EAA AirVenture Museum To Unveil Rare T-6 Trainer In ‘Salute To Tuskegee Airmen’
February 18, 2004 - The EAA AirVenture Museum commemorates a historic era in military aviation and wel comes a special new aircraft for display during a “Salute to Tuskegee Airmen” on Wednesday, February 25. The aircraft, a North American T-6 trainer on long-term loan from a private owner in Delaware, is especially significant because it is just one of two T-6 aircraft known to exist that were used by the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American pilots who battled discrimination to become one of the top American flying units in the European Theater. EAA will also welcome two original Tuskegee Airmen, Richard Macon and Robert Martin, to the museum for a special presentation on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the museum’s Eagle Hangar.
This presentation is free and open to the public. The two Tuskegee Airmen will also make presentations to school groups during the day, including groups from Milwaukee Public Schools, as part of Black History Month.
“The ability for the EAA AirVenture Museum to bring these two decorated pilots to Oshkosh, as well as this important and rare T-6 aircraft, is an incredibly significant highlight for EAA,” said Adam Smith, EAA AirVenture Museum Director. “It’s important that we all understand how the Tuskegee Airmen made one of the most substantial breakthroughs in American military history, and did so with courage, valor and dignity.”
The Tuskegee Airmen began in 1941, when the U.S. Army Air Corps started a program at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to train black Americans as military pilots. The first classes of Tuskegee airmen were trained to be fighter pilots for the famous 99th Fighter Squadron, slated for combat duty in North Africa. Additional pilots were assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, which flew combat along with the 99th Squadron from bases in Italy.
By the end of the war, 992 men had graduated from pilot training at Tuskegee, 450 of whom were sent overseas for combat assignment. During the same period, approximately 150 lost their lives while in training or on combat flights.
The Tuskegee Airmen became one of the most decorated units among the Army Air Corps, and were renowned for never losing a bomber they were assigned to protect on bombing missions.
Macon, who retired as a Captain, became a cadet in 1943 and graduated as a fighter pilot. He flew more than 16 missions in Europe and in August 1944, he was shot down over southern France, with his airplane crashing into a building used by the Germans as a headquarters, killing over 40 German officers and soldiers. Macon was captured and narrowly missed being shot by a firing squad, instead becoming a prisoner of war for nine months.
Martin, a Dubuque, Iowa, native was born in Dubuque, Iowa. He flew 63 missions with the 100th Fighter Squadron. In March 1945 he was shot down by ground fire over Yugoslavia and parachuted from the burning airplane. He was later rescued by Yugoslav partisans.
“We are delighted to have this airplane for temporary display, and particularly pleased to unveil it during Black History Month,” Smith said. “Our Museum has a dual purpose - to remember important lessons from aviation’s history, and recognize the contributions of outstanding individuals. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen helps us do both.”
(The other known authentic Tuskegee T-6, Double Vee, is owned by EAA member Steve Cowell. The plane was displayed at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2001 and was the subject of an article in the July 2002 edition of Sport Aviation.)
The Feb. 25 evening presentation featuring Macon and Martin will also be available via the Internet on the EAA Members-Only web site.
The EAA AirVenture Museum is located just off Highway 41 at the Highway 44 exit in Oshkosh. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the EAA AirVenture Museum at (920) 426-4818 or visit www.airventuremuseum.org.