Airmen were the first pilots of African-American descent to be trained
as military aviators in the United States Army Air Corp. Nearly 1,000
African-American pilots were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.
Despite the early obstacles these Airmen encountered, 445 saw combat
as pilots overseas in the European Theater of Operations, North Africa,
and the Mediterranean during World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen were
referred to as "Red Tails" because they painted the tails of their planes
a brilliant red as a means of easy identification. They compiled an
outstanding combat record by flying nearly 1,600 missions in which they
destroyed over 250 enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground. Records
show that while serving as bomber escorts, they never lost a bomber
to enemy fighters. These airmen also destroyed 45 enemy trains while
damaging another 69. The Tuskegee Airmen won more than 850 medals including
the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation, the highest award that
can be given a military unit.