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.

Tuskegee Airman Speaking at Free Event in Red Wing September 12

Dr. Brown book coverThe CAF Red Tail Squadron is excited to announce an event in their hometown with Dr. Harold Brown, World War II pilot with the famed Tuskegee Airmen. The Squadron is hosting his appearance in Red Wing, which will inspire the local community through his remarkable experience as one of our nation’s first black military pilots.

The public is invited to meet this American hero in person and hear him speak about his personal experience from his new book, “Keep Your Airspeed Up: The Story of a Tuskegee Airman,” co-authored with his wife Dr. Marsha Bordner. The FREE event open to the public will be held Tuesday, September 12 at 6:00 p.m. at Sheldon Theater. All ages are welcome to attend.

Dr. Brown is a Minneapolis native and North High School graduate. He flew with the famed 332nd Fighter Group in World War II, the famed all black military pilots who overcame great adversity to fly and flight for our country. He graduated from the Tuskegee Institute’s segregated pilot training program and was commissioned as an officer in the then U.S. Army Air Corps in 1944. During his time in combat, Dr. Brown completed missions strafing targets on the ground and protecting bombers in the air. On his 30th mission, he was shot down over enemy territory, bailing out of his badly damaged P-51 and being taken as a prisoner of war.

Dr. Brown served his country for 23 years. He retired in 1965 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, experienced in 20 different military aircraft and with a post at Strategic Air Command under his belt during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dr. Brown went on to earn a Ph.D., eventually retiring from Columbus Technical College as Vice President of Academic Affairs. His many successes after the war illustrate his passion for education and community service, which he has carried with him until today, speaking to countless groups and students to inspire them with his own personal story of struggle and success.

The event at Sheldon Theater will include a short video, a presentation by Dr. Brown, a question and answer session, and opportunity for autographs. Mark your calendar to meet, learn from and be inspired by this living legend. Sheldon Theater is located at 443 W 3rd St. in Red Wing. No tickets are required for this free event.

In addition to the event at Sheldon Theater, Dr. Brown has also made time to speak with local students and at a correctional facility in the area to encourage all to “rise above” their challenges and find success.

His visit to Red Wing is made possible by the CAF Red Tail Squadron, a non-profit group based in Red Wing that works to ensure the inspirational legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen lives on 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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Portraits of Tuskegee Airmen: Howard Baugh

Like many children who grew up during the post-World War I golden age of aviation, young Howard Baugh dreamed of earning his wings and a seat in the cockpit. But a country mired by systemic racism severely restricted the opportunities for Baugh, and all people of color, and as a young man he faced a harsh reality that this vision of flight may never come true.

Baugh was born January 20, 1920 to William and Carrie Baugh in Petersburg, Virginia. One of five siblings, the family endured enforced segregation and limited civil liberties because of the state’s Jim Crow laws. Baugh attended Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) in Petersburg, one of the nation’s first historically black colleges founded in the mid-Atlantic region. He graduated in 1941, and in February of the following year he married his college sweetheart, Constance Layne.

As World War II geared up to change the course of the country, Baugh would soon get a chance to earn his wings. With the U.S. Army Air Corps opening up the opportunities for black Americans to fly and fight for their country, he enlisted, and was sent to pilot training in Tuskegee, Alabama in March of 1942, just six weeks after he was married. He passed the rigorous courses and was commissioned as an officer in November of 1942. The first time he had ever been in an airplane was when he was training to become a pilot. Baugh had his wings, and was ready to serve his country in the air war over Europe.

CaptHowardBaugh99thFSIn July 1943, Baugh was assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron. He flew a total of 135 combat missions in the P-40 and P-51 fighter aircraft during his 16 months in combat operations overseas. In honor of his wife, he painted the nose of his aircraft with “Connie Jean.”

On January 27, 1944, Baugh was part of a formation of 16 fighter aircraft of the 99th involved in a mission over the Anzio beachhead in Italy, part of the Battle of Anzio. Upon spotting 15 German FW-190’s, the group took down 10 of the enemy planes. Baugh was credited 1.5 aerial victories for the effort, taking down one himself and another along with his wingman.

Baugh earned many accolades for his skill and heroism during the war including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal.

