At this time of year we celebrate the contributions of Doctor Martin Luther King regarding the rights and responsibilities we share with our fellow citizens. Our thoughts turn to justice, fairness and the state of our communion. Being human, we tend to compose paradigms of each other from our prejudice, from our agendas, from our aspirations, from countless perceived slights that creep into our minds and hearts, and from the mistaken idea of our own specialness. Perhaps it’s a moment of true enlightenment when we’re knocked off our horse by the realization that no one is special . . . or rather everyone is. We are all blessed with every quality along the order of magnitude that creates a human being. Each and every one of us has it within to be a villain or a hero, a hater or a benefactor – the happenstance of our birth in respect to culture, geography, religion, race and economic circumstance notwithstanding. It is certainly a choice we make as to which of these qualities we use to engage one another. It’s good news indeed that we can at any time, right now even, change our mind about our brothers and sisters. And by changing our mind, we literally change the world.
There is a George Lucas film being released later this month called Red Tails. It tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. These were a segregated group of African American fighter pilots that flew at the highest altitude of excellence during World War II. They painted the tails of their P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs red and so the nickname was born. The Red Tails earned an impressive combat record escorting heavy bombers in their sorties over Europe. Many a bomber crew credited these pilots with getting them safely back home and added the word “angels” to their distinctive moniker.
However, these impressive gentlemen were forced to battle more than the Nazi enemy. They had to contend with racism, insult, hatred and suspicion from their own countrymen. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt even took a ride with flight instructor Alfred “Chief” Anderson just to prove that African Americans were capable as any pilot. And it’s a sad fact that German prisoners were granted more privileges in terms of interacting with their American captors than these brave men were allowed with their fellow white combatants. The Tuskegee Airmen were required to sleep in their own barracks, eat at their own tables, use their own lavatories, and drink at their own fountains even as German and American officers often dined and socialized together.
It boggles the mind that it took another twenty years for the struggle of Civil Rights to really take hold in our country. On the other hand, if not for the superb accomplishments of these men, it may have taken far longer. After the Red Tailed Angels distinguished themselves as first rate, combat tested pilots, no one could deny that competency, courage, loyalty, dedication, dependability, patriotism and heroism were the legacy of all Americans no matter the continent of their ancestors.
Edward F. Petersen, Creative Director, American Public House Review
Photos courtesy of Airforce Historical Research Group.
We at American Public House Review Talk about subjects such as this every day. We consider the pub to be the parliament of the common man. Give us a look: