Tweeting with the Tuskegee Airmen at Fantasy of Flight

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)

They’ve been lionized in literature and films, most recently “Red Tails,” and now Thursday morning several members of the original Tuskegee Airmen will be in Polk City, Florida at Fantasy of Flight for a public forum.

And I will be there too to cover the event live via Twitter. If you can’t make it to the aviation museum to meet these distinguished WWII veterans in person, you can follow their comments and interaction with the audience at the special Twitter hashtag: #TuskegeeTales.

The Tuskegee Airmen scheduled to speak are Leo Gray, 91, of Ft. Lauderdale who served as a consultant on the movie “Red Tails;” Daniel Keel, 89, of Leesburg;  George Hardy, 88, of Sarasota.

The African-American Airmen will talk about their experiences flying bomber cover during WWII while serving in a segregated military. And, they will take questions from the public. Be sure to join me Thursday at 10:30 a.m. (EST) on Twitter at #TuskegeeTales.

Additional forums are planned at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at Fantasy of Flight, 1400 Broadway Blvd. S.E. Polk City, FL. 33868 (863)984-3500.

Tuskeegee Airmen Visit the White House, Fantasy of Flight

They’ve been guests at the White House for a screening of the film “Red Tails“, now four Tuskegee airmen are headed to Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida.

For a limited three-day event, four of the Tuskegee Airmen will share their stories about serving during WWII when the military was segregated with visitors to the Fantasy of Flight aviation museum in Central Florida. There are only about 50 of the original 1,000 pilots and 200 of the original 15,000 ground crew that made up the Tuskegee Airmen still living.

Original Tuskegee Airmen honored previously at Fantasy of Flight (l to r): Lt. Col. Hiram Mann, Lt. Col. Leo Gray, Lt. Col. Lee Archer and Dr. Roscoe Brown

“The Dared to Fly” program – featuring the Tuskegee Airmen –  is scheduled Thursday, Friday and Saturday, (Feb. 9-11, 2012). Each day there will be two open forums, at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., which include a question and answer session. Afterward, there will be a meet-and-greet and autograph signings. The forums are open to those who pay admission to the Fantasy of Flight and annual pass holders. Scheduled to appear at Fantasy of Flight are:

  • Leo Gray, 91, of Ft. Lauderdale who served as a consultant on the recently released Lucas film, “Red Tails
  • Daniel Keel, 89, of Leesburg
  • George Hardy, 88, of Sarasota

Fantasy of Flight also is holding an essay contest with cash prizes for students writing about how the Tuskegee airmen inspire their generation.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host Tuskegee Airmen at a showing of the movie "Red Tails" at the White House, Jan. 13, 2012. Cicero Satterfield is in the second row, far right. White House photo.

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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