After his time overseas, Baugh was assigned to Tuskegee Army Airfield in November of 1944 where he served as a flight instructor in the T-6 trainer and B-25 bomber and was further promoted to Director of Flying Training.

Their family grew, and the Baugh’s welcomed a total of three boys over the years, Howard Jr., David and Richard. Howard Baugh Jr. would follow in his father’s footsteps as a military aviator, getting his first flying lesson from his father.

His career in the military spanned 25 years of active duty and many interesting assignments. After his time at Tuskegee, he served as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor at Howard University, Wing Commander and Professor of Aerospace Studies at Tennessee State University. Upon retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1967, he had logged 6,000 flight hours, including 250 in combat and 1,100 in four types of jet aircraft. His impressive lineup of military aircraft flown include the PT-13, PT-17, BT-13, L-20, AT-6, P-40, P-47, P-51, B-25, B-26, C-45, C-47, B-57, B-66, T-33, F-80, SA (HU)-16, F-15 and FA-18.

After leaving the Air Force, Baugh went on to have a successful career with Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Baugh eventually retired back in their hometown of Petersburg, where he gave of his time and talent speaking to and encouraging young people to understand the importance of education. He often spoke about his experience as a Tuskegee Airman, and that it was his good education that propelled his success in the military and in life.

“The most important message that I can give students is to stay in school, get the best education as they can so they can prepare themselves to get in a position to enjoy life,” he said in an interview several years ago.

In these years, Baugh was greatly admired for the service he had given to his country, as well as for his passion for helping others. He was known to be kind, generous and humble, and always eager to help. He shared his experiences to many groups and clubs, even speaking at prisons and traveling to Germany to speak with former war pilots who would have been his foes during the War. Along with three other original Tuskegee Airmen, Baugh was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 2004. He was inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 2003, the Howard Baugh chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. organization in Petersburg was founded in his honor. His sons remain active in the organization, which is currently working towards erecting a statue in Baugh’s honor. The group has commissioned sculptor Joel Randell for the life-sized bronze statue, who Baugh had selected himself.   

When invited to the Pentagon in 2005 with other Tuskegee Airmen to meet with the secretary of defense, Baugh said, “Back in the '40s and prior to that, the military services of the United States were the most racist and segregated segment of our society. Today, it is the most fair and integrated segment of our society. And the Armed Forces are leading the rest of society in acceptance and tolerance of diversity in our society.”

Howard Baugh passed away August 21, 2008, and rests at Arlington National Cemetery alongside his wife. His legacy will continue to inspire young people 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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Come to KidVenture to Meet a Legendary Tuskegee Airman Pilot in Person!

Harry StewartWe are excited to announce that original Tuskegee Airman pilot Harry Stewart will make a special appearance with us at the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit inside KidVenture at EAA Airventure!

Join us to meet Mr. Stewart, thank him for his service and get his autograph. He will be at the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit inside KidVenture Thursday, July 27, Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day.

Visitors to the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater will be treated to an original film about the Tuskegee Airmen on a dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen. The experience creates the feeling of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the iconic aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen.

While you’re there, pick up a Tuskegee Airmen Trivia Card to earn prizes, including a dog tag featuring the Six Guiding Principles of the Tuskegee Airmen: Aim High, Believe In Yourself, Use Your Brain, Be Ready To Go, Never Quit and Expect to Win.

In addition to the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, KidVenture will feature many fantastic hands-on activities for young people to bring their dreams of aviation to life. Located inside the EAA AirVenture convention grounds at Pioneer Airport, KidVenture is open Monday, July 24 through Saturday, July 29 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday, July 30 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Join us as we honor original Tuskegee Airman Harry Stewart, and be inspired to make YOUR dreams take flight!

About Harry Stewart

Retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Harry Stewart Jr. flew 43 combat missions in World War II with the 332nd Fighter Group, known today as the Tuskegee Airmen. As part of our nation’s first black military pilots, Stewart amassed an outstanding record. He was 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. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the effort, and earned a place in the history books. In 1949, Stewart was a part of the team from the 332nd Fighter Group that won the first ever USAF fighter gunnery competition, the Air Force’s version of “Top Gun.” Despite flying in obsolete single engine P-47 aircraft for the event, they led from the start and won in the conventional aircraft division. However, the official record of the victory listed the winner “unknown” until 1995 when Stewart ensured the record was corrected. The trophy had mysteriously disappeared and was not recovered until 2004. Stewart was discharged from active duty in 1950, serving as a Reservist for several more years. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from NYU and retired from his civilian career as the Vice President of the ANR Pipeline Company in Detroit, Michigan.

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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Kids! (And Grownups!) Learn about the Tuskegee Airmen at EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin!

Popsicles, swimming pools and sunshine… but if you love airplanes, nothing says summer quite like Oshkosh!

Many aviation enthusiasts point to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin as the pinnacle of summer. People of all ages gather for the “World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration,” treated to a full week of dazzling airshows, workshops, entertainment and, of course, airplanes of all eras and varieties. Better yet? WE will be there!

The CAF Red Tail Squadron has been a fixture at AirVenture for some time, but this year we’re excited to be an exclusive part of their KidVenture programming! Sharing the inspirational message of the Tuskegee Airmen with kids is at the heart of our educational outreach, and KidVenture is a GREAT place to spread this important piece of history.

For families in the Oshkosh area, we welcome you to come visit the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit at AirVenture July 24 – 30. While you’re there, pick up one of our new Trivia Cards to earn your own dog tag featuring the Six Guiding Principles of the Tuskegee Airmen. Find us in KidVenture, along with a lot of other fantastic hands-on activities for young people to bring their dreams of aviation to life!

KidVenture is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We look forward to meeting you and having you check out the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit mobile movie theater. Be inspired by the legendary Tuskegee Airmen…. and watch your dreams take flight!

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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Attention Minnesotans! Meet Legendary Tuskegee Airmen at the Waseca County Free Fair!

We are excited to announce that original Tuskegee Airmen Fred Henry and Washington Ross will be our special guests at the Waseca County Free Fair July 12-16. Come meet these living legends and visit the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, a FREE panoramic movie theater experience that inspires and educates all ages with the remarkable history of the Tuskegee Airmen!

For too long black Americans were excluded from meaningful military service opportunities, relegated to menial roles that denied the U.S. Armed Forces of their potential talent and contribution. But with the demands of World War II and pressure from civil rights groups, a new segregated flying squadron was created to allow black Americans the chance to serve their country as part of the air war, by training to be combat pilots and their support personnel. These brave Americans achieved great success in the war and became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Meet these living legends and step inside the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit, an air-conditioned mobile movie theater featuring the original film “Rise Above.” This immersive experience is housed in a 53’ semi trailer with expandable sides and equipped with a ramp and hydraulic lift to ensure access to all. Because of its dynamic 160-degree panoramic screen, the film creates the feeling of being in the cockpit soaring above the clouds in a P-51C Mustang, the iconic signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen. Admission to the Traveling Exhibit is always FREE!

Fred HenryHenry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and was sent to Tuskegee Army Air Field for training in the newly created Tuskegee program for aspiring black pilots and support personnel. He served in many important support roles, including base security and military police. After his war service, Henry worked for the New York City Central Railroad, then the Ford Motor Company, where he spent the remainder of his career before he retired after 30 ½ years of service. Henry has also held the distinguished position of president of the Warren, Michigan chapter of Disabled Veterans of America.

Ross served as a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, training in Tuskegee, Alabama then Selfridge, Michigan before being sent overseas to Ramitelli, Italy to fly and fight with the legendary 332nd Fighter Group. During his time in the War, he flew the P-39 Aircobra, P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang. His duties included escorting bomber aircraft and ensuring their safety on their important missions over Germany and Austria to lead the Allied powers to victory in Europe. After the War he served as a flight instructor for the B-25 Mitchell bomber. Upon leaving active duty, he served 20 years in the United States Air Force Reserves, retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Ross is a graduate of Hampton Institute, University of Detroit and D'etre University, and worked for the Detroit Board of Education for 29 years. He is enshrined in the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.  

Washington RossThe gentlemen will also make a special appearance at Latham Place assisted living in Waseca to visit with residents that are not able to attend the fair.

Join us for this fun and FREE event to meet these living legends! 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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