Artifacts of the Tuskegee Airmen: America's First African American Combat Aviators

Take a journey through the history of America’s first African American World War II combat aviators known as the Tuskegee Airmen as we walk through the Frontiers of Flight Museum.

By Frontiers of Flight Museum

Tuskegee Airmen Artwork (1997) by John ShawFrontiers of Flight Museum

Located within the Museum’s World War II Gallery, is a permanent exhibit of artifacts dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. 

Tuskegee Airmen Interactive Display (2013) by Frontiers of Flight MuseumFrontiers of Flight Museum

This exhibit tells the story of how African American pilots and crews overcame racial prejudice at home to become one of America’s elite fighter units in history. 

Often misunderstood and looked down upon because of their race, American heavy bomber crews soon came to respect the Tuskegee “Red Tails” as they escorted them deep into the heart of Nazi-occupied Germany.  

WWII Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 Aircraft Engine

Arguably, the best piston aircraft engine ever built, the “Merlin” powered all Royal Air Force (RAF) front-line aircraft during World War II.

In 1942, the P-51 “Mustang’s” engine was replaced with the Merlin, greatly increasing its capabilities and making it one of the best fighter aircraft in history.

One group of aviators who flew the P-51 “Mustang” were the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces who served during World War II.

Engine used by Tuskegee Airmen during WWII

A superbly designed supercharged inline 12-cylinder engine, early models of the Merlin produced 900 hp and later over 1,200 hp. When merged with the sleek P-51 “Mustang” aircraft, the Tuskegee Airmen and other U.S. pilots reigned supreme in the skies over Germany during WWII.

Tuskegee Airmen Artwork

In the years following World War II, the exploits and achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen became legendary in the annals of military aviation history. 

The Museum proudly displays the historic story of the Tuskegee Airmen during WWII through numerous pieces of artwork, artifacts, and objects.

Red Tail Angels

Red Tail Angels by John Shaw. This rare limited edition lithograph shows a red tail Tuskegee Airmen P-51 “Mustang” protecting a B-24 “Liberator” as German fighter aircraft attack the bomber formation.

Beautifully-framed lithograph is surrounded by the autographs of many famous Tuskegee Airmen from WWII, including the commanding officer, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr, one of the first African Americans to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Tuskegee Airmen Interactive Geographic Chronology

Throughout the Museum are numerous interactive maps, which allow visitors to visually understand where historical events took place in the world. 

Tuskegee Airmen Interactive WWII Map of Europe

Included in the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit is an interactive map, which highlights the locations of Tuskegee Airfields and significant combat missions. 

This geographic chronology allows visitors the opportunity to explore the Tuskegee Airmen's progress throughout WWII in the European Theater.

Red Tails P-51 “Mustang” Model

Located within the Museum’s World War II gallery are numerous highly-detailed combat aircraft models representing Allied and Axis forces of the conflict. 

Many of the models are painted in the unique markings of famous World War II squadrons and aviators, including the Tuskegee Airmen.

Captain Roscoe Brown's P-51 Model

A highly-detailed P-51 model in the personal colors of Tuskegee Airman Captain Roscoe Brown. Capt. Brown was one of the first Tuskegee Airmen to shoot down an advanced Me-262 German jet fighter over Berlin in 1945.

In honor of his daughter, Capt. Brown named his aircraft “Bunnie” and flew with her name inscribed on the nose art of his P-51.

WWII Tuskegee Airmen Uniform

In the Museum’s WWII Gallery, an entire display is dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen. Among the artifacts are numerous commendations and medals from WWII Tuskegee Airmen and includes a complete dress uniform worn by a Tuskegee Airmen P-51 “Mustang” pilot in 1945.

Lt. Calvin Spann's WWII Dress Uniform

This WWII Army Air Corps dress uniform belonged to Lt. Calvin Spann, a P-51 pilot who flew 26 missions as a Tuskegee Airmen with the 332nd Fighter Group, 100th Fighter Squadron during WWII. Lt. 

Spann’s uniform includes his pilot wings and a Presidential Unit Citation awarded to all Tuskegee Airmen.

While flying a B-17 escort mission to Berlin on March 24, 1945, Lt. Spann and his squadron commander, Capt. Roscoe Brown, engaged a flight of German Me-262 fighter jets.

In an incredible feat of marksmanship, Capt. Brown downed an Me-262 with a long-range deflection shot and became the first American pilot to down one of the advanced German jets over Berlin during WWII.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps