Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.

Author:Gropman, Alan L.
Position:Book review
 
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Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. By J. Todd Moye. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 241. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-1953-8657-4

Freedom Flyers is the best book to date about the Tuskegee Airmen. Dr. Moye nailed the saga, punctured numerous myths, and provided the whole story, including the significance of the Tuskegee Airmen for United States domestic politics and culture. Among many things to admire is the front of the dust jacket (something seldom, if ever, mentioned in a review). Moye represents the Tuskegee Airmen by displaying five enlisted airmen maintaining an aircraft or searching the skies for the return of their warbirds. Seldom does any author writing about black aviation units mention the indispensable enlisted personnel. About 990 pilots graduated from Tuskegee Army Airfield. They served in four combat fighter squadrons and four B-25 squadrons that did not fly in combat. Another several hundred officers were trained at bases other than Tuskegee to be navigators and navigator-bombardiers.

More than 13,000 enlisted men supported the crews. When the Tuskegee Airmen received The Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush, its engraved face had three individuals: a fighter pilot, a bomber officer crewmember, and an enlisted man between them. Thank you Dr. Moye for recognizing the enlisted personnel. This book tells the reader about all Tuskegee Airmen.

Moye, better than virtually all who have published on this subject, recognizes the connection between American domestic politics and President Roosevelt's election-politics-driven promise in 1940 to open Army aviation to blacks, and President Truman's similarly motivated 1948 Executive Order 9981 calling for equal opportunity--not racial integration--in the armed forces. Furthermore, Moye appreciates the essential nature of Col. Noel Parrish's leadership skills to the success of the training of the pilots and their maintenance crews. He, moreover, displays in appropriate detail the combat success of the Tuskegee Airmen in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Moye perceptively analyzes the Freeman Field Mutiny in 1945, telling the story objectively. He is sensitive to the role the Tuskegee Airmen played in armed forces racial integration and the nuanced activity of President Truman (although I believe he is overly generous to Truman). Moye gives the proper credit for Air Force racial integration to Lieutenant...

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