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Tuskegee Exhibit Honoring Heroic Airmen Opens in Tulsa

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
Tuskegee Exhibit Honoring Heroic Airmen Opens in Tulsa
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An exhibit honoring the Tuskegee Airmen’s heroics and legacy has opened in the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. 

The project launches after “a little over a year” of work, said exhibit curator Alex London. 

“This is our first phase of our Tuskegee Legacy Exhibition,” says London. “We wanted to be able to educate visitors on who the Tuskegee Airmen were.”

The Tuskegee Airmen’s famous name comes from Tuskegee University. The Alabama school won the U.S. Army Air Corps contract to help train America’s first Black military aviators.

Through their bravery and skill, they broke barriers and led the way for desegregation in the U.S. military.

Retired Sgt. Victor Butler was a mechanic for the Tuskegee Airmen, and recently turned 100-years-old in May. Butler is likely the sole surviving member of the historic Tuskegee Airman.

Photo by Mike Creef

“The airfield was very nice. It was the visit to the town that was bad,” said Butler, referencing the Tuskegee Institute. “Being in Tuskegee, Alabama, it wasn’t very acceptable to White people for Black soldiers to be walking around,” he said.

From 1941 through 1946, the Tuskegee Institute trained approximately 1,000 Black pilots. The Airmen came to be known as “Red Tails” for their distinctive paint job on the back of their P-51 Mustangs.

Photo by Mike Creef

The Red Tails’ success in escorting bombers during World War II set records that still remain unmatched. The Red Tails had one of the lowest loss records of all the escort fighter groups. The group was always in constant demand for their services by the allied bomber units.

It was the Tuskegee Airmen, who cracked that seemingly impossible glass ceiling of white supremacy in the American military for black men and black women.

Photo by Mike Creef

In 1948, while the war drew to a close, President Harry Truman enacted Executive Order No. 9981.  The order directed the equal of treatment and opportunity in all of the United States Armed Forces, which in time led to the end of racial segregation in the U.S. military forces.

To get more information on the Tuskegee Legacy Exhibit and museum hours, click here.

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