Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

History of the Tuskegee Army Flying School

History of the Tuskegee Army Flying School

Army Flying School Looks to Future as Noted Institute Turns Out Combat Pilots . . . School Producing Top-Flight Pilots and Ground Forces 

The Tuskegee Army Flying School has the eyes of the world focused upon it, for here has been formed the nucleus of Negro combat pilots and skilled technicians. A little over a year ago, the first Negro cadets began their primary training at the Air Corps Training Detachment, Tuskegee Institute, under the instructions of civilian pilots with Army personnel doing the administrative work. It was during the month of August, 1941, that 12 cadets were being questioned by the nation in editorials with such questions as: Will the first class pull through? Will the program be a success or failure? etc. The initial flying class proved to the world that they, too, could become combat pilots. . . and since the first graduation other cadets are receiving their wings monthly.

Not only is the Tuskegee Army Flying School pinning wings on Negro pilots, but it is steadily producing skilled technicians, air mechanics, photographers, radio operators, weather men, and many other technicians essential to the Army Air Forces.

The flying school is located in South Central Alabama, 13 miles from the famous Tuskegee Institute founded by one of America's foremost educators, Booker T. Washington. 

The Physical Setting Of The School

To begin with, the engineers had to level several hills. One spot on the field is exactly 54 feet less in elevation than a year ago. Trees had to be uprooted and all vestiges of vegetation of every sort had to be obliterated before mile-long concrete runways could be laid down. In other words, the field now forms a big valley, a man-made valley, a beautiful rolling valley that slopes back up toward the hill. The Headquarters building and the barracks rise on the sloping hillsides, providing as fine a view as one could want to observe. The outstretched runways in the wide valley leading up to the banks of a stream that courses nearby leaves an indelible print upon all that view the site.

It is within this man-made setting that visitors to the base are able to view a modern field in every respect. Some of the largest ships of the nation have landed on the lengthy Tuskegee runways.

The Tuskegee Army Flying School was activated July, 1941. The first troops arrived during the month of October, 1941. The initial ground crew for the then so-called "99th Pursuit Squadron" was composed of men who volunteered their services to the nation, and had been trained at the famous Chanute Field, Illinois. Each man upon his arrival was eager to play his role in building up the first flying school of its kind for Negroes.

The first Commanding Officer of the field was Major James A. Ellison. He was transferred in January, 1942, and Colonel Fred�erick V. H. Kimble, a West Point graduate with 24 years of flying experience, was assigned as the Commanding Officer of the post. Kimble is now Commanding Officer of the 27th Training Wing and Lieutenant Colonel Noel F. Parrish is now the Commanding Officer. Assisting the Colonel are: Lieutenant Colonel B. O. Davis, Jr., highest ranking Negro officer in the Army Air Forces, is the Executive of Troops; Major Donald S. McPherson, Director of Train�ing; Lieutenant Colonel John T. Hazard, Executive; Captain Clyde H. Bynum, Adjutant, and others. More than 60 per cent of the total quota of officers at the flying school are Negroes. 

Ohioan Youngest Squadron Commander

Second Lieutenant Mac Ross, a graduate of the initial flying class in March, 1942, is the youngest Squadron Commander on the field. He is the new C. O. of a newly activated fighter squadron. He is a native of Dayton, Ohio, and completed his undergraduate work at West Virginia State College. He is the first American flying officer to become a member of the Caterpillar Club. As an Aviation Cadet, he achieved a high degree of efficiency as an all-around soldier. Upon becoming Commanding Officer of the 100th Fighter Squadron, he is fast proving himself to be a capable officer in every respect. 

The Men On The Ground

No other ground crew in America has had more favorable publicity than the men of the fighting 99th. In the early part of 1941, a group of high school graduates and college men volun�teered their services in the Army of the United States to form the foundation crews for the present squadrons that have been activated at the Tuskegee Army Flying School. More than 500 men received training at Rantoul's Chanute Field, ranging from administrative clerks to master mechanics on the flight line. Be�fore becoming eligible for the ground crew, the volunteers had to pass a stiff aptitude test, their results determining their training status as a soldier. Today these men are at the school that they had dreamed of for seven long months before it was constructed. They are teaching boys as eager as they were when they volun�teered in the early months of 1941. The older mechanics on the line always inform the new mechanics of the significance of keeping the plane aloft in good condition, and the responsibility that rests upon the shoulder of the mechanic.

The original ground crew of the 99th can handle and service ships from trainer planes to the difficult P-40. These men know their job and have the confidence of the men who fly the ships they service. They have an exceptionally good safety record. 

Photographic Section 

Making of aerial photographs is a difficult task. However, at the Tuskegee School of the Air, it is possible for a photograph to be made, processed and ready in less than ten minutes if emergency demands. The post has a complete equipped laboratory with the latest equipment for developing and pictures. 

Modern Hospital At T.A.F.S. 

The Tuskegee Army Flying School's Station Hospital, under the guidance of Lieutenant Colonel Richard C. Cummings and George McDonald and staff, have developed into a well coordinated phase of the Army life at the sepia school of the air. The different wards are equipped with the best modern equipment obtainable and the efficient staff through experience is capable of performing any major operations. 

Cleveland Has Three Flying Officers

Leading other urban centers with flying officers, Clevelanders are prominent on the flight line. Among the flying officers are Second Lieutenant Sidney Brooks, 2275 East 77th St.; Irving Lawrence, 2168 East 90th St.; and Clarence Jamison, 2252 East 85th St.

Category: World War II | Subcategory: Tuskegee Airmen | Tags: Radio , World War II , Virginia , Alabama , Washington , Illinois , 1941
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1941, 1942, 27th, Air Corps, airmen, Alabama, Aviation, Davis, Editorial, Illinois, Irving, Lawrence, Mary, Ohio, Richard, West Virginia, World War II,