Federal Reserve Board. His daughter, Susan Rice, is U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

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  • #1.   Ron Brewington 01.21.2013

    Greetings…I’m Ron Brewington, Tuskegee Airmen Historian….While reading the article, “Tuskegee Airmen Watch Obama’s Swearing-In,” I noted several errors:

    1. A common error is that a “Tuskegee Airman” is a pilot. That is not true. All Tuskegee Airmen are NOT pilots. The definition of a “Tuskegee Airman” is men or women, civilians or military, black or white who served in the “Tuskegee Experience” during the period of 1941-1949 at specific duty stations.Tuskegee Airmen include pilots (fighter or bomber), navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, cooks, crew chiefs, secretaries, etc. There were Tuskegee Airmen fighter pilots (as seen in the movie “Red Tails”) and bomber pilots. 352 fighter pilots served in combat while in Europe and other places in the European/Africa theater during WWII prior to VE_Day. The Tuskegee Airmen bomber pilots were thoroughly trained, but never fought in combat. They were scheduled to engage in the Pacific theater, but President Harry Truman ended WWII by ordering the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan.

    2. Lee Archer, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. and Roscoe Brown, Jr. were “Red Tail” pilots who participated in combat.

    3. Coleman Young, Percy Sutton, Clayton Lawrence and Emmett Rice never served in combat.

    4. Young was eliminated from pilot training (Class 44C), but later became a bombardier. Percy Sutton was also eliminated from pilot training (Class42F), but later became an intelligence officer with the 332nd Fighter Group. Emmett Rice never went to pilot training, and Clayton Lawrence was eliminated from pilot training (Class 44H). Lawrence later became a bombardier.

  • #2.   Laurie Bennett 01.21.2013

    Thanks for pointing out the problem with “pilots.” Great additional information as well.

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