Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WondTeam. WondTeam Wonders, “What were the Tuskegee Airmen known for?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WondTeam!

Look, up in the sky! Is it a bird? A plane? Yes, it’s definitely a plane! Many kids love to watch planes soar above them. Where might those planes be headed? Maybe they’re taking people on vacation to Australia. Perhaps they’re carrying businesspeople to Tokyo. Or maybe they’re full of soldiers headed to serve their country in a foreign land.

Those who serve in the military do so for many reasons. Many are full of patriotic pride and want to serve their nation in any way they can. However, not everyone has always had that option. Before 1940, African Americans were not allowed to fly for the U.S. military. This was due to laws that allowed discrimination against them.

With the help of civil rights groups, this changed. Starting with World War II, African Americans were able to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps. That was the military branch that came before today’s Air Force. This brought the beginning of a program called the “Tuskegee Experiment.”

The Tuskegeee Experiment trained African Americans to fly combat airplanes. The soldiers in the program were called the Tuskegee Airmen. This group included all the people needed to keep the planes flying. There were pilots, navigators, mechanics, and others.

The Tuskegee Airmen became the first African American pilots to fly for the U.S. military. They were officially the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They served bravely in World War II, destroying 261 enemy planes and earning 850 medals between them.

What kind of aircraft did the Tuskegee Airmen fly?  They were most closely associated with one plane: the P-51 Mustang. The pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their planes red. This led to their common nickname: the “Red Tails.”

In 1998, President Clinton signed Public Law 105-355. This set up the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. It’s still open today in Tuskegee, Alabama. The museum honors the courage and hard work of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Today. the U.S. military is no longer divided by race. Instead, people from all walks of life have the chance to serve if they choose to. Do you know anyone in the military? Are you interested in joining one day? Maybe you could become a pilot and follow in the steps of the Tuskegee Airmen themselves!

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, C3.D2.His.3, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.W.9

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