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On the Wings of the Tuskegee Airmen

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Tuskegee Airmen
    Portrait of nurses stationed at Tusekegee Army Air Field walking down the wing of a plane, undated.

    Between 1940 and 1946, nearly 1,000 African-American pilots were trained in Tuskegee, Ala.

    About 445 were deployed overseas, 150 lost their lives in accidents or combat, and 32 became prisoners of war. These pilots were known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the United States.

    At the time, African Americans faced discrimination and segregation almost everywhere they turned -- even the military was still segregated -- but the Tuskegee Airmen turned a blind eye to racism and willingly joined the Air Force to fight and fly for the United States. 

    This Saturday, Feb. 11, you'll have the chance to meet one of the Tuskegee Airmen at the College Park Aviation Museum (1985 Cpl. Frank Scott Drive, College Park, Md.) at 2 p.m.

    Learn about the history of the pilots and about the current Tuskegee Airmen organization. The group included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air. The museum will let you simulate a flight as well as sit in a real cockpit (of a 1939 Blue Taylorcraft, to be precise) to touch and explore.

    The Tuskegee Airmen first flew in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter-bombers but later acquired the North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft.

    The airmen painted the tails of their Mustang fighters red, leading to the nickname Red Tails -- also the name of the new movie about them.

    Saturday's meet-and-greet is free with museum admission ($4 adults; $2 kids). Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.