The Major General Irene Trowell-Harris Chapter
More Than a Decade of Mentoring
"Unlocking our future with keys from the past"
The Tuskegee Airmen: Who They Were and What They Did
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators--both pilots and ground support personnel--in the United States Armed Forces. They flew and fought during World War II, when black Americans in many U. S. states were still subject to Jim Crow laws and the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the Federal Government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination both within and outside the Army.
All black Army Air Force pilots were given primary training at Moton Field and went on to advanced training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield. Both were located in Tuskegee, Alabama, near the famous Tuskegee Institute (today Tuskegee University), which had been founded by Booker T. Washington.
The majority of "Tuskegee Experience" aviators went on to be trained as fighter pilots, though a number of them became medium-bomber pilots. The fighter pilots eventually were sent to North Africa, where they entered combat, while the bomber pilots continued stateside training with the expectation of being sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations. The war ended before this happened, however.
Meanwhile, the Tuskegee Airmen fought over North Africa and participated in the invasion of Sicily and then the Italian mainland. When a fighter base was established at Ramitelli, near the east coast of Italy, the Airmen became bomber-escort specialists, flying their P-47s and P-51s in support of Fifteenth Air Force B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers attacking Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania. The Tuskegee Airmen were popularly known as "the Red Tails," because their fighters had unmistakable red-painted empennages, and bomber units often requested Red Tails as escorts, since few bombers ever were lost to Luftwaffe fighters when the Tuskegee Airmen were protecting them.
Few of the bomber crews knew that their protectors were African Americans, but all knew that they were very good and very brave.
The Tuskegee Airmen and their all-black ground crews and support personnel achieved an enviable combat record but after the war returned to an America still beset by racial discrimination and segregation. In July, 1948, Pres. Harry S. Truman ordered the integration of all the U. S. Armed Forces. The original Tuskegee Airmen squadrons were decommissioned and their surviving Tuskegee Airmen distributed among other newly integrated units.
Our Tuskegee Airmen Chapter and What It Does
The major goal of the Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. is first and foremost to promote the interests and honor the memory of the men and women who served in the Army Air Corps (soon to be renamed the Army Air Force) at Tuskegee, Alabama during the 1940s. Our chapter accomplishes this by promoting and publicizing the World War II activities of the Tuskegee Airmen, which we do by speaking at various functions throughout the year, as well as in our everyday activities as chapter members. We teach the aspirations, frustrations and successes of these pioneering African-American men and women, and we strive every day to keep their legacy alive.
As a chapter, we provide financial assistance to the National Scholarship Fund and the Historical Museum Fund of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. We will also continue our annual Maj. Gen.Irene Trowell-Harris Chapter Tuition Assistance Dinner Dance, where we distribute scholarships to local students bound for colleges and vocational schools. We also look forward to becoming one of the nation's leading Tuskegee Airmen chapters, providing positive, successful, energetic and ambitious leadership and mentorship to young men and women from the Hudson Valley.
Our chapter takes an active role in our community. Realizing that the community must itself be involved in our progress, we vigorously recruit new members to join and participate in our organization. We ask for their help both physically and financially. The chapter offers a vigorous and vital pilot-enrichment program, through which ambitious teenagers are provided with a way into the world of aviation thanks to our Lee A. Archer Jr. Red Tail Youth Flying Program. We expose young students to aviation whether they yearn to be pilots, technicians, engineers or members of a large spectrum of other aviation-related careers. We aim to provide the necessary discipline and knowledge, as well as the instructors and mentors needed to broaden their understanding of the world of aviation. And throughout it all, we strive for excellence.