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Public Statements

Veterans Day

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

VETERANS DAY

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, on this Veterans Day, I rise to recognize a group of truly deserving American veterans-the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.

This heroic group of African American flyers fought in two types of battles-the battle of World War II and the battle against racism at home.

The Tuskegee airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted to become America's first black military airmen, at a time when rampant racism led many people to falsely assume that black men lacked intelligence, skill, and patriotism. And boy, were they proved wrong.

The military feats of this group can be described as nothing less than phenomenal.

In Order to enter the training program, the young men were held to the same demanding physical and mental standards as all other military pilots and soldiers of supporting fields. And between 1942 and 1946, 992 black American pilots graduated from the rigorous program offered at Tuskegee Army Air Field, not to mention the black navigators, bombardiers, and gunnery crews that were trained at selected military bases elsewhere due to a lack of facilities at Tuskegee.

Four-hundred and fifty of the Tuskegee trained pilots headed to the Selfridge Air Base in Michigan for combat preparation, before bravely heading overseas as proud members of either the 99th Fighter Squadron or the 332nd Fighter Group, later to be conjoined. As the only four-squadron fighter group performing bomber escort missions in the 15th Air Force, the 332nd Fighter Group had extraordinary and unprecedented success. They flew all of their bomber escort missions-over 200-without the loss of a single bomber to enemy aircraft.

The bomber escort missions of the famed 332nd "Red Tail" fighters were so daunting to the enemy that they served as an immensely strong deterrent to challenges. The bomber crews that the group escorted offered abundant expressions of appreciation since they faced far fewer challenges than other crews in the 15th Air Force.

Sadly, while these men were defending liberty for the people half a world away, they were also fighting for their own liberation right here in the United States. Despite their valiant deeds abroad, racism and bigotry impeded their success at home. Due to strict segregationist policies, their assignments were restricted to only two fighter groups, and one fighter wing. Their morale suffered more damage due to the lack of opportunities for advancement than their air fleet did by enemy fire.

Despite this setback, these soldiers still performed splendidly. In 1949, Tuskegee pilots took first place in the Air Force National Fighter Gunnery Meet, surpassing the performances of all the white units.

The bigotry against these men only served to hurt America. During the war, many white units badly needed additional qualified soldiers, but could not draw upon the superb skills of the Tuskegee airmen due to the military's segregationist policies.

But this cloud had its silver lining. The willpower and skill that brought success for the Tuskegee airmen abroad also helped in the war against racism at home. President Harry Truman, recognizing the need for an integrated air force, enacted an executive order demanding equality of treatment and opportunity in all of the armed forces.

The Tuskegee airmen were instrumental in the passing of this executive order, which paved the way for broader victories later on, including the end of racial segregation in all military forces, and eventually in the United States as a whole.

These soldiers are a vibrant part of America's history and a part of Michigan's. Not only did many of the soldiers train at Selfridge Air Base, but the cadet classes drew heavily from the Detroit citizenry. One such citizen made Michigan understand the value of the Tuskegee program to its own history.

Lieutenant Coleman Young, later to become a long-time mayor of Detroit, was a product of the Tuskegee experience. Assigned to the 477th bombardier, he and his colleagues were never sent into combat due to racism from senior officers. Determined to preserve the memory of the Tuskegee airmen, with the help of other Detroit members, he fostered what has become the National Tuskegee Airmen Historical Museum, housed at historic Fort Wayne. This small but dignified museum, occupying an old officer's quarters, perpetuates the great story the Tuskegee have to tell.
A story I believe we should all listen to. All in all, these soldiers gave over 150 lives in the name of their country and in the name of freedom. I now call on that country, the United States, to provide them the recognition they deserve on this Veterans Day.

