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Tuskegee Experience

According to researcher and DOTA Theopolis W. Johnson, the following information relates to the “Tuskegee Experience”:

“That is….anyone–man or woman, military or civilian, black or white–who served at Tuskegee Army Air Field or in any of the programs stemming from the ‘Tuskegee Experience’ between the years 1941 and 1949 is considered to be a documented original Tuskegee Airman (DOTA).”

There were an estimated 16-19,000 persons in the above category of which 14,632 persons have been personally documented by Johnson. (As of 10/16/05)

He also notes that:

927 – American pilot graduates

5 – Haitian pilot graduates

11 – Instructor pilot graduates

51 – Liaison pilot graduates

Total pilot graduates:   994 (686 SE graduates and 248 TE graduates). [SE = Single Engine (fighter) and TE = Twin Engine (bomber)]

There were 44 classes that graduated during the “Tuskegee Experience.”

The first class (42-C-SE) graduated 5 SE pilots (including then Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.) on March 7, 1942.

The last class (Class 46-C) graduated with 8 SE graduates and 5 TE graduates on June 28, 1946.

  • 2,483 persons were pilot trainees at Moton Field and Tuskegee Army Air Field (AAF), located in Tuskegee, AL, from July 19, 1941 until June 28, 1946.
  • 994 pilots graduated from Tuskegee AAF.
  • Tuskegee AAF closed August 20, 1946.
  • Of the graduates, 450 pilots deployed overseas (Europe) for combat duty.
  • 84 Tuskegee Airmen were killed overseas during WWII.
  • 80 pilots lost their lives in combat, training, flying and non-flying accidents.
  • 68 pilots were identified as either KIA or MIA.

  • 12 pilots were killed overseas in training accidents or non-combat related incidents.
  • 32 pilots were downed or captured as POWs.
  • 4 enlisted persons were killed overseas while in the performance of their duties.
  • During WWII, the Tuskegee Airmen (then known as the “Red Tails”) flew:

1267 missions and 6381 combat sorties with the 12th Air Force (June, 1943 to May, 1944)

311 missions and 9152 combat sorties with the 15th Air Force (June, 1944 to May, 1945)

Total Missions: 1578

Total Combat Sorties: 15,533

Total Aerial Kills: 112

The Tuskegee Airmen received the following combat awards:

Presidential Unit Citation (3)

Legion of Merit (1) [COL Benjamin Davis, Jr.]

Silver Star (1) [COL Benjamin Davis, Jr.]

Soldier Medal (1)

Distinguished Flying Cross (150)

Purple Heart (8)*

Bronze Star (14)

Air Medal (744)

Red Star of Yugoslavia

*Correct count pending

Partial list of Tuskegee Experience locations:

Atterbury AAF                          Freeman AAF

Chanute AAF                            Godman AAF

Douglas AAF                            Hondo AAF

Eglin AAF                                 Lockbourne AAF

Ellington AAF                           Maxwell AAF

Midland AAF                            Tomah AAF

Selfridge AAF                           Walterboro AAF

Sturgis AAF                               Dale Mabry AAF

The 332nd Fighter Wing ceased all operations on June 1, 1949 (after President Harry Truman signed Executive Order #9981 on July 26, 1948, which desegregated the U.S. Armed Forces) at Lockbourne AFB, Columbus, OH and was deactivated, officially ending the “Tuskegee Experience.”


1. The name “Tuskegee Airmen” came into existence on May 15, 1955 with the publication of “The Tuskegee Airmen–The Story of the Negro in the U.S. Air Force” by Charles E. Francis. Prior to that date, they were known as the “Red Tails.”

2. During WWII, 72 Tuskegee Airmen shot down 112 enemy aircraft, including the best of the German fighters. Three of the Tuskegee Airmen (Captain Joseph D. Elsberry, Captain Edward L. Toppins and 1st Lieutenant Lee A. Archer) each shot down four enemy planes. No Tuskegee Airman ever achieved “Ace” status (five kills required).

3. Despite contrary reports, the Tuskegee Airmen did lose several U.S. bombers to enemy fire while escorting the bombers. But it should be noted that they did have a “nearly perfect” record of not losing bombers, a unique achievement when compared to other American fighter units that escorted bombers. The then known “Red Tails” were in high demand for escort service by U.S. bomber crews because of their low loss record.

4. The “Tuskegee Experience” was originally called the “Tuskegee Experiment,” and was conducted by the U.S. War Department and the Army Air Corps from 1941-1949. It should not be confused with the “Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment,” which was conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) from 1932-1972. Both events occurred in Tuskegee, AL at different locations.

***Above data prepared by  Ron Brewington, Immediate Past  National Public Relations Officer, Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. (TAI)***

For more history information on the Tuskegee Airmen, go to: (click on “History”)

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