Commemorative Air Force Blogs

Welcome to the Commemorative Air Force Blogs. A great way to stay informed about what is going on with the CAF.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

Thank you for contributing to the Virtual Museum!

We are proud to report that since the launch of our Virtual Museum one month ago, we have received some remarkable submissions. Folks all over the country have been eager to share their personal or family treasures to help tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to a wide audience, and we invite you to “come in” and visit!

Photo of P 51 and Tuskegee Airman from B 17We’ve heard some pretty amazing stories, like David Ward Sr. His father, Elden Ward, was B-17 gunner. On a mission during the War, he captured a photo on his simple Kodak Brownie camera of one of the P-51s escorting their bomber. He was grateful to the “red tail angels,” as they were calling the Tuskegee Airmen at that time. They had developed a reputation for keeping the bombers safe.

Years later, Ward and his family were curios about the aircraft and pilot in that shot. His son did some investigating, and learned that the pilot was Tuskegee Airman Charles Lane. In fact, the two men had lived somewhat near each other in Nebraska, but never knew it. Remarkable.

We are humbled by the supporters and followers of the CAF Red Tail Squadron who have taken the time to send in their artifacts. If you’ve got something you’d like to share – an article of clothing, tool, book, anything that belonged to a Tuskegee Airmen or is relevant to their experience – we encourage you to submit through our easy online portal. All we need is a photo and to share any information you may have. The item never leaves you! We just want to virtually share it with the world as yet another meaningful way to honor the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.

In a very exciting development, you can now subscribe to the Virtual Museum and be kept up to take with all new artifacts! We will let you know via email when we have added something new, so you can be the first to see. Just fill out the subscription form on the Virtual Museum’s home page, and rest assured that your information will only be used to share news with you about the latest artifacts, memorials, artwork and other interesting items!

RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: Vernon Hopson

Tuskegee Airman Vernon HopsonLike many of those that went on to become pilots with the famed Tuskegee Airmen, Vernon Hopson dreamed of flying from a young age, even though he had never had the chance to go up in an airplane. Because of the deep divides of racism that still blanketed the country, people of color were confined to menial roles and limited opportunities, and certainly being a pilot was far out of reach at that time.

Growing up in Lee County, Texas, a small community 60 miles outside of Austin, times were tough for Hopson and his family coming out of the Great Depression. He worked in the fields and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps to find employment. Students from a local flight school flew low over those fields, sparking his passion for flight.

With the war on the other side of the ocean drawing the U.S. into the conflict, military leaders slowly began to consider the possibility for adding black Americans to the talent pool for much needed pilots for the war efforts. When he read about black pilots being trained at Tuskegee, the dream started to become a reality.

He spoke about the news with his former high school principal, who encouraged him to pursue the program. He himself had wanted to be a pilot but was unable to fulfill that dream because of the color of his skin. He saw an opportunity for this young man to have a different fate.

Hopson entered military service in July 1943 after being accepted into Aviation Cadet Flight Training. By November 1944, he was successfully checked out in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and achieved the rank of Warrant Officer. He was assigned to the Operational Training Unit in North Carolina, and then to the 477th Composite Group, flying P-47s to escort B-25 bombers that were set for deployment to the fight the war in the Pacific theater.

Fortunately, World War II ended across the globe on August 15, 1945, and the 477th never deployed to combat. Hopson service was ended, and although he had earned his wings, he could not find employment as a pilot after the war because he was black. The best offer he got was to wash planes, an unacceptable offer for a licensed military pilot and war hero. Instead, Hopson re-enlisted in the United States Air Force where he served until 1963. His military career took him all over the world including Japan, Guam, Korea, Greenland and Italy.

His time in the Air Force led him to pursue a civilian career with the Federal Aviation Administration, and Hopson became one of the first black air traffic controllers in the country, working for more than 20 years at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the St. Paul Downtown Airport, also known as Holman Field.

In the tenuous years that marked the fight for civil rights in the 1960s, Hopson has said that he felt as if he had to keep a low profile or risk losing his job. After his retirement from his civilian career, and the story of the Tuskegee Airmen was beginning to come into public consciousness, Hopson gave his time speaking in public about his experience. Countless people were touched and encouraged by his story. Vernon Hopson passed away in 2009.

We salute you, Mr. Hopson, for your courage, valor and service to our country. RISE ABOVE!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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BIG NEWS! The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s new Virtual Museum shines a fresh light on the Tuskegee Airmen!

artifacts collage low resThis just in! The CAF Red Tail Squadron is excited to announce the launch of our new Virtual Museum, creating yet another exciting way for people to learn about and appreciate the Tuskegee Airmen. Nowhere else can people of all ages, from all around the world, come to one site and learn so much about the history and experience of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“Step inside” this virtual hall of artifacts, memorials and artwork to feel history come alive. The CAF Red Tail Squadron is virtually curating a collection of items of significance to the Tuskegee Airmen, from a flight jacket worn by pilot Woodrow Crocket, to the Congressional Gold Medal awarded collectively to the Tuskegee Airmen, to a mural of Clarence Dart adorning the streets of Elmira, NY.

We’ve started this treasure trove of items to peruse, and now we pass the torch to YOU. Does someone in your family have any artifacts significant to the Tuskegee Airmen experience? Do you have a memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen in your community? Share that knowledge and inspire those who want to know more by including a photo of your Tuskegee Airmen artifact or memorial in our Virtual Museum, and play an important role in our mission, without your item ever leaving home! Tell us about it and include your piece of history in the Virtual Museum!

What began as a dream to broadcast the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen across the entire country has become a reality in the years since the founding of the CAF Red Tail Squadron. As the years have gone by we have made some amazing strides – the full restoration of our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen, the success of our RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater, and a treasure trove of free educational resources that are accessed and used by teachers and youth leaders at an ever increasing rate.

The launch of the new CAF Red Tail Squadron Virtual Museum is our next big adventure, and only propels our inspirational message to a wider audience. Check it out, participate and share the news!

This is a community collaborative effort and we are excited to facilitate the special kind of excitement that comes from each one of us sharing our knowledge about the remarkable Tuskegee Airmen. THANK YOU for being a part of this important journey!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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Profiles of Tuskegee Airmen: Harry Stewart

nc tuskegeeai2 150220While still a teenager, growing up in New York City, Harry T. Stewart Jr. enlisted in the war effort and joined the legendary ranks of the Tuskegee Airmen. He earned his wings and commission in 1943, but his youth did not hinder his ability to become one of the most famous of the Tuskegee Airmen pilots of World War II, and beyond.

Stewart was born in Newport News, Virginia, and moved with his family to Queens when he was a toddler. The proximity of his family’s home to what is now LaGuardia Airport placed Stewart under the flight path of the aircraft coming and going to this burgeoning travel hub of New York City. In awe, the youngster grew up to become one of our country’s first black military aviators.

At 17, Stewart signed up for war service, volunteering before being drafted. He was called up promptly after turning 18 and passed the exams to qualify to train to become a pilot, and heading off shortly after to Tuskegee Army Air Field for initial flight training. He was destined to learn to fly before he even learned to drive a car.

After his time at Tuskegee, he completed combat and fighter training at Walterboro Army Air Field in South Carolina before being sent to Italy with the 301st Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group in 1944.

Stewart flew 43 missions in combat, amassing an outstanding record. He is widely acclaimed for being one of only four Tuskegee Airmen with three aerial victories in one day, amazingly taking down three German Focke-Wulf 190s on April 1, 1945. The feat took place while on a mission to escort and provide cover for B-24 bombers on a raid over Linz, Austria. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the effort, and earned a place in the history books.

After the War, Stewart was a part of the team from the 332nd Fighter Group that won the first ever USAF fighter gunnery competition in 1949, a grueling 10-day event held at what is now Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada for all military fighter groups. Despite flying obsolete single-engine P-47 aircraft for the event, they led from the start and won in the conventional aircraft division.

Stewart was honorably discharged from active duty in 1950, serving as a Reservist for several more years, eventually retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He resumed his education and earned a degree in mechanical engineering from New York University in 1963 where he served as the present of the student council and chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

He went on to have a successful civilian career, retiring as Vice President of the ANR Pipeline Company in Detroit, Michigan, operators of one of the largest interstate natural gas pipeline systems in the United States. Outside of work, Stewart’s passion for aviation kept him in the air and he continued to fly, even earning his commercial glider pilots license at the age of 81.

Harry Stewart is a friend to the CAF Red Tail Squadron, appearing at events to inspire people of all ages with the important lessons of the Tuskegee Airmen. We salute you, Lt Col Stewart, and thank you for being an example of courage for generations to come.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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A successful HUGE leap forward to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen!

IMG 7245Our educational outreach potential has just ballooned to enormous proportions!

In conjunction with the education team of the Commemorative Air Force, we are excited to announce the very first successful screening of our original film “Rise Above” inside a portable, cost-effective, pop-up dome theater. This means that the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen can reach far beyond our tour directly to the 72 CAF units around the country!

That takes us from one film being shown inside the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit at stops around the country, to multiple films shown throughout the country at multiple events throughout the year.

Working together, we can grow our outreach numbers exponentially to inspire people to RISE ABOVE their own challenges and pursue their dreams, just like the Tuskegee Airmen. The potential for this new project is something to shout about, and we are poised and ready to help our fellow CAF units implement this awesome and cost-effective program.

The CAF Florida Wing is the first CAF unit to take up the challenge, led by Butch Stevens, their education technology officer. Recently, along with the CAF national education team and CAF VP of Education (and our very own P-51C Mustang pilot!) Bill Shepard, the group hosted the first “beta test” event in their dome theater, premiering the re-mastered film for this new format. Local children were invited to the CAF headquarters in Dallas, Texas for this fun, free and inspirational event. The energy and excitement was palpable, and this new RISE ABOVE experience was a huge hit.

With the portable dome theaters, our fellow CAF units are going to be able to extend the reach of the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen directly to their communities. This is a giant leap forward towards our mission, and one that especially honors one of our founders, the late Don Hinz.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron was founded on Don’s vision to bring the story of the Tuskegee Airmen into every classroom in America. With hard work, determination and a lot of support from our donors and followers, we have evolved into a world class organization that inspires people of all ages with the remarkable history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen through our P-51C Mustang Tuskegee Airmen, the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater and free resources for educators.

When the Traveling Exhibit made it’s debut, we were able to take our message “off the tarmac” with this remarkable mobile movie theater, reaching events that our Mustang could not. And now, the launch of the CAF education team’s dome theaters marks the next leap forward, multiplying out outreach potential to enormous proportions.

Stay tuned to find out where you will be able to see our film “Rise Above” in a new dome theater near you. And to our fellow CAF units, we hope to see all of you on board for this exciting and cost-effective educational outreach program that will help you increase your impact within your own communities!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.

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