Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II

J. Todd Moye, Author
J. Todd Moye, Author . Oxford Univ. $24.95 (241p) ISBN 978-0-19-538655-4
Paperback - 241 pages - 978-0-19-989655-4
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Moye, associate professor of history at the University of North Texas, updates a now familiar story in this excellent history of the first African-American military pilots. Under pressure from black newspapers and the NAACP to open pilot training to blacks (and facing a re-election fight), President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 authorized the creation of a segregated flight school at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and an all-black fighter squadron. The program trained almost 1,000 fliers, and nearly half served in combat during WWII, compiling an impressive record flying 15,000 sorties in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Despite official skepticism and occasional hostility, the Tuskegee Airmen successfully demonstrated “that racial segregation of troops was inefficient and... hindered national defense.” Their record helped persuade the air force—largely for “reasons of operational self-interest”—and President Harry Truman to seek the immediate desegregation of the military after the war. The author directed the National Park Service's Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project and mined some 800 interviews for his exhaustive research. Moye's lively prose and the intimate details of the personal narratives yield an accessible scholarly history that also succeeds as vivid social history. (Apr.)

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