The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in American military history. They faced discrimination and segregation at home but in the skies of Europe, they became one of the most successful and feared fighter units as they escorted bombers on raids in Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Germany.
As Dan discovers in this episode just becoming a Tuskegee Airmen was a dangerous business and several pilots were killed on training exercises in the USA. Two pilots went down over the waters of the Port Huron region during WWII. Flight Officer Nathaniel Rayburn died on Dec. 12, 1943, when he crashed into the St. Clair River near Algonac. Second Lt. Frank Moody died on April 11, 1944, when his plane crashed into Lake Huron. In this episode, we hear about a fascinating project to recover the wreckage of one of these downed planes and erect a memorial to honour those pilots who gave their lives whilst training to become Tuskegee Airmen. Dan speaks to Wayne Lusardi, State Underwater Archaeologist for Michigan and Erik Denson, Lead Instructor with Diving With a Purpose, about their important archaeological work.
You will also hear from Col Harry Stewart Jr one of the last surviving Tuskegee airmen. They discuss his experiences of dogfights in the skies over Europe during World War Two, the discrimination he and his colleagues faced, the progress that he has seen in his lifetime and what it was like to get back into the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang after 70 years.