Black History Month: Remembering the Tuskegee Airmen

Long before the America we know , a group of fighters were determined to help the United States win World War II, but they nearly wiped completely from history.

"They wanted to make sure that their stories would never be forgotten and that's why they formed the organization of the Tuskegee Airmen," said Bertha Elfalan, wife to late Tuskegee airmen Jose Rizal Elfalan.

Almost unable to join the war effort in the 1940s because of something out of their control, the color of their skin.

"They were fighting two wars, one overseas and one at home to be equal," said Elfalan.

Among them Jose Elfalan.

Jose Elfalan, grew up next to an airfield in Louisville, Kentucky, loving what he saw soaring above him in the sky.

"He would jump on his bike when he saw them coming and fly out, run out to the airfield to watch the planes taking off and landing," said Bertha Elfalan.

At first it was just a dream that did not seem possible in a country of extreme racism.

"They were actually asking the question could black people fly planes?" said David Elfalan, Jose's son.

Following pressure from activists and political groups, black men were finally able to join the military in 1941.

Jose Elfalan, decided to join but segregation in the military was still very real.

"You're classed as a second-class citizen meaning that you're not as good as these people and you don't even deserve to go fight for your country and they had to prove, they had to prove that they were good enough to fight for their country," said David Elfalan.

Bertha Elfalan remembering well, what her late husband said it was like to be a black pilot, even off the base.

"After dark you were free meat for the Klan, the police, anyone," she said while reading from a Tuskegee newspaper.

"They ran into signs on restrooms that said black and white," said Bertha Elfalan. "They were offended."

"I asked him upfront I said well why would you want to go fight for a country that disrespects you so much? They said compared to what the nazis were doing america is a great country," said David Elfalan.

His father and the rest of the black airmen trained hard, they had a war to fight but also a truth to prove.

"They really went through rigorous, rigorous training to make sure they were ready to fly and not disgrace their race," said Bertha Elfalan.

Among the Tuskegee airmen there were several fighting groups.

Jose Elfalan was part of the 477th bombardment group.

He was ready to fight, but just before he could, something happened.

"Two weeks before they were supposed to be shipped over there, Truman drop the bomb and of course the war ended," said David Elfalan.

Even though his dad never made it to the battlefield, he had fought.

"They opened the door for blacks to participate in every, every aspect of the military," said Bertha Elfalan.

Jose Elfalan's youngest son, said they will be remembered.

 "We are proud of their accomplishments," said Donald Elfalan. "They didn't have the best equipment, they didn't have the best airplanes but they were so determined and so proud. It just makes me extremely proud that my father was a part of that," he said.


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