I over-filled my plate! For all the events I intended to visit, I managed to make it to 3. Luncheon on Wednesday was a Pictorial History of the Tuskegee Airmen. Lynn Pribus (our hostess), Jackie Boor (author of Inside the President’s Helicopter: Reflections of a White House Senior Pilot) and I were invited to come early to listen to helicopter and fixed-wing pilots share their takes on flying in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. How I thought of my father, who flew a D47 in North Africa. What stories he had to tell. We also met a gentleman who was researching for a book on World War I. We both sold books and we weren’t even part of the program.
It has been said that the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber, but they did. The average number of planes lost for a fighter group was 46. The Tuskegee 332nd only lost 27. This is like baseball stats. In 179 missions they only lost seven bombers.
The first black pilot, Eugene Bullard, actually flew in World War I. He flew for the French.
60-70 Tuskegee pilots died during the war out of the 1000. Not only were there fighter pilots, where were bomber pilots, but they started training too late to actually get to the war.
But the most interesting piece of info we got was that the Airmen were part of the Civil Rights Movement. Not because they were the first to fly, but because of the Freedom Field Mutiny. When the Airmen arrived at Freedom Field (in Indiana) their commander wanted to set up two officers clubs – one for white and one for black pilots. He considered white pilots trainers and black pilots trainees. Black pilots were asked to sign a paper accepting this situation. 101 of them refused to sign. As a result, 101 were arrested. Eventually 101 were finallly exhonerated.
Video to see: “Wings for this Man” narrated by President Ronald Reagan. It’s only about 15 minutes, but apparently it is excellent. If you find it, please let me know.
My panel, “Memoirs and Oral Histories: Race and Time” went very well. One author was from Charlottesville where we are visiting and wrote about North Carolina. The other is a black woman who wrote about her life of less that she turned around to become this bubbly, powerful woman. She’s from Reno. Although I tripped over a cord, I managed to survive and my talk went better than I expected it would. We had a great audience. Sold books.
Afterward we went to A Tribute to Mike Seeger. We were late because of my panel, but we heard some old-time country music. I didn’t know who Seeger was, but I loved the music. After the presentation on him, there were several local artists who delivered their version of this marvelous music.
Exhausted, we came home before the the jam session was over. I crashed!
Lynn also gave us a tour of Charlottesville, a lovely community of brick buildings and southern architecture. The University of Virginia looks like what a university should look like – and totally steeped in history. Historical markers dot the city with names like Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Georgia O’Keeffe, Civil War Battles.
Such a perfect day!