Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tuskegee Airmen - Historical Documentation - Black History

Tuskegee Airmen: The
Men Who Changed A Nation
By Charles E. Francis
Branden Books
ISBN: 9780828321891
559 Pages

Please note that this review covers the 5th Commemorative Edition of Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed A Nation by Charles E. Francis. This Edition, with a beautiful hardback litho cover, has been edited, revised, updated and enlarged by Adolph Caso and now includes, in addition to many personal and group pictures, 38 class pictures of the graduating Tuskegee Airmen.

This historical text is one of the most beautiful and best compiled narratives I have ever seen. Individual names of Airmen are carefully given both in the extensive tabular, narrative and pictorial appendices, as well as in the comprehensive chapters of the book’s body. It was especially heartwarming to have a final chapter entitled “a forgotten lonely eagle” of the sky, which tells the story that after fifty years of searching, another Tuskegee hero had been found and his gravesite identified in the Sicily-Rome Cemetery, outside of Nettuno, Italy.

Who were these lonely eagles? Adolph Caso might be the only one who identified the Tuskegee Airmen as lonely eagles (p. 19); however, it surely is a phrase that can be used to identify the many, many men (and women) who were part of the Tuskegee experiment. The man who first comes to mind as a lonely eagle is General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. whose biography is listed in Chapter 24, Leaders of Men. While he was later recognized as one of the most outstanding members of the 99th and the 332nd, he was also the first Negro who was appointed to West Point Military and graduated in its 47 years of operation. And during that time, this lonely eagle “endured four years of silent treatment as a cadet.”

The sad realization is that he is just the first man I thought of. In reality there was one lonely eagle after another forced to face one humiliation or rejection after another. Surely, the first chapter of Charles Francis’ book tells it all: The Fight For The Right to Fight. In 1940 the U. S. Congress had passed the Selective Service Act ending discrimination in selection of recruits for the Armed Forces. Readers of the documentary will quickly see, however, that for young Black men, that did not mean that there was no further discrimination. In fact, one of the many things that was done to try to eliminate this discrimination was Eleanor Roosevelt flying with Chief Anderson at Moton Field. This is not to say that this was any great event, it is used here to show that the issue had been raised to the very top when she dryly stated, “I guess Negroes can fly.”

This book gives governmental actions as well as personal accounts of the men who fought to become Airmen in support of our United States of America!

With the additional Preface and Prologue added by Editor Caso, the book tracks the lives of Americans, and in particular, Tuskegee Airmen African Americans* affected by war from about 1918 through to 2008 when the latest Edition pf The Tuskegee Airmen includes available official class pictures.

In my opinion, the perfect closing to the review of this documentary is from the back cover:

The Tuskegee airmen are to be credited for completing two phases of American history: the integration of its Armed Forces, and the integration of America as a nation. The crowning glory to this attainment can be seen in the many positions held by Black Americans in every Branch and Service of the Armed Forces all the way up to the presidency itself. –Adolph Caso

This book is an important part of our America’s history...Add it to your personal library this year!

G. A. Bixler
For IP Book Reviews

*Note that the book and this review uses Negro, Black and African American interchangeably due to time period covered.

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