By Tom Dare
MOMENTOUS FOOTAGE shows the first ever African American airmen serving in the U.S. military against the racist Nazis in WW2 despite still being subject to intense segregation back home.
Video, black and white stills and a colourised image from a new book by a British author shows the infamous ‘Tuskegee Airmen,’ named after the Alabama air-field and University at which they trained, laughing and joking around with each other at an air field in Italy during World War Two.
The footage also shows the group, who were officially part of the 332nd Fighter Group of the United States military, fixing various plane parts and taking off from the airfield, with one daring pilot even hitching a ride on the wing of one of the aeroplanes as it makes its way down the runway.
The 332nd Fighter Group, along with the 477th Bombardment Group, were the first two squadrons of African American airmen to be enlisted in the United States military, with the Airforce not officially established until 1947.
The Tuskegee Airmen, who included navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel for the pilots, answered the call to arms of their country despite still suffering from discrimination in their own country.
In many parts of the United States, particularly in the south of the country, the existence of Jim Crow ‘laws’ still kept black and white Americans separate from each other in several aspects of society, from schooling to seating on buses.
Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. Enacted by white Democratic-dominated state legislatures in the late 19th century after the Reconstruction period, these laws continued to be enforced until 1965.
The 332nd Fighter Group, which originally included the 100th, 301st, and 302nd Fighter Squadrons, was the first black flying group.
The group deployed to Italy in early 1944. In June 1944, the 332nd Fighter Group began flying heavy bomber escort missions, and in July 1944, the 99th Fighter Squadron was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, which then had four fighter squadrons.
The striking colourised image is featured in British author Michael D. Carroll’s new book on the colourisation of historical images. For more information visit: http://carpetbombingculture.co.uk/book/retrographic-historys-most-exciting-images-transformed-into-living-colour/