April 8, 2010 (by Arlan Ponder) - On April 9, 2010, military history will once again be made in New Mexico as one of the most revered fighter squadrons of World War II makes Holloman its new home.
Known as the "Red Tail Angels" by bomber crews of the 15th AF, who they flew in support of over the skies of Europe, the famed 301st FS will relocate from Luke AFB. to Holloman where its reserve members will form a classic association with active duty military members from the 49th FW. [Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution]
Known as the "Red Tail Angels" by bomber crews of the 15th Air Force, who they flew in support of over the skies of Europe, the famed 301st Fighter Squadron will relocate from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. to Holloman where its reserve members will form a classic association with active duty military members from the 49th Fighter Wing.
The squadron will fly the F-22 Raptor alongside the 7th and 8th Fighter Squadrons, while also performing their monthly reserve weekend training missions. Ironically, all of the squadrons -- 301st, 7th and 8th -- can attribute their early roots back to Selfridge Field, Mich. where they were "officially" activated into the U.S. Army Air Forces.
Flying their first mission on Feb. 5, 1944, in P-39 Cobras the 301st FS
went on to achieve numerous aerial victories in aircraft such as the P-40 Warhawk and P-47 Thunderbolt. However, much like the 49th FW, the squadron received the most fame while flying the P-51 Mustang. For many Tuskegee Airmen this was a "dream aircraft" and one of the most dependable fighters the U.S. ever produced.
"It looks so frail, yet it was so lethal in the hands of well-trained, motivated and dedicated people such as yourselves," said Gen. Ronald Fogleman, former Chief of Staff, at the Tuskegee Airmen Convention Banquet in 1995. "When [the Tuskegee Airmen] were equipped with that P-51, you then began to focus on this bomber escort mission."
With names like "Hammerin' Hank," "Creamer's Dream" and "Mo' Downs" painted on the sides of their P-51 aircraft and their bright red tails, the Tuskegee Airmen of the 301st FS fought Nazism and Fascism in the skies of North Africa and Europe all while achieving the distinction of never losing a bomber during more than 200 escort missions. However, back home on the ground in the country they fought to defend they battled an enemy far more evil -- racism.
During World War II, the U.S. military was racially segregated, which reflected American laws and social practices of the day. Most black men in the military were restricted to menial labor or supporting positions, which kept them out of the spotlight of American media. However, the Tuskegee Airmen "experiment" in the Army Air Forces showed when given equal opportunity and training, those men could perform the same jobs -- whether it be flying or commanding -- equally as effective as their white counterparts.
"I came to appreciate the impressive contribution that the Tuskegee Airmen made to Allied victory in World War II early-on in my assignment teaching history at the Air Force Academy. But, I must confess that I really did not have a full appreciation of the true impact of the Tuskegee Airmen on our Air Force," General Fogleman said. "But in the end, the men and the women of the Tuskegee experience broke forever the myths that allowed segregation, inequity and injustice to exist with a thin veil of legitimacy."
During and after World War II, the members of the 301st FS and its sister units faced hardships that would cause most of today's Airmen to shake their heads in disgust, however, they persevered.
"Not only did you come to the defense of your country ... you took to wings," General Fogleman said. "When you engaged [the enemy] in combat and came away victorious, you carried not only your own pride and your personal accomplishments, but also the idea that never again would anybody deny a man or woman the opportunity to serve our country in any capacity because of the color of his or her skin."
Though the 49th FW and the 301st FS fought in different theaters of operation, their histories will forever be entwined as they become members of Team Holloman and the rich history this base holds in the annuls of the Air Force.