Segregated Skies

SEGREGATED SKIES outlines two wars fought by black airmen in World War II. They fought in Europe while at the same time fighting the combined effects of racism against black personnel by the government, the military, and the general populace at home.

The Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) announced by President Roosevelt in 1938 allowed black pilots to enter the Army Air Force through training at Tuskegee Institute. The Selective Service Act of September, 1940, demanded the induction of blacks into all branches of the armed service in proportion to their population ratio to whites. However, due to the policy of the armed services, which banned segregation by race but permitted it by unit, blacks were organized into Aviation Squadrons (separate). Therefore, the Army Air Force lost a chance to be the first truly integrated military section in the armed services.

The pilots of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, eventually part of the 332nd Fighter Group, were the first blacks to enter into air combat over North Africa and Italy. Led by Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, the 99th excelled in their combat duties under great adversity. The four-squadron 332nd Fighter Group faced many obstacles amid very heavy air confrontations supporting bombers on their way to Berlin. These included few black trained maintenance personnel, constant missions without leave because of lack of replacement flyers, continuous flying of the outmoded P-40, and various racial incidents abroad and at home. Throughout the war, the 332nd provided distinguished service in aerial combat in the European theater. The 332nd proved blacks could fly in combat, increased the pride of black Americans, and led the way to complete postwar integration of the armed forces in 1953.