Enlisted Tuskegee Airmen receive instruction in aircraft engine maintenance at Selfridge Field, Mich. In combat, pilots depended upon the skill and training of these ground crew. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Reflecting contemporary American custom and War Department policy of segregation, the Army Air Corps announced the formation of its first-ever black combat unit, the 99th Pursuit (later Fighter) Squadron, in March 1941. The first ground crew trained at Chanute Army Air Field (AAF), Ill., and pilots trained at Tuskegee. Eventually, black aviation mechanics, technicians and other flight crew were trained at Tuskegee and other technical training bases located throughout the country during the war.
Primary flight training took place in Tuskegee Institute's Division of Aeronautics at the school's Moton Field. Basic and advanced training and transition to military aircraft took place at nearby Tuskegee Army Air Field, which was officially established on July 23, 1941. Lt. Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Noel F. Parrish, a white officer, commanded the installation during most of the war. He was well respected by his troops for his tact and concern for the African American Airmen facing discrimination.
Moton Field -- Primary Flight Training for Tuskegee Airmen
Moton Field, Ala., provided the only primary flight training facility for student pilots who became the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Construction of Moton Field, named for the Tuskegee Institute's second president, Robert R. Moton, started in June 1941. By early November 1941, the first group of student pilots had completed their primary training and transferred to nearby Tuskegee Army Air Field to continue their flight instruction. Before it closed in 1946, almost 1,000 Tuskegee Airmen received their primary flight training at Moton Field in Stearman PT-13 and PT-17 Kaydets and Fairchild PT-19A Cornell aircraft.
In 1972, a large portion of the airfield was deeded to the city of Tuskegee for use as a municipal airport. In October 2008, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site opened at Moton Field, which recognized its significance as a place of national importance.
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