History suddenly got interesting thanks to author Lt. Col. James C. Warren, one of heroes of this fascinating yet disturbing event.
I was introduced to this book by my cousin Leonard E. Williams Jr. His father, 2nd Lt. Leonard E. Williams Sr. was one the officers arrested in 1945 for attempting to enter an officer’s club at Freeman Field that was designated for white officers only.
So what happens when you try to oppress “articulate blacks with advanced black consciousness”? It seems the United States Army Air Forces (as it was called back then) would label it a mutiny.
The 162 black officers were arrested for refusing to sign a statement that they had read Base Regulation 85-2 restricting these men from access to certain areas on the base. It just so happens that this would exclude black officers from clubs that white officers had access to. First of all, segregation in the armed forces was supposed to be illegal therefore “if a person disobeyed an illegal order, that person could not be punished.” Nevertheless, these officers were held on house arrest for about 20 days while the powers that be went around & around trying to figure out how to deal with this situation. “The incredible amount of time and effort that these high-ranking officers of the Army Air Forces were taking in the middle of a general war to ensure the continued segregation of black officers was amazing.”
These black officers were highly qualified as pilots, co-pilots, navigators, bombardiers, engineer-gunners, radio-gunners, officer instructors and test flight engineers. It’s a shame that they were victims of racial bias from the very country they were willing to fight and die for.
On a positive note, President Truman ended segregation in the military with Executive Order 9981 in 1948. 50 years after the mutiny on Aug. 12, 1995 the US Air Force vindicated the arrested Tuskegee Airmen by removing the letter of reprimand from their permanent military records. 50 years? Really? Better late, than never I guess.
The reason this story means so much to me is because I just met my birth family about a year ago. My birth mother was 95 years old at the time and her brother would be my Uncle Leonard mentioned in this book. He passed away shortly before I would have had the honor to meet him. However, I am now building a relationship with his children Kimberly and Leonard Jr. & his wife, Ariemean. It warms my heart to finally know my family & my heritage and to understand the important role this event has in American History. I thank you Uncle Leonard for your impressive courage in this giant step for equality. It fuels that fight in me to do the same.