According to existing records, 155 Tuskegee soldiers originated from Michigan, I wish to recognize each one of them:

TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

Kermit Bailer; Clarence Banton; James Barksdale of Detroit; Hugh Barrington of Farmington Hills; Naomi Bell; Thomas Billingslea; Lee Blackmon; Charles Blakely of Detroit, Robert Bowers of Detroit; James Brown of Ypsilanti; Willor Brown of Ypsilanti; Ernest Browne of Detroit; Archibald Browning; Otis Bryant; Joseph Bryant, Jr. of Dowagiac; Charles Byous; Ernest Cabule of Detroit; Waldo Cain; Clinton Canady of Lansing; Carl Carey of Detroit; Gilbert Cargil; Nathaniel Carr of Detroit; Donald Carter of Detroit; Clifton Casey; David Cason, Jr; Peter Cassey of Detroit; Robert Chandler of Allegan; Pembleton Cochran of Detroit; Alfred Cole of Southfield; James Coleman of Detroit; William Coleman of Detroit; Eugene Coleman; Matthew Corbin of Detroit; Charles Craig of Detroit; Herbert Crushshon; John Cunningham of Romulus; and John Curtis of Detroit.

Donald Davis of Detroit; Cornelius Davis of Detroit; Eugene Derricotte of Detroit; Taremund Dickerson of Detroit; Walter Downs of Southfield; John Egan; Leavie Farro, Jr.; Howard Ferguson; Thomas Flake of Detroit; Harry Ford, Jr. of Detroit; Luther Friday; Alfonso Fuller of Detroit; William Fuller of West Bloomfield; Frank Gardner; Robert Garrison of Muskegon; Thomas Gay of Detroit; Charles Goldsby of Detroit; Ollie Goodall, Jr. of Detroit; Quintus Green, Sr.; Mitchell Greene; James Greer of Detroit; Alphonso Harper of Detroit; Bernard Harris of Detroit; Denzal Harvey; James Hayes of Detroit; Ernest Haywood of Detroit; Minus Heath; Milton Henry of Bloomfield Hills; Mary Hill; Charles Hill, Jr. of Detroit; Lorenzo Holloway of Detroit; Lynn Hooe of Farmington Hills; Heber Houston of Detroit; Ted Hunt; and Hansen Hunter, Jr.

Leonard Isabelle Sr., Leonard Jackson; Lawrence Jefferson of Grand Rapids; Alexander Jefferson of Detroit; Silas Jenkins of Lansing; Richard Jennings of Detroit; Louie Johnson of Farmington; Ralph Jones; William Keene of Detroit; Laurel Keith of Cassopolis; Hezekiah Lacy of River Rouge; Richard Macon of Detroit; Albert Mallory; Thomas Malone; Ralph Mason of Detroit; J. Caulton Mays of Detroit; William McClenic; Arthur Middlebrooks; Oliver Miller of Battle Creek; Vincent Mitchell of Mt. Clemens; Wilbur Moffett of Detroit; Dempsey Morgan of Detroit; Russell Nalle, Jr. of Detroit; Robert O'Neil of Detroit; Frederick Parker; Robert Pitts of Detroit; Wardell Polk of Detroit; Walter Poole; Calvin Porter of Detroit; Calvin Porter; Leonard Proctor; Della Rainey; Sandy Reid of Southfield; Edward Rembert; Harry Riggs of Bloomfield Hills; Walter Robinson of Detroit; Major Ross of Oak Park; Washington Ross of Detroit; John Roundtree of Westland; Calude Rowe of Detroit; William Ruben; William Rucker; Jesse Rutledge of Detroit; and Issac Rutledge.

Calvin Sharp; Albert Simeon, Jr. of Detroit; Paul Simmons, Jr. of Detroit; Leon Smith; Chauncey Spencer; William Stevenson; Chester Stewart of Detroit; Harry Stewart of Bloomfield Hills; Roosevelt Stiger of Jackson; Howard Storey; Willie Sykes of Detroit; Willis Tabor; Kenneth Taitt of Detroit; William Taylor, Jr. of Inkster; Lucius Theus of Bloomfield Hills; Donald Thomas of Detroit; Austin Thomas; Wm. Horton Thompson of Detroit; Jordan Tiller; Paul Tucker of Detroit; Edward Tunstall of Detroit; Allen Turner of Ann Arbor; Cleophus Valentine of Detroit; Charles Walker of Jackson; Robert Walker; Roderick Warren of Detroit; Theodore Washington of Detroit; Richard Weatherford of Aibion; Jimmie Wheeler of Detroit; William Wheeler of Detroit; Cohen White of Detroit; Harold White of Detroit; Paul White; Peter Whittaker of Detroit; Leonard Wiggins of Detroit; David Williams of Bloomfield Hills; Willie Williamson of Detroit; Robert Wolfe; William Womack; and Coleman Young

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