2:30 PM EDT

Tom Cole, R-OK 4th

Mr. COLE. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 417) honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and their contribution in creating an integrated United States Air Force, the world's foremost Air and Space Supremacy Force.

2:31 PM EDT

Tom Cole, R-OK 4th

Mr. COLE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honor for me to request consideration of H. Con. Res. 417 because this resolution honors a remarkable group of African Americans who played a pivotal role in the military history of our country. They are not the only segregated unit to do so, of course. The 54th Massachusetts during the Civil War, the 9th and 10th Buffalo Calvary, which were honored with the name Buffalo Soldiers by their native American adversaries in the latter part of the 19th century, a group which

constructed Fort Sill in my own district and won lasting fame there. And of course more recently, the 761st Tank Battalion whose exploits have been chronicled in a fine volume by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But today, we are here to honor the Tuskegee Airmen who with their professionalism, their skill, and courage not only made an important contribution to fighting tyranny during the Second World War but also helped to forge the United States Air Force into the world's dominant air and space team.

On July 19, 1941, the Army Air Force began a program in Alabama at the Tuskegee Institute to train African Americans as military pilots. The primary flight training was conducted by the Division of Aeronautics at the institute founded by Booker T. Washington, and the transition to combat aircraft was conducted at nearby Tuskegee Army Airfield.

The first group of pilots completed training 9 months later in March 1942. Among that vanguard group was then-Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., a future living legend in the Air Force who went on to become one of its greatest leaders. In the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1999, the Congress authorized the President to advance Lieutenant General Davis to the grade of General on the retired list of the United States Air Force.

That initial group of Tuskegee pilots was assigned to the famous 99th Fighter Squadron, which was eventually deployed on May 31, 1943, to fly P-40 Warhawks in combat missions in North Africa, Sicily, and throughout Italy. Later Tuskegee graduates were assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group and began overseas combat operations in Italy flying the P-40 and P-39 Airacobra.

Before the war ended, the Tuskegee program had graduated 992 pilots and 450 Tuskegee Airmen had flown over 15,000 combat sorties overseas. Approximately 150 men had been killed over the course of the program, with 66 killed in action. The combat record of these segregated units was superb. They destroyed or damaged 136 enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat and another 273 on the ground. They were highly decorated with over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses being awarded to African American pilots.

The most impressive achievement of the 332nd Fighter Group was flying over 200 bomber escort missions over Central and Southern Europe without losing a single bomber to enemy aircraft. This unprecedented record was not lost on enemy fighter pilots who often elected to avoid attacking bomber formations when they realized that the fighter escort was the Red Tail fighters of the 332nd.

The challenges confronted by the Tuskegee Airmen were not limited to the wartime skies over Europe. Each of these men proudly met all challenges with skill and determination when racism and bigotry had caused lesser men to harass them and to seek their failure. There are a number of ways for men to display courage in their lives, but seldom are men confronted with as many tests of courage as were the Tuskegee Airmen; and very few men can claim as successful and enduring a legacy as they.

These combat pioneers distinguished themselves throughout their service in war and peace and over time redefined America's understanding of African Americans as warriors and leaders and set the stage for the racially integrated Air Force that achieved so much in the years to follow.

Mr. Speaker, I commend the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Porter) for introducing this resolution. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to address the House on this issue and recognize the contributions of Tuskegee Airmen to America.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

2:31 PM EDT

Jon Porter, R-NV 3rd

Mr. PORTER. Mr. Speaker, the storied history of our Nation's Armed Forces was written by the great men and women who served our country with honor and bravery. This past weekend, we celebrated the commemoration of a monument to World War II honoring all military veterans of the war, citizens on the home front, the Nation at large, and the high moral purpose and idealism that motivated our Nation's call to arms. In my home State of Nevada, I had the honor of spending Memorial Day at several events

honoring veterans, many of whom served during World War II.

Among the most courageous of all those who served our country was a group of men who defied both fascism abroad and racism at home while establishing a record as one of the most successful fighting units in American history.

The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of dedicated and determined young men who enlisted to become America's first African American airmen. These airmen were trained at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama, beginning in 1941. Over the course of their service during World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves over the skies of Europe.

Airmen trained at Tuskegee received two Presidential Unit citations for outstanding tactical air support and aerial combat, and they established the incredible and unprecedented record of flying more than 200 bomber escort missions without the loss of a single bomber to enemy aircraft. The outstanding record of these men was accomplished while fighting two wars, one against military forces overseas and the other against racism both at home and abroad.

Over the course of World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen returned home with some of our Nation's highest military honors, including 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 744 Air Medals, eight Purple Hearts, and 14 Bronze Stars. In addition, these brave pilots destroyed more than 1,000 German aircraft.

Many Americans became aware of the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen from the 1995 feature film starring Lawrence Fishburn called ``The Tuskegee Airmen.'' My first personal experience with these fine men came through a former member of my staff, Traci Scott, now serving with the Pentagon in Baghdad, whose father served with the Airmen, Captain Jesse H. Scott. After hearing his story, I wanted to do something special to honor this brave and honored group of soldiers.

Captain Scott was an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen. In fact, he was so eager to join that he lied about his age to get accepted. As he progressed through flight training, Captain Scott learned he was color blind and went on to serve on the ground crew of General Ben Davis. Captain Scott passed away in the year 2000, and he is honored being buried in Arlington Cemetery.

I am proud to offer a resolution in honor of Captain Scott and honoring [Page: H3550]

the Tuskegee Airmen for their contributions to our Nation and the example they continue to offer us today.

I also had the opportunity to meet with Mr. George Sherman, another former Tuskegee Airman, who now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was privileged to spend the morning with Mr. Sherman and his son as he shared with me firsthand accounts of what it was like to be a Tuskegee Airman. Mr. Sherman's memories and photos provided a small glimpse into the life of these men and how their life was led. Mr. Sherman and his son now travel to various schools sharing the story of the Tuskegee Airmen and are

also actively involved in the Young Eagles program encouraging students to become more involved in aviation.

As a Tuskegee Airman, George Sherman gained a lifelong love of aviation, and today he continues to share that love as he passes his knowledge and experience to new generations.

I urge Members to join in recognizing the accomplishments of this unique group of American heroes as our Nation engages in combating terrorism around the world. We rely upon the global reach and the presence provided by our Air Force. Mr. Speaker, the example set by the Tuskegee Airmen encouraged millions of Americans of every race to pursue careers in space and air technology. The Tuskegee Airmen proved that skill and determination, not skin color, are the determining factors in aviation.

2:36 PM EDT

Vic Snyder, D-AR 2nd

Mr. SNYDER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of House Concurrent Resolution 417, introduced by the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Porter). This resolution recognizes and honors the Tuskegee Airmen for their contribution in World War II that led to the creation of an integrated United States Air Force.

The Tuskegee Airmen not only faced the dangers of war but they did so in the face of prejudice and discrimination back home. Prior to 1940, African Americans were denied the opportunity to fly military aircraft. However, after pressure from civil rights organizations and others, the Army Air Force began a program to train African Americans as military pilots. The so-called ``Tuskegee Experiment'' began on July 19, 1941, at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The institute, founded by Booker T.

Washington in 1881, provided the primary flight training for the first fighter pilots and became the center of African American aviation during World War II.

The Tuskegee Airmen included not only fighter pilots but also navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support personnel that provided support for the famed 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group.

I think of one of my constituents, Mr. Milton Crenshaw from Arkansas, who was one of the pilot instructors. In 1939, he took a bus from Little Rock to Tuskegee, a young, African American man seeking a career in car engineering at the Tuskegee Institute only to be drawn into the excitement of flight. He became one of the few African American pilot instructors in America and taught numerous Tuskegee Airmen of the 99th Fighter Wing how to fly. The 99th Fighter Squadron, led by the late General Ben

Davis, was originally sent to North Africa but moved to the European continent and flew over Anzio in 1944. The 99th held the record of 200 combat missions without losing a single bomber to enemy fire.

The men and women who were part of the Tuskegee experience proved that service, duty, and country were not limited by the color of a person's skin, but that all Americans regardless of race could succeed through hard work, dedication, and commitment. While their training occurred under a segregated condition, their focus was on the goal of all pilots regardless of race: avoidance of abrupt and surprising contact with Mother Earth.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

2:38 PM EDT

Tom Cole, R-OK 4th

Mr. COLE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honor for me to request consideration of H. Con. Res. 417 because this resolution honors a remarkable group of African Americans who played a pivotal role in the military history of our country. They are not the only segregated unit to do so, of course. The 54th Massachusetts during the Civil War, the 9th and 10th Buffalo Calvary, which were honored with the name Buffalo Soldiers by their native American adversaries in the latter part of the 19th century, a group which

constructed Fort Sill in my own district and won lasting fame there. And of course more recently, the 761st Tank Battalion whose exploits have been chronicled in a fine volume by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But today, we are here to honor the Tuskegee Airmen who with their professionalism, their skill, and courage not only made an important contribution to fighting tyranny during the Second World War but also helped to forge the United States Air Force into the world's dominant air and space team.

On July 19, 1941, the Army Air Force began a program in Alabama at the Tuskegee Institute to train African Americans as military pilots. The primary flight training was conducted by the Division of Aeronautics at the institute founded by Booker T. Washington, and the transition to combat aircraft was conducted at nearby Tuskegee Army Airfield.

The first group of pilots completed training 9 months later in March 1942. Among that vanguard group was then-Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., a future living legend in the Air Force who went on to become one of its greatest leaders. In the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1999, the Congress authorized the President to advance Lieutenant General Davis to the grade of General on the retired list of the United States Air Force.

That initial group of Tuskegee pilots was assigned to the famous 99th Fighter Squadron, which was eventually deployed on May 31, 1943, to fly P-40 Warhawks in combat missions in North Africa, Sicily, and throughout Italy. Later Tuskegee graduates were assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group and began overseas combat operations in Italy flying the P-40 and P-39 Airacobra.

Before the war ended, the Tuskegee program had graduated 992 pilots and 450 Tuskegee Airmen had flown over 15,000 combat sorties overseas. Approximately 150 men had been killed over the course of the program, with 66 killed in action. The combat record of these segregated units was superb. They destroyed or damaged 136 enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat and another 273 on the ground. They were highly decorated with over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses being awarded to African American pilots.

The most impressive achievement of the 332nd Fighter Group was flying over 200 bomber escort missions over Central and Southern Europe without losing a single bomber to enemy aircraft. This unprecedented record was not lost on enemy fighter pilots who often elected to avoid attacking bomber formations when they realized that the fighter escort was the Red Tail fighters of the 332nd.

The challenges confronted by the Tuskegee Airmen were not limited to the wartime skies over Europe. Each of these men proudly met all challenges with skill and determination when racism and bigotry had caused lesser men to harass them and to seek their failure. There are a number of ways for men to display courage in their lives, but seldom are men confronted with as many tests of courage as were the Tuskegee Airmen; and very few men can claim as successful and enduring a legacy as they.

These combat pioneers distinguished themselves throughout their service in war and peace and over time redefined America's understanding of African Americans as warriors and leaders and set the stage for the racially integrated Air Force that achieved so much in the years to follow.

Mr. Speaker, I commend the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Porter) for introducing this resolution. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to address the House on this issue and recognize the contributions of Tuskegee Airmen to America.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

2:43 PM EDT

Danny Davis, D-IL 7th

Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Porter) for introducing this legislation. [Page: H3551]

It just happens that yesterday I spent part of the morning with several former, and one is never a former Tuskegee Airman, with several Tuskegee Airmen as we gathered, as we do every Memorial Day, at the Oakwood Cemetery in Chicago, to pay tribute to veterans and especially to our former mayor, Harold Washington. Of course, we got wet in the rain because these guys would never quit until they accomplished what they set out to do.

All African Americans that I know take great pride in Tuskegee Institute, the institution founded by Booker Washington; but they take even greater pride in the exploits of this group of airmen who learned to fly, many of whom had no idea as they were growing up that they would get an opportunity to sail like a bird across the sky.

[Time: 14:45]

I have been fortunate to interact with the Dodo Chapter, and one of my most prized possessions is a jacket that they gave me one year that I still have, because every year we also honor African American women who pioneered in aviation. I am also fortunate because every year I have a picnic and parade for kids to go back to school, and the Tuskegee Airmen always fly a formation across the site of our picnic. So I say thanks to them on a very personal basis.

My good friend Roy Chappell was president of the Dodo Chapter for a number of years; Mr. Rufus Hunt is their historian; and, yes, they have created and provide a great legacy; and they teach young African American children how to fly.

I have been able to send a large number of youngsters, and they take them, and they used to use Meigs Field until it was closed, and now they use the airport in Gary, Indiana, and they take these young inner-city children for their first ride in an airplane. So I salute their past exploits, but I also commend them for what they are doing today to continue this great legacy and this great tradition.

2:47 PM EDT

Ike Skelton, D-MO 4th

Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. Snyder) for yielding me time.

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to support this resolution honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and their valuable contribution to the United States of America.

During the Second World War, the Army Air Force, as it was then known, and now, of course, known as the United States Air Force, played a vital role in achieving allied victory, particularly in Europe. With their superior aviation skills and with courage in the face of danger, the men who flew for the Army Air Force demonstrated the true meaning of honor.

While World War II was being fought to provide human dignity and freedom to millions of people there on the European continent, here at home there were millions of people prevented on a daily basis from exercising full freedom and full equality.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first to break that cycle in the military and to emerge as highly qualified pilots in the United States. They proved that race does not matter, they proved that where you come from does not matter, and it does not matter whether anyone else thinks you are capable. The only thing that matters is that you devote yourself to your talents and let history take it from there, and that is just what happened. As a matter of fact, the Tuskegee Airmen, in escorting bombers

on to the European continent, never lost a bomber that they were escorting; and they were sought after by the bomber pilots because of their tremendous record and tremendous skill.

The Tuskegee Airmen led the way in opening doors for people from all races and all walks of life to follow their dreams of aviation and military service. Of course, I am very pleased that it was our own Missourian, Harry S. Truman, who integrated the Armed Forces in 1948 after this very positive effort by the Tuskegee Airmen during the Second World War.

As highly skilled pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen made great contributions to the fields of military air as well as space technology. The Nation owes these men a debt of gratitude for having the courage to stand up for something in which they believed and for forcing the rest of the Nation to look past its prejudices and truly appreciate the skills and loyalty with which they served our Nation. I am honored to stand here today and support this important resolution.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, on two occasions I had the honor of being with Tuskegee Airmen. The first was a dinner where I was the Speaker at an event at then Richards Gebaur Air Force Base south of Kansas City, where Tuskegee Airmen from all across the country were honored; and another time at Ramstein Air Force Base, where a leader of that group was honored at a luncheon. So it is with great pride that I am here to speak in favor of this resolution.