Wings for This Man
Wings for this Man is a 10 minute propaganda film produced in 1945 by the U.S. Army Air Forces First Motion Picture Unit about the Tuskegee Airmen, the first unit of African-American pilots in the US military.
The film begins with dramatic footage of aerial combat over Italy, showing an outnumbered American squadron successfully dogfighting a Luftwaffe formation. When the pilots land they step out and are revealed to be black.
The picture then tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, starting with the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and the founding of the airstrip near it. The narrator notes that the airmen had to overcome exceeding odds to get the unit created and notes that “there was misunderstanding, distrust and prejudice that had to be cleared away” before the unit could form. A rather standard training/combat/casualty sequence then follows, culminating in the third anniversary celebration of the unit followed by a parade.
While not explicitly mentioning racism the narration does go further than most wartime propaganda stating that “one thing was proved here: that you can’t judge a man by the color of his eyes or the shape of his nose” and that “these men were pioneers, and pioneers never have it easy”.
Please Note: If you represent an organization that would like to host an appearance by the Chicago “DODO” Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and a viewing of the documentary “Double Victory”, please contact us at the email address below.
Produced by “RedTails”, “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” guru George Lucas, the documentary Double Victory showcases the Airmen’s triumphs amid the adversities of Jim Crow and segregation in the U.S. military. Narrated by actor Cuba Gooding, “Double Victory” goes inside the lives of many of the living Airmen, recounting stories of racism within the military alongside the Airmen’s tenacious heroism.
“Double Victory”, as implied in the title, tells a more complete story of the Tuskegee Airmen’s efforts not only to end fascism in Europe but also to end the racism they endured in the United States.
With so much ground to cover, from the soldiers’ own anecdotes to those passed down throughout history, Double Victory finds a way to deliver facts without the burden of fitting them into a narrative, though there was a challenge to overcome in making the information easily digestible for those who want to see a good story. Nuggets like the fact that admission into the cadet-training program required at least two years of college — at a time when less than 1 percent of African Americans had a college degree — add an extra level of gravitas to the Tuskegee Airmen’s story.
Then there are the war stories. Capt. Roscoe C. Brown Jr. recounts a mission over Berlin, during which the Airmen went face to face with the Nazis’ brand new jet fighters — far superior to America’s planes. Brown’s story is told while footage is played back, and concludes in a huge explosion that got a rousing applause from the people in the audience. But the other war stories — the ones that took place on the ground among fellow white soldiers — elicited a different response from the audience.
Sighs or perhaps groans were audible when soldiers discussed their experience with the Freeman Field Mutiny, in which members of the 477th Bombardment Group attempted to integrate an all-white officers’ club on the military base in Seymour, Ind. To hear the men tell their stories of victory and valor overseas, only to watch them recount what it felt like to be told they were not welcome in an officers’ club on American soil — where they were treated worse than German prisoners — will send anyone who watches Double Victory into an emotional tailspin.