Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The Tuskegee airmen

On 20th January, the whole world celebrated when Barack Obama was sworn in as President. It’s a historic moment : whatever may happen in the next 4 or 8 years, its significance cannot dim.

Many years ago, in my father’s final illness, he was admitted to a nursing home, sharing a room with a tall old gentleman. The old man could no longer speak, but had dignity and presence, a real "officer type", his back held straight even though he needed full time help. My father was still able to talk a bit at this stage and whispered in admiration: “Tuskegee airman !”

The Tuskegee airmen were a group of black Americans who volunteered for the US Air Force in WW2. Since the military was rife with racism, they fought two battles, abroad and at home with the Air Force administration. Yet they didn’t buckle and served with honour. Read the book “322nd Fighter Group” by Chris Bucholtz. Here’s a link to the abstracthttp://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&id=9WYFAQJbybkC&dq=tuskegee+airmen&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=5jsUmCt3pX&sig=yFWev1tDg7KNMa3OzBI4sNctysQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPA6,M1

or go to books.google and search on “Tuskegee airmen bucholtz” the one with a picture. There‘s more, too, spread all over the net. Booklist :


The old airman had a wonderful wife, who came every day and stayed til the evening, looking after him and my father, too, out of the goodness of her heart. Even in her late 70’s she was still a beauty – they must have been a stunning couple. After the airman’s death, and my father’s, I decided to track down the old man’s story. It was even more remarkable than heroism in battle.

In 1945, there’d been a “mutiny” at Freeman Field airbase in Indiana. After serious harassment, the black officers stood up for their rights to enter the Officers’ Mess but were arrested and court martialled. It was a small enough protest but led to the desegregation of US forces, and contributed to the civil rights movement. So today Barack Obama sits in the White House, his place earned by the struggle of thousands before him. Read Lt Col James C Warren’s book, Tuskegee Airmen’s Mutiny at Freeman Field. http://www.tuskegee.com/ Amazon carries it now, but I bought my copy direct from Lt Col Warren who was so helpful and friendly to me, a total stranger.As I was writing this up, I discovered that Lt Col Warren is still around, and was invited to the Inauguration! So there is some good in this world. For more on the "Obama Effect" and black pride, read the other posts on this blog under "Africa" and "Ghana". ! Read the post "Ghana goes gay for Obama" - great music clips and a bit of background why it means so much to all of us, Ghanaian or not.

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