Benjamin O. Davis and the story of the Tuskegee Airmen

 

Autographed Print signed by Tuskegee Airmen Hiram Mann, Leo Gray and the Artist, $50.00. Print Size; 12×18″

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Poster print signed by the Artist only $14.95

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This is my painting of the P-51C flown by Benjamin O. Davis. “By Request” This painting has been autographed by eight of the Tuskegee Airmen and is available for sale.

This is my introduction to the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. In 1990 when I was planning my series of “Famous American Aviators,” I planned to include several of the Tuskegee Airmen in my research. At the time there was very little written on the Tuskegee Airmen except a paragraph here and two paragraphs there. In frustration I decided to include a couple of the pilots to the series because I felt that the 332nd had been over looked. I located Roscoe Brown and Lee Archer in 1994, 1995. Several years later PBS and the History Channels were finally showing documentaries on the air group.

After reading the autobiography of Benjamin O. Davis I was taken by the quality of the man and the way he tempered himself during the most difficult times in his life. This self discipline guided his future in keeping Davis focused on his goal. Davis considered his first goal was to his country. His second goal was to be a fighter pilot. His leadership qualities transferred to his men through his deeds. Even as a strict disciplinarian, his men who served under him knew that they too were indeed lucky to be serving with Davis at that time in history. They were a unit and they witnessed for themselves that training and discipline does pay off in efficiency and duty.

The Tuskegee Airmen would receive recommendations again and again finishing the war with a record second to none. There was a historical note for many decades that the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber that they escorted. However several bomber pilots and a few crewmen of bombers units escorted by the 332nd insisted that their group had indeed lost a bomber while under their escort. When these stories got to the ears of the president of the Tuskegee Airmen Foundation around 2005, he conducted his own research into the matter. After careful research of each of the bomber group mission records there were in fact a few bombers that did go down during the protection of the Red Tails. However it was the heavy anti-aircraft fire over the target that was the contributing factor. Yes, an occasional Luftwaffe fighter was able to break through the layers of protection of Red Tails, however the enemy was only able to make one determined pass at the bombers before they were forced to flee for their lives with Red Tails in pursuit.

Enjoy my narrative of an important part of American Military History.

In January 2010, I donated Benjamin Davis prints to the sixteen Tuskegee Airmen that rode in the Rose Blow Parade which featured a float honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. It was a beautiful float showing two P-51 Mustangs flying together with the props slowly turning. Below are some of the airmen at the parade with my donated print.

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Tuskegee Airmen Combat Stories

August 24, 1944

On August 24th, the Group escorted the 5th Bomber Wing on an attack the Luftwaffe airfield at Pardubice, Czechoslovakia. The fight in was uneventful but on the way back to England the group was attacked by a lone Bf-109. Lt. John Briggs pursued the Messerschmitt and fired from 250 yards. Briggs saw no effect from his gun fire so he pulled to within 25 yards and opened fire. Pieces of the fighter started to peal off and the pilot took to his parachute.

Lt. Charles McGee also saw combat when an Fw-190 crossed his path initiating a chase. The pilot dove for the airfield and protection from its anti-aircraft batteries. McGee followed the fleeing Messerschmitt to tree top level. Both fighters broke the boundaries of the airfield and buzzed the field. About halfway across the runways the German turned with McGee following. McGee saw the damage from the bombing raid caused by the bombers he had just escorted. There were many of the buildings on fire along with a large hanger and many parked aircraft.

McGee fired a burst at the Fw-190 which must have severed control cables on the enemy fighter causing the pilot to lose control smashing into the runway. The destruction of the Fw-190 was witnessed by McGee’s wingman, Roger Romine. The air was filled with chris-crossing anti-aircraft shells as both McGee and Romine fled the field at high speed at very low level. They spotted a locomotive before they started to gain altitude and strafed it before heading back to base.

Lt. William Thomas was able to claim another Fw-190 that tried to evade him by diving. Thomas followed the Fw-190 firing six times between 75 to 100 yards in his dive behind the German fighter. The ground was coming up quickly and the Fw-190 was pulling up to compensate for the contour of the land when Thomas fired one more time at a 30 degree deflection angle which disabled the Fw-190 causing it to crash into a crumpled mass of metal.

August 27, 1944

Fifty-seven Mustangs were dispatched to escort the 55th and the 304th Bomber Wing to Blechammer, Germany. After the bombers struck their target the Mustangs were free to roam. Melvin Jackson witnessed an aircraft taking off from an airfield near Prostejou, Czechoslovakia. Calling in his sighting the group dropped to attack the airfield. Fortunately for the 332nd Group the airfield was poorly defended allowing the pilots to make numerous attacks on the field which was packed with various Luftwaffe aircraft.

Even though destroying an enemy aircraft on the ground does not count as one defeated in aerial combat, the loss to the enemy is equal. On this day several Tuskegee Airmen became ground aces in that they were credited with destroying five enemy aircraft each. Again for those who do not understand the system that the Air Force uses for grading pilots by “Ace” status is that a pilot has to shoot down an enemy aircraft while flying. He needs five confirmed aerial victories to gain Ace status. Destroying enemy aircraft on the ground did not count at all except to the pilot.

Wendell Pruitt was credited with destroying three Junkers Ju-87 Stuka’s and two Heinkel He-111 medium bombers. Spann Watson claimed four Junkers Ju-52 transports and one Heinkel He-111 bomber. Luther Smith was credited with three Junker transports and one He-111 bomber.

The Group also shot up the buildings on the airfield before departing but not before they peppered an enemy train. The group spotted the enemy train on their return flight back to England. The 332nd suffered no casualties. The Germans officially suffered thirteen Junker Ju-52 transports destroyed with a further nine damaged. Four Junker Ju-87 Stuka’s were destroyed with another four damaged. Three Heinkel He-111 bombers destroyed and four damaged. Also damaged that day was a Messerschmitt Me-323 giant transport.