"A Perfect Record"

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"A Perfect Record"

by Stan Stokes

16" x 11 1/2"Lithograph Unframed
27" x 18" Giclee on Canvas Unframed
36" x 24" Giclee on Canvas Unframed
Signature Series Print only 225 Co-Signed By Charles McGee
16" x 11 1/2"Lithograph Unframed

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At the time of World War II there was still a great deal of prejudice in America, and this extended to all the branches of the military. Although black soldiers and seaman fought with dignity and bravery during WW I, many thought that blacks were incapable of handling difficult assignments. It was therefore with great uncertainty and trepidation that the Army Air Corps authorized the training of black pilots in 1941. The Air Corps proposed that a segregated training program be established. Judge William Hastie, Dean of the Howard University Law School, who was serving as a Civilian Assistant for Negro Affairs to the Secretary of War, protested about the segregated training, but his complaints were ignored. Hastie also proposed that the Army consider affiliating with the Tuskegee Institute which had already established a pilot training program. The Army allocated $1 million for the construction of the Tuskegee Army Air Field. The men sent to Tuskegee had to pass rigorous physical tests and pass nine weeks of ground school. They then received their basic flight instruction from instructors with the Civilian Instructor Corps. Those who passed moved on to more sophisticated military training for another seventy hours of flight time. A third phase of advanced training followed after which pilot cadets received their wings and were appointed to an initial rank of either 2nd Lieutenant or Flight Officer. Only about 60% of the cadets made it through the program, and many were killed or injured in flying accidents during training. Captain Noel Parish who oversaw much of the training at Tuskegee was a vocal supporter of the men under his command. Despite their ability to successfully handle the Air Corps training program, considerable hostility was still evident and the Army was reluctant to assign Tuskegee graduates to combat units. This created a difficult morale problem for those who had earned their wings and were now anxious to see combat. Finally, in the spring of 1943, the 99th Fighter Squadron headed for North Africa. In June of 1943 the 99th finally saw combat flying P-40s. On July 2 Lt. Charles Hall became the first black aviator to record an aerial victory in WW II. The 99th played an important role in preparing for the invasion of Sicily. The 332nd Fighter Group (under the command of then Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.) consisting of the 100th, 301st, and 302nd fighter squadrons entered combat in Italy flying P-39s in early 1944. By mid-1944 the Group was receiving P-47s, but in another about face the Air Corps quickly substituted P-51s. At this time the 99th FS was folded into the 332nd FG. From mid-1944 until the end of the War in Europe the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd FG flew an incredible number of missions. They generally escorted Fifteenth Air Force bombers on their attacks into Germany from bases in Italy. The red-tailed fighters of the 332nd FG had the distinction of having a perfect record – losing no escorted bombers to enemy fighter attack during the entire War. In Stan Stokes’ painting, the P-51 piloted by Charles E. McGee, who would also go on to fly combat missions in both Korea and Vietnam, is depicted over a Czech airfield on August 24, 1944. On this mission McGee would down an Fw-190.

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