When World War II (WWII) discussions emerge, often the role of the Tuskegee Airwomen of the 1940s is not highlighted, but they provided useful services for the war effort alongside their African-American airmen.
They undertook duties being parachute riggers, link trainer instructors, bombsite maintenance specialists, weather observers and forecasters, cryptographers, radio operators, sheet metal workers, aerial photograph analysts and control tower operators in the Air Corps.
The Tuskegee Airmen project began in 1939 when President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP). The CPTP was a nationwide program designed to allow college-aged students to acquire pilot training. In 1941, President Roosevelt also authorized the CPTP to accept African-American students who would train at historically black colleges and institutions.
With the expansion of the CPTP, five historically black colleges, including Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, began an elementary flight training program, then a secondary flight instruction program. In January 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron fighter group was authorized and served as the first flying squadron for African-Americans. The squadron became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
The 100th, 301st, and 302nd fighter groups were authorized later. These groups required ground personnel, mechanics, administrative, and other personnel to support flight training, all of whom are considered to be part of the Tuskegee Airmen experiment.
One such Tuskegee Airwoman who came to national attention was Sergeant Amelia Jones who worked for two years during WWII in the 99th Pursuit Squadron under Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. She was honored for her service in 2014.
On Feb. 10, 1943, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps at Hunter Army Airfield. In September of the same year, Uncle Sam called her to active duty as a member of the renamed Women’s Army Corps. For two years, her 118th Army Air Force Base Unit served at several different posts across the country.
It had to take John McCaskill, a park ranger who crossed paths with Ms. Jones during a World War I memorial that it emerged the South Carolina native born in 1919 being a Tuskegee Airwoman deserved an official public recognition for her service.
The Tuskegee Airmen are credited for paving the way for the fully integrated armed service, which exists today.