Mr. AL GREEN of Texas. Mr. Speaker, it is important that we remember the contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen in protecting our freedom and way of life during World War II. These heroic World War II veterans just recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of their first training session on July 19, 1941. It is important that we constantly remind ourselves of the sacrifices of veterans in pursuit of our liberty.
The Tuskegee Airmen were not only heroes but pioneers, becoming the first African Americans to pilot and instruct others on how to fly combat aircraft. Though only approximately 140 Tuskegee pilots remain, it is essential we celebrate their accomplishments as a realization of the American Dream that inspired millions of African Americans, as Congress did in 1998 by establishing Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee, Alabama.
The Tuskegee Airmen fought courageously for their country at a time when they were denied vital freedoms and liberties at home. They endured segregation and hostility from the local community, and especially stringent standards meant to exclude as many of them as possible from the piloting program. When they finally reached combat, they fought in segregated units, but still managed to distinguish themselves--engaging in over 200 bomber escort missions, damaging or destroying 409 German aircraft, and sunk a battleship destroyer. Their prowess became so legendary they were nicknamed the ``Red Tails Angels,'' by the pilots they protected, as only the red back end of the aircrafts were visible while they flew in front of U.S. air bombers on their vital missions. After the desegregation of the military in 1948, the Tuskegee Airmen went on to make exceptional individual contributions in the integrated U.S. Air Force.
I had the pleasure of attending the Tuskegee Institute of Technology, now Tuskegee University, the site of the training program for these brave young men, as an undergraduate. Tuskegee University has provided me and a multitude of African American youth with the most precious commodities in life, education and self-esteem.