Tuskegee Airman speaks at St. Andrew Parish

GIBBSBORO — A tribute to the Tuskegee Airman, an all-black air combat unit during World War II, was held Feb. 29 as part of African-American History Month and sponsored by The Black Catholic Ministry of St. Andrew’s Church.

Dr. Cleophus Robinson, a former Tuskegee Airman, told how these men successfully fought as fighter pilots and, as civil rights activists, helped reverse segregation of the races in the armed forces. Featured with Robinson was the Diocesan Gospel Choir.

The 99th Pursuit Squadron was activated in 1941 and the Tuskegee Airmen formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Prior to their formation there were no black pilots in the U. S. military.

The 477th Bombardment Group readied itself for combat but the aviators never served. However, the 332nd Fighter Group was sent overseas first as part of “Operation Torch” in Sicily and Italy, then as bomber escorts where they achieved success in just about everything they did.

Despite the racial prejudice they encountered in and out of the Army the Tuskegee Airmen flew with distinction.

The 99th saw active duty for the first time in 1943. It went to North Africa to join the 33rd Fighter Group. Its first combat mission was to attack the small island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean Sea to clear the way for the invasion of Sicily in 1943.

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