Tuskegee Airmen Mark Mission to Berlin Anniversary

TUSKEGEE, Ala. -- Maj. James A. Ellison returns the salute of Mac Ross of Dayton, Ohio, as he passes down the line during review of the first class of Tuskegee cadets; flight line at U.S. Army Air Corps basic and advanced flying school in 1941. Partial three-quarter left front view from low angle of Vultee BT-13 trainer at left. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On March 24, 1945, the Tuskegee Airmen 332nd flew a mission over Berlin shooting down three German jet aircraft and damaging two others. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African Americans to be trained as WWII military pilots. They received a Presidential Unit Citation for that Berlin mission.

The original Tuskegee Airmen included nearly 1,000 trained pilots and 15,000 ground personnel. Roughly 50 pilots and 200 ground crew are alive today.

Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., as commander of the 332nd FG in Italy, with his P-47. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On March 24, 2011, Thursday, Tuskegee Airmen Hiram Mann of Titusville and Leo Gray of Ft. Lauderdale along with other black military pilots will appear at Fantasy of Flight to mark the 66th Anniversary of the 332nd Red Tail Pilots Mission to Berlin.

In addition, several students will receive cash awards and trophies for winning an essay contest about the historic aviators. The essays focused on the virtues such as leadership, advocacy and determination that led to the success of the first African American WWII pilots and crew.

But, perhaps the best prize of all is that the students will get to meet two of their “heroes” in person, Mann and Gray. The essay winners are:

High School:

  • 1st place – Jimmy Liason, Lake Wales Sr. igh, Lake Wales, FL
  • 2nd – David Wilhite, Summerlin Avenue X, Winter Haven, FL

Middle School:

  • 1st place – Dylan Skroskznik, Stewart Middle Magnet, Tampa, FL
  • 2nd- Altorian Salary, Stewart Middle Magnet, Tampa, FL
  • 3rd – Christopher P. Clark, Calvery School, Lutz, FL

Elementary  School:

  • 1st place – Madison Autry, St. Luke’s Lutheran School, Chuluota, FL

Pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, Tuskegee Airmen, the elite, all-African American unit, pose at Ramitelli, Italy: (from left to right) Lt. Dempsey Morgan, Lt. Carroll Woods, Lt. Robert Nelson Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner, and Lt. Clarence Lester.

The awards ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Officer’s Club. Fantasy of Flight has a permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit which also includes previously recorded interviews with several of the pioneering airmen. It will serve as a backdrop for essay awards ceremony. The attraction and museum is located, 1400 Broadway Blvd. S.E., Polk City, off I-4 at Exit 44 between Orlando and Tampa.

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