Tuskegee Airmen heroism recognized in Hampton Roads

By Da’Reinn M. Stevens

HAMPTON, Va. – More than 60 years after a group of courageous black men fought pivotal World War II battles, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen has hit the big screen, Hollywood style.

On Jan. 20, Cinebistro at the Peninsula Town Center along with the Tidewater chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen and NASA, all partnered for the premier of “Red Tails.” Many students, senior citizens, and military personal attended the event to support the members in attendance.

The ceremony began with the singing of the National Anthem by Retired Master Sgt. Ezra Hill, followed by brief introductions.

Hampton Roads is home to four of the original airmen – two, including Hill, were present.

After the opening ceremony, people filed into the theater to view the film before its official release in the afternoon. Everyone was ready to experience what those very men went through based on “Star Wars” director George Lucas’ Hollywood treatment.

The movie began with a 1925 U.S. Army War College study concluding blacks were “mentally inferior” to other American soldiers in wars. The quote took all viewers back to a time of segregation in the United States.

The year was 1944, the place was Italy and the enemies were the Nazis.

Throughout the film, you could hear the Tuskegee Airmen when Col. A.J. Bullard, played by actor Terrance Howard, would stand up to the brass in support of his men.

“The film was amazing because it displayed how hard Negro airmen had to fight through countless adversities just to be treated equally” said Sean Moore, a Hampton University aviation student.

Following the movie, Tidewater chapter President T.J. Spann hosted a question- and answer- session with Tuskegee Airmen Grant Williams and MSG Hill. Although neither man was a pilot – they served in support units – they still played important parts in the war.

“It was very hard for Americans to accept black pilots,” said Williams, “and that didn’t change until the war was over.” Williams also said the movie did a good job of showing the friendship and partnership among the men.

At the end of the session, the men let the audience know that there were 18 women who served as nurses during the war and are too part of the Tuskegee Airmen.

While the women weren’t depicted in the film, they still held a special place in the airmen’s hearts.

The writer is a student at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications