Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. i-vi

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. vii-viii

read more

Foreword

Lewis H. Carlson

pdf iconDownload PDF

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 32 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 Americans, including 992 Tuskegee Airmen, had fought against Hitler’s racism in a military so segregated that even its blood plasma was separated by race....

read more

Preface to the Revised Edition

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xxi-xxii

Even before the United States officially declared war after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S. War Department began setting up an “experimental,” albeit segregated base, as were all American units at the time, to train black pilots. Headquartered at Tuskegee, Alabama, in the heart of the Old Confederacy, the camp officially opened on July 23, 1941. By war’s end, 992 African American pilots had graduated and fought for their country against the Axis Powers. In 1947, this so-called experiment ended, and Tuskegee closed its doors....

Alexander Jefferson Timeline

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xxiii-xxviii

read more

Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF

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 was my nineteenth and final mission.
For the next nine months, I was a guest of the Third Reich. Actually, I was a Kriegie, which stands for Kriegsgefangener (prisoner of war). I was not held prisoner as long as many others were, but conditions were sufficiently challenging that I needed...

read more

1. Detroit: The Formative Years

pdf iconDownload PDF

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, Emma, who was born on March 25, 1925, and my brother, Clarence, born on November 7, 1930....

read more

2. Clark College

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 18-22

There was never any question about my attending college, and I had long known that it would be Clark College, founded in 1869 by the Freedmen’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 Atlanta, across the street from Atlanta University and Morehouse College, it became Clark College. In 1988, the official name became Clark Atlanta University....

read more

3. The Making of a Tuskegee Airman

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 23-39

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 programs in black colleges to train African Americans for Air Corps support services. Then, on January 16, 1941, the War Department contracted with Tuskegee Institute to train black pilots for what would become the 99th Fighter Squadron. This was during my junior year at...

read more

4. Combat

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 40-54

The 15 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 below deck, and their officers were with them. A contingency of 20 white nurses also had their cabins topside, right across the corridor from us. We visited, sunbathed, and ate together, and a good time was had by all....

read more

5. Captured!

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 55-67

If the war had not come along, I would have been a graduate of Howard University and probably working for the U.S. Post Office because at the time, that was the only future for a black male, except perhaps becoming a preacher, lawyer, or doctor. The hand and dog tags depicted in my drawing represent the many strands of my life in 1944. The first dog tag under the hand, which represents a cadet, was for my training in Alabama. The next down, the tag of an officer, was for my combat flying over Italy. The bottom tag, which can be broken in half to make two, was for becoming a German POW. The dangling question mark suggested my uncertain future....

read more

6. Stalag Luft III

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 68-108

Of course, this was a caricature, as every man in the camp was honored to have been able to fly and get his wings. Flying had been an ongoing fascination with me my entire life. I clearly remembered Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic, the Great Zeppelin flying over Detroit, and the whole phenomenon of flight during the late 1930s and early 1940s. I read every comic book and magazine that had anything to do with flight and constructed all kinds of model airplanes. I even drew the plans and built a model of a super English float plane with a 49-inch wing span. The actual plane had held the world speed record in 1933. I was so fascinated by planes that I even skipped...

read more

7. Stalag VIIA and Liberation

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 109-118

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 Kraków and were advancing toward us. Then, on the evening of January 27, 1945, while we were watching the play You Can’t Take It with You, put on by our fellow prisoners in the camp theater, Colonel Goodrich came in and announced that we had 30 minutes to pack up and be ready to evacuate the camp....

read more

8. Civilian!

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 119-132

After a stay of two days at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and a leave of 10 days followed by processing and reassignment in Atlantic City, I was assigned on August 25, 1945, to the Tuskegee Army Airfield as an instrument instructor in advanced training. A few months later, I was given additional duties as a flying instructor. I was making the princely sum of $250 per month, and life at postwar Tuskegee was absolute heaven. I loved flying during the day and partying most of the rest of the time.
Then one day I noticed a gorgeous bit of Alabama pulchritude flitting up and down the flight line. Her name was Adella Tucker McDonald, and she was a parachute...

read more

Postscript

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 133-154

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 that African Americans lacked intelligence, skill, courage, and patriotism.
On the training fields at Tuskegee, we were motivated to excel in everything we did, and that “push to excellence” is as valid today as it was when we were trying to prove to a doubting country that our commitment, skills, and determination matched, and...

Appendix

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 155-156

Selected Sources

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 157-162

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 163-172