The Tuskegee Airmen

On 29-06-2011, in Bookshelf, by steve

By Joseph Caver, Jerome Ennels, Daniel Haulman
Publisher: NewSouth Books
ISBN: 978-1-58838-244-3

With the passage of time ever new generations of aviation professionals and enthusiast step on the stage and they can be excused if some of the previously well known details of aviation history are a bit obscure or even totally unknown for them. It is up to us old-timers and the electronic and printed press to keep those all important details alive lest our common heritage erodes over the decennia.

NewSouth Books has done just that with the publication of “The Tuskegee Airmen”, an illustrated history of the first African American pilots who fought in World War II.

During WWII African Americans in many US states were still subject to racist Jim Crow laws and the US military was racially segregated. The black airmen of the Tuskegee air base had to contend with all the adversity this entailed but nevertheless they trained and flew with distinction.

They served overseas in North Africa, Sicily and other parts of Italy and later as bomber escorts over the rest of Europe where they were especially successful in their missions.

The introduction of this fascinating book starts off by relating how, during the early 20th century, many white military and civilian aviation experts were convinced that African Americans lacked the mental capacity, aptitude and reflexes to fly airplanes. In a way you could say that the book is a wonderful proof of the opposite.

Although there is a comprehensive chronology of the missions and events the airmen lived through, it is not a history book of the traditional cast. With lots and lost of photographs, some of which have never before been published, you are taken by the hand and drawn right into the daily lives of those brave souls and their loved ones from early training all the way to fierce combat during their deployment to various theatres of WWII.

A special feature of the book is its coverage of those all important support roles that are all too often forgotten in more conventional works bur without whom the main heroes would not be able to perform their own tasks.

A short section is devoted to the history of these famous airmen following WWII and the book concludes with the chronology section mentioned earlier. Reading this day to day account, events come to life even more vividly than before.

I think this book is extremely well constructed and lends itself to several ways of reading. You can pick it up at odd moments, browsing and reading bits and pieces, and you will find it engaging. If you can afford to read it consecutively from beginning to end, you will find yourself in an immersive experience, learning the characters as if you were reading a novel. By the time you get to the chronology, you will be moving among familiar figures and almost smell the cordite and high octane petrol.

It is obvious that a lot of thought went into the editing of this volume and the result is first rate. It certainly stands out from the many previous works dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen.

This is a must have book for anyone interested in the more esoteric aspects of WWII flying.

Order your copy here or from NewSouth Books here.

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