Three Tuskegee Airmen Tell Their Tales, P-51 Fly-By Video

Some of the Tuskegee Airmen from the 332nd Fighter Group were known as Red Tail Angels because the tail of their P-51 Mustang fighter was painted bright red. This one was flown by famous Tuskegee ace pilot Lee Archer and now resides at the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, FL.

The large open hangar at the Fantasy of Flight aviation attraction was a perfect setting for the three WWII veteran pilots who are all in their 80s. The Tuskegee Airmen were surrounded by vintage aircraft like the P-51 Mustang fighter.

Leo Gray, 87, of Ft. Lauderdale, George Hardy, 86, of Sarasota and Daniel Keel, 89, of Leesburg sat behind a table on an elevated platform looking out at an audience filled with high school students, veterans and members of the community who came to meet them.

All three men are members of the famous African-American air corps that trained in Tuskegee during WWII. Their collective story of battling against the segregated military so they could “go to war” has been told in literature, in documentary films and on Hollywood’s big screen.

Keel talked about one of more memorable moments when he was with the first group of black officers to arrive at a Texas Army base for additional training on bombardiers. He said they were greeted by a white lieutenant colonel who laid down some rules.

Tuskegee Airmen Daniel Keel (L), George Hardy (C), Leo Gray (R) received a standing ovation from the crowd of high school students, veterans and members of the community as they entered for the symposium at Fantasy of Flight.

“One we could not eat in the officers’ mess, two we could not go in the officers’ club, three if we go to the base theater we couldn’t sit in the officers’ section and four, if we go to town, we had to ride in the back of the bus,” Keel said. “I knew I was in trouble as soon as he said that.”

Keel and the other two Tuskegee Airmen are participating in additional public symposiums scheduled Friday and Saturday at Fantasy of Flight at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. just off Exit 44 on Interstate 4.

I’ll have more of their stories over the next few weeks. All three men said they continue to do public forums with the hope of invigorating the younger generation to strive for lofty, worthwhile goals.

P-51 Fly-By Video

If you want to see the P-51 Mustang fly – click HERE. The owner of Fantasy of Flight took the fighter plane up for a fly-by to honor his guests. Unfortunately, I was inside doing interviews and missed the demonstration, but we heard it. Leo’s eyes lit up when he heard the distinctive roar of that Merlin engine roar by outside. The Red Tail pilot called its sound as sweet as honey.

The P-51 Mustang on display outside after the fly-by.

 

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Come Face to Face with History: Tuskegee Airmen

An artist's rendering of the Tuskegee Airmen's aircraft.

They became famous for their aircraft’s bright red tail and for their combat record. The African American WWII pilots, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, are reuniting in Polk County this weekend.

Of the original group of nearly 1,000 trained pilots and 15,000 ground personnel who became known as the Tuskegee Airmen, roughly 100 pilots and 200 ground crew are alive today.

A government archival photo of WWII Tuskegee Airmen.

“Legends & Legacies Symposium Series: They Dared to Fly” opens today and runs through Saturday at Fantasy of Flight, Polk City. Five of the Tuskegee Airmen will meet the public and answer questions at sessions scheduled today, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

The five distinguished airmen scheduled to attend are: Dr. Roscoe Brown, Jr., Riverside, NY, Leo Gray, Ft. Lauderdale, Raymond Cassagnol, Oviedo, George Hardy, Sarasota and Hiram Mann, Titusville — and Roy Archer, son of airman Lee Andrew Archer, Jr. who will retell his father’s story.  

Fantasy of Flight has a permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit including previously recorded interviews with several of the pioneering Airmen,

For tickets or more information, visit www.fantasyofflight.com <http://www.fantasyofflight.com/>  or call (863) 984-3500.

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