Double V

Double V: The Civil Rights Struggle of the Tuskegee Airmen

Lawrence P. Scott
William M. Womack
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    Double V
    Book Description:

    On April 12, 1945, the United States Army Air Force arrested 101 of its African American officers. They were charged with disobeying a direct order from a superior officer-a charge that could carry the death penalty upon conviction. They were accused of refusing to sign an order that would have placed them in segregated housing and recreational facilities. Their plight was virtually ignored by the press at the time, and books written about the subject did not detail the struggle these aviators underwent to win recognition of their civil rights.The central theme ofDouble Vis the promise held out to African American military personnel that service in World War II would deliver to them a double victory-a "double V"-over tyranny abroad and racial prejudice at home. The book's authors, Lawrence P. Scott and William M. Womack Sr., chronicle for the first time, in detail, one of America's most dramatic failures to deliver on that promise. In the course of their narrative, the authors demonstrate how the Tuskegee airmen suffered as second-class citizens while risking their lives to serve their country. Among the contributions made by this work is a detailed examination of how 101 Tuskegee airmen, by refusing to live in segregated quarters, triggered one of the most significant judicial proceedings in U.S. military history.Double Vuses oral accounts and heretofore unused government documents to portray this little-known struggle by one of America's most celebrated flying units.In addition to providing background material about African American aviators before World War II. the authors also demonstrate how the Tuskegee airmen's struggle foretold dilemmas faced by the civil rights movement in the second half of the 20th century.Double Vis destined to become an important contribution in the rapidly growing body of civil rights literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-87013-953-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Benjamin L. Hooks

    Although the subject of this poem was the Arican-American soldier in World War I, its relevance rings true for the Arican-American soldier who, in World War II, risked his life fighting in foreign lands for the freedom of others while democracy escaped him in the land of his birth.

    The members of the African-American Pursuit Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, and 477th Bombardment Group, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen, felt the great sting of this paradox. Despite the handicap of racial segregation and the denial of basic rights granted to all Americans under the Constitution, these young men became mathematicians,...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    As America mourned the death of President Roosevelt on 12 April 1945, another tragic event, which occurred the same day, went completely unnoticed. The U.S. Army Air Force, in a move unprecedented in the history of the U.S. Army, arrested 101 African American pilots, navigators and bombardiers for disobeying a direct order from a superior officer. The officers were charged with violating the 64th Article of War—a crime that, in wartime, carried a penalty of death upon conviction. The 101 officers had risked their lives by refusing to sign an order that would have placed them in segregated housing...

  5. Chapter 1 By Any Means Necessary
    (pp. 5-24)

    Plans for war defined the waves of national enthusiasm that swept over the European peoples during the summer of 1914. Soon after the events at Sarajevo, governments mobilized their massive military resources and prepared to defeat their respective enemies. Most Europeans thought the conflict would be over in a matter of months; almost none foresaw a struggle that would drag on for four long years, that emperors and kings would be dethroned or that millions of lives would be sacrificed on the battlefield.

    The handful of Americans living in France found themselves in a precarious situation. Notwithstanding the fact that...

  6. Chapter 2 Phoenix
    (pp. 25-34)

    Even the racism and segregation in Chicago that precipitated the riots of 1919 could not stop a twenty-six-year-old Negro manicurist and chili parlor owner from chasing her dream of becoming a pilot. Like Eugene Bullard, Bessie Coleman was a forward thinker who embraced the new and dangerous vocation of aviation at a time when Negroes and women, and especially, Negro women, were not taken seriously. Like Bullard, Ms. Coleman’s achievements were obscured by geography and racism. Ms. Coleman’s success was also limited by a short lifespan, and by sexism. Bessie Coleman died in a plane accident in 1926.

    Bessie Coleman...

  7. Chapter 3 Giant Steps
    (pp. 35-60)

    The early thirties were painful years for many American citizens. For Negroes, however, they were even more so—it was physically unhealthy and psychologically debilitating even to survive in America. Even more remarkable, then, were the survival tactics and the resiliency exhibited by the Negro community. The hard times developed men and women of character and daring, individuals who pushed at life’s outer seams and frontiers to achieve freedom. This was especially true of those who wanted to fly airplanes.

    There were several individual Negro men and women who performed daring feats as pilots, parachutists, and wingwalkers for Negro crowds....

  8. Chapter 4 The Movement
    (pp. 61-76)

    Remarkably, in 1936, there were over one hundred licensed Negro airplane pilots.¹ Chicago, with over 30 percent of the Negro licensed pilots in the country, continued to be the center of Negro aviation. These forward-thinking men and women of the Challenger Air Pilots Association, led by the experienced Cornelius Coffey, were of the best the Chicago area could offer. By late 1937, the Challengers had thirty-five members, several of whom had private pilots licenses, limited commercial licenses, and amateur licenses. Coffey and Dr. Earl Renfroe had transport licenses, the highest rated license. The club also owned five airplanes and leased...

  9. Chapter 5 The Negro Aviator and the Military
    (pp. 77-106)

    By 1937, the threatening Nazi movement displayed aggression by overtaking Austria, the Japanese invaded Manchuria and Indochina, the Italians occupied Ethiopia, and the Axis pact was signed by all three countries. The colonizing countries of Western Europe, particularly France and England, began to prepare for war.¹ Although the contiguous United States was not immediately vulnerable to attack from Axis members, it had a vested interest in its Negro “protectorates,” such as the Philippines, Hawaii, Midway Island, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, and Liberia.² In response to the aggression of the Axis powers, the War Department secretly devised a troop mobilization...

  10. Chapter 6 America Prepares for War: African Americans Not Wanted
    (pp. 107-146)

    After Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, and World War II was declared in Europe, the Roosevelt administration knew that American involvement was a strong possibility. Although the United States’s official stance was one of neutrality, its actions aligned it with England and France and pitted it against Germany. An Asian war had broken out one year prior and the neutral United States curried favor with China, which strained relations between the United States and Japan. The Roosevelt administration permitted the sale of war materials and equipment, including fighter planes, such as the Curtis Wright P-40, to England and...

  11. Chapter 7 The Experiment: The “Smoke Screen”
    (pp. 147-184)

    In late 1940, after several months as civilian aide to the secretary of war, Judge Hastie had the opportunity to review the Army Air Corps National Defense Plan and its employment of Negro troops. Initially, Hastie objected to the utilization of racial segregation in the Air Corps plan for the employment of Negroes in aviation squadrons. Hastic viewed the Tuskegee training site as a wasteful and an expensive use of limited human and economic resources that were already available at existing air bases and training centers. In addition, Hastie reported that higher morale could be established if Negroes and whites...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. Chapter 8 War on Two Fronts
    (pp. 185-262)

    An unsuspecting Colonel Davis received orders on 2 September 1943 to return to the United States to train and command the all-black 332nd Fighter Group stationed at Selfridge Air Base, near Detroit. Davis had harbored no illusions about commanding a fighter group. He was painfully aware of his role, and that of his men, as subjects in an experiment, closely scrutinized by the Army Air Force, War Department, and black America. He and his men knew of the potential impact of the evaluation of the experiment. From the outset, the 332nd was commanded by white officers. Colonel Davis and his...

  14. Chapter 9 Beyond the Call of Duty
    (pp. 263-270)

    Several men of the 332nd Fighter Group were involved in heroic actions. A few of these men served beyond the call of duty, in self-sacrificing deeds, even to the extent of losing the limited personal freedom allowed a Negro in the Army Air Corps.

    During the preparation for the invasion of southern France, in August 1944, the four squadrons were ordered to strafe the coastal radar sites that the Germans would use to detect invading aircraft. The 332nd Intelligence knew that if the radar installation were destroyed, allied armies and air force units could attack with little or no opposition...

  15. Chapter 10 Epilogue: Before the Brown Decision
    (pp. 271-292)

    With the end of hostilities in Europe, the men of the 332nd came home to segregated reception centers and local separation stations. There were no New York ticker-tape parades, such as those given in honor of the Negro soldiers of World War I, and no marching through Manhattan.

    At that time in America, in 1945, Negro soldiers and veterans of World War II were not wanted, and were mistreated by white civilians, especially in the South, and not wanted by, or protected by, the military. There were several instances of mob and attacks on Negro soldiers and their families that...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 293-302)
  17. Index
    (pp. 303-322)