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Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free

Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman and POW

Alexander Jefferson

Publication Year: 2005

This book is a rare and important gift. One of the few memoirs of combat in World War II by a distinguished African-American flier, it is also perhaps the only account of the African-American experience in a German prison camp.Alexander Jefferson was one of 32 Tuskegee Airmen from the 332nd Fighter Group to be shot down defending a country that considered them to be second-class citizens. A Detroit native, Jefferson enlisted in 1942, trained at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, became a second lieutenant in 1943, and joined one of the mostdecorated fighting units in the War, flying P51s with their legendary-and feared -red tails.Based in Italy, Jefferson flew bomber escort missions over southern Europe before being shot down in France in 1944. Captured, he spent the balance of the war in Luftwaffe prison camps in Sagan and Moosberg, Germany.In this vividly detailed, deeply personal book, Jefferson writes as a genuine American hero and patriot. It's an unvarnished look at life behind barbed wire- and what it meant to be an African-American pilot in enemy hands. It's also a look at race and democracy in America through the eyes of a patriot who fought toprotect the promise of freedom.The book features the sketches, drawings, and other illustrations Jefferson created during his nine months as a kriegie(POW) and Lewis Carlson's authoritative background to the man, his unit, and the fight Alexander Jefferson fought so well.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xx

I first met Alexander Jefferson in 1993 when I interviewed him for a book on World War II prisoners of war.1 He was one of thirty-two Tuskegee Airmen from the 332nd Fighter Group who was shot down defending a country that still considered blacks to be second-class citizens. He, like thousands of other African...

Alexander Jefferson Timeline

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pp. xxi-xxii

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pp. 1-4

Two World War II dates live in infamy for me. The first, December 7, 1941, I share with all my fellow citizens. The second is much more personal. On August 12, 1944, I was a proud member of the 332nd Fighter Group, later known as the Tuskegee Airmen. I was flying my P-51 on a strafing run over southern France. It...

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1 Detroit The Formative Years

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pp. 5-17

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, on November 15, 1921, the first child of Alexander Jefferson and Jane White Jefferson. My parents had only recently moved to Detroit from Atlanta, Georgia, because there were factory jobs to be had in the Motor City. They would have two more children, my sister...

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2 Clark College

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pp. 18-22

There was never any question about my attending college, and I had long known it would be Clark College, founded in 1869 by the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which later became the United Methodist Church. When I started college in 1938, Clark was still known as Clark University, but after it moved in 1941 to downtown...

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3 The Making of a Tuskegee Airman

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pp. 23-37

It was June 1942, there was a war on, and I was back home in Detroit after my graduation from Clark. I knew I was going to be drafted, but I had high hopes I would be able to join the Army Air Corps. Actually, blacks had been fighting for the right to join the Air Corps since World War I. Finally, on April 3, 1939, Public Law 18 called for an expansion of the Air Corps, including the authorization of...

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4 Combat

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pp. 38-50

The fifteen of us who graduated in Tuskegee Class 44-A were classified as replacement pilots for the 332nd Fighter Group. On June 3, 1944, we boarded a troopship bound for North Africa. Ironically, we black pilots were the only male officers who had our cabins above deck. There were thousands of enlisted personnel...

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5 Captured!

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pp. 51-62

On August 12, 1944, I was a pilot with the 301st Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, 15th Air Force. I was flying my nineteenth mission, which was to strafe and knock out radar stations at Toulon Harbor on the southern coast of France to prevent the Germans from detecting the Allied invasion ships, which three...

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6 Stalag Luft III

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pp. 63-98

I tried to look on my captivity as just one among many extraordinary experiences. The only time I really became frightened was during the three-day train ride from Dulag Luft to Stalag Luft III. Daniels, Macon, and I were again escorted by two German guards with rifles. When the train stopped in a small town, and...

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7 Stalag VIIA and Liberation

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pp. 99-107

When the Russian army started its final winter offensive through Poland and into Germany during the latter part of January 1945, temperatures were at record lows, with lots of snow on the ground. We knew from our radios and the cookhouse map that the Russians had taken Warsaw and Krakow and were advancing toward us. Then, on the evening of January 27, 1945, while we were...

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8 Civilian!

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pp. 108-118

After a stay of two days at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and a leave of ten days followed by processing and reassignment in Atlantic City, I was assigned on August 25, 1945, to the Tuskegee Army Air Field as an instrument instructor in advanced training. A few months later, I was given additional duties as a flying instructor...

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pp. 119-122

The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who volunteered to become America’s first black military airmen. As pioneers, we were determined to serve the United States of America proudly and to the best of our ability, even though many of our fellow citizens, fellow aviators, and commanding officers believed African Americans lacked intelligence, skill, courage, and...


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pp. 123-124

Selected Sources

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pp. 125-128


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pp. 129-134

World War II The Global, Human, and Ethical Dimension

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E-ISBN-13: 9780823248438
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823223664
Print-ISBN-10: 0823223663

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 811403348
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free

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Subject Headings

  • Jefferson, Alexander, 1921-.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Prisoners and prisons, German.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Participation, African American.
  • United States. Army Air Forces. Fighter Group, 332nd.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Aerial operations, American.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • Prisoners of war -- United States -- Biography.
  • Prisoners of war -- Germany -- Biography.
  • Fighter pilots -- United States -- Biography.
  • African American fighter pilots -- Biography.
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