Tuskegee Airmen to Recount War Experiences at KSC
KEENE, N.H. 9/5/01 - American bomber crews called the pilots and aircrews of the 332nd Fighter Group the Red Tail Angels. German fighter crews learned to fear any fighter with a red-painted tail. On Saturday, November 3, three members of this elite fighter group will speak about their war experiences at Keene State College as part of the symposium “The Second World War: A Legacy Remembered.”
The 332nd flew hundreds of bomber escort missions over North Africa and Europe during World War II and were the only group never to lose an escorted bomber. Yet, because they were black, the airmen of the 332nd were trained in isolation at the Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama. The discrimination didn’t stop there. In the air, bomber crews initially mistrusted the ability and loyalty of the black pilots. And on their return to the U.S., the Tuskegee Airmen, as they became known, discovered that the military still believed them to be second-class soldiers.
The stories of the Tuskegee Airmen are among the most enduring of World War II, not just because of their results in action, but because much of their success came from overcoming ingrained racial segregation at home.
John Roach, 76, of Woburn, Mass., a retired Air Force colonel, served as a B-25 pilot with the 617th Bombardment Squadron during WWII. Following the war, he flew fighter planes and then military transports. In 1969, Roach began work with the Federal Aviation Administration, eventually becoming deputy regional director of the FAA’s New England regional office. During his military and civil careers, Roach qualified to fly 45 different types of aircraft.
George Hardy, 76, of Framingham, Mass., a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, flew 21 missions during the war for the 332nd Fighter Group, as well as many missions over Korea and Vietnam. Later, he worked in software development for GTE Communications Systems. Among his decorations are the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal.
Harvey Sanford, 75, of Boston, Mass., served with the 272nd Field Artillery as an aircraft and engine mechanic. After his discharge, he worked as an aircraft overhaul inspector, before taking a position with the FAA as an aviation safety inspector. Sanford now restores vintage aircraft.
Over 450 Tuskegee Airmen fought in the air war over North Africa and Europe, flying more than 15,000 sorties. They downed 111 enemy fighters, including three of the eight Messerschmitt ME-262 jets shot down by the Allies during the war, and also destroyed many ground targets. Sixty-six Tuskegee Airmen died in combat, and 33 were taken prisoner.
The Tuskegee Airmen will speak at 1 p.m. in the Mabel Brown Room at the Student Center at Keene State. The event is free and open to the public.
The event is co-sponsored by the Symposium and the Keene World War II Commemoration Committee. The three-day Symposium, to be held at Keene State, will feature presentations by 18 World War II authorities, a WWII film series, and a performance of works related to the War by the KSC Concert Band. For more information, visit www.keene.edu/events/ww2.
For more information, contact Gregory Knouff, assistant professor of history, at 603-358-2961.