Tuskegee Airmen played crucial roles in US victory in WWII and civil rights movement

The Tuskegee Airmen were sent into war to fill risky roles protecting white pilots. The group pushed back on their mistreatment and the Air Force was the first military branch to fully integrate.
5:10 | 02/10/21

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:

{{nextVideo.title}}

{{nextVideo.description}}

Skip to this video now

Now Playing:

{{currentVideo.title}}

Comments
Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for Tuskegee Airmen played crucial roles in US victory in WWII and civil rights movement
It's not its branch but its root. Tuskegee airmen was the root of making this country respect black aviators. Reporter: Their historic achievements would inspire great change in the military and at home. In September 1939, great Britain and France declare war on Germany. One year later, the U