Revisions

Red Tails and Tall Tales

January 20, 2012

Multiple Pages
Red Tails and Tall Tales

One would be hard-pressed to name a city in America without a Holocaust memorial, though it’s difficult to understand why this entirely European tragedy must be constantly mentioned in the United States.

One would be equally hard-pressed to name a city in America without a street named after the Tuskegee Airmen, or an airport, Air Force base, or military installation deprived of a huge exhibit honoring the Red Tails.

At the National Air and Space Museum outside Washington, DC, the Spirit of Tuskegee—this holiest of planes—overshadows the other exhibits not for being the plane that broke the sound barrier, but for being the vehicle that propelled black people to break the infinitely more important color barrier.

“That the glorification of the black pilots is almost entirely based on lies—it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that 1986’s Iron Eagle is based on more truth—doesn’t matter.”

Schoolchildren across America watch HBO’s 1995 The Tuskegee Airmen movie as the source material for this courageous story of black people proving they could fly planes just as well as whitey. (Never mind that less than two percent of pilots in the US military today are black and that major commercial airlines show similarly low quotients of black pilots.)

Does it matter that the 1995 movie is largely a Hollywood production based on now-discredited lies such as the “never losing a bomber” myth? Not really. Only a Tuskegee Airmen Denier—basically the equivalent of a Nazi sympathizer—would dare question the legitimacy of the “Red Tails” story. America has racially progressed to such a point that the mere thought of questioning the official Tuskegee Airmen story would be on par with a European asking if “six million Jews” really died in the concentration camps.

Today, George Lucas has decided to one-up Tyler Perry’s determination to be the lone filmmaker who makes movies targeted primarily to black people by releasing Red Tails. The film purports to tell the true story of those black fighter pilots who trained at Morton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, ultimately defeating the twin evils of Jim Crow and Nazi Germany in the process.

Much of the glory surrounding the Tuskegee Airmen’s success was situated around the superlative, almost unbelievable tale that not one of the bombers they escorted was ever lost. For 62 years this story went unchallenged, largely because of the reverence and esteem that had been built up toward these black aviators who were so pivotal in the integration of not only the armed forces, but America as a whole.

It wasn’t until a dreaded Tuskegee Airmen Denier by the name of Dr. Daniel Haulman came along in 2007 and actually researched this story—started by black journalist Roi Ottley and quickly picked up by black newspaper The Chicago Defender in 1945—that the truth came to the surface.

Why not one of the members of the white bomber crew whose plane was shot down during escort by the 332d fighter group (the Red Tails) ever stepped forward and told the truth about the “never having a lost a bomber” myth is a testament to this fable’s relatively recent proliferation.

Though you couldn’t be thrown in jail for such an impolite inquiry to the veracity of the claims around the Red Tails as in Europe, Dr. Haulman did find intense pressure from entrenched academics, and the Tuskegee Airmen themselves, for daring to expose the truth behind the myth.

How dare Dr. Haulman question the legitimacy of the Tuskegee Airmen story and position himself as a Denier? Doesn’t he know the great victory over racism at home and fascism abroad these brave Nubian fighter pilots achieved?

No matter, for the National Park Service website entry on The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site still proudly lists this unfortunate falsehood:

Awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for the mission, the Tuskegee Airmen did not lose a single bomber despite the superior German planes.

Haulman says they actually lost 25 bombers in 1944 and 1945 to those German planes, flown by young Luftwaffe pilots barely into puberty. But that doesn’t jibe with the narrative of being superior pilots—both with their aeronautical dexterity and moral compass—to inferior white pilots.

More than 1,200 white Army Air Force pilots were considered “aces” in World War II (meaning they had five or more confirmed kills); not one Tuskegee Airman earned the honor of being an “ace” unless you consider Detroit, a city that Mayor Coleman Young—yes, he was a Tuskegee Airman—helped destroy to be an “honorary” kill.

After all, 2012 Detroit looks like it was leveled by a couple thousand sorties.

Not to be quieted by accusations of Tuskegee Airmen Denialism, Haulman would author the small tract Nine Myths About the Tuskegee Airmen that pretty much shoots down all the lies sold as truth to keep the Red Tails story flying.

That the glorification of the black pilots is almost entirely based on lies—it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that 1986’s Iron Eagle is based on more truth—doesn’t matter. Only a Tuskegee Airmen Denier would think such unthinkable thoughts.

 

SUBSCRIBE
For Email Updates


Comments


The opinions of our commenters do not necessarily represent the opinions of Taki's Magazine or its contributors.