War History Online presents this Guest Article by Michael Carroll
MOMENTOUS FOOTAGE shows the Tuskegee Airmen, the first ever African American airmen serving in the U.S. military against the Nazis in WW2 despite still being subject to intense segregation back home.
Video, black and white stills and a colorized image from a new book by a British author shows the famous ‘Tuskegee Airmen,’ named after the Alabama air-field and University at which they trained, laughing and joking around with each other at an airfield 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 airplanes 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.
Shortly after he watched then-President George Bush award the Tuskegee with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, Tuskegee veteran Joseph Philip Gomer explained by he joined.
“We were fighting two battles,” he said.
“I flew for my parents, for my race, for our battle for first-class citizenship and for my country.”
“We were fighting for the millions of black Americans back home.”
“We were there to break down barriers, open a few doors, and do a job.”
Mr. Gomer was the last surviving Tuskegee airman. After the war, he worked in the US Forest Service until he retired in 1985, after 21 years. He died of cancer in 2013, at the age of 93.
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 colorized image is featured in British author Michael D. Carroll’s new book on the colorization of historical images. For more information visit HERE.
Michael D. Carroll is a journalist and author with a particular interest in historical photography.
From his base in Birmingham, UK he directs bespoke press agency Media Drum World, and through his work at the agency, Michael came into contact with the thriving community of colorizors of historical images.
After placing several colorized history features into the national newspapers in the UK, he enlisted the support of this community to publish Retrographic, the first book to present a specially curated selection of iconic historical images in living color.
To join Retrographic visit Facebook page.
All photos provided by mediadrumworld.com
With the support of ambassadors from the world’s first society for photographers, the Royal Photographic Society, UK, images, and reviews on Retrographics have been featured in newspapers and online zines, including the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Times, Fstoppers, War History Online, and ePHOTOzine.