SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE – As we approach Veterans Day an African American flight crew from Scott Air Force Base set out to make history and mark a bittersweet period of our nation’s military history.
They made history by becoming the first all-Black crew to land a C-21 aircraft at Sharpe Field in Alabama, formerly known as Tuskegee Army Airfield.
Captains Kyle Green and Johnny Frye made the trip from SAFB to the civilian airfield to speak with student pilots and reflect on the sacrifices of those who came before them.
“I think it’s important because it’s easy to forget,” said Capt. Frye, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. “We weren’t living in those times and just to look at the history of what they went through.”
Eighty years ago, the Tuskegee Airmen had to fight Jim Crow laws and segregation to win the right to fight in the air for our nation’s survival in World War II. Despite their historic advances in civil rights and equality, the Tuskegee Airmen still suffered the effects of segregation even on their own home airfield.
Green and Frye, who have been flying for the military for about six years, said they were proud of their flight.
“Just being able to accomplish something that hasn’t been accomplished before and the historical significance of going to a field where guys that look like us trained,” said Capt. Green, who lives in Milwaukee. “Times are different now but their legacy and the things they had to endure should go down in history and should never leave our minds!”
There were 992 Tuskegee Airmen trained from 1941 to 1946; 355 were deployed overseas. They flew 1,578 missions in the European theater and 15,000 sorties escorting bombers. They destroyed 261 enemy aircraft and won 850 medals for their efforts. Sadly, 66 pilots were killed in action.
Those who took the trip to Tuskegee wish there were more Black military pilots considering the sacrifices of all those brave African Americans who endured so much some eight decades ago. From the African American aviation pioneers of the past to those of the present, keeping a challenging period of American history front and center.
“They did it for a whole race,” Capt. Frye said. “And it wasn’t a common thing for African Americans to be flying in general. Now, they paved the way for us to go do so ourselves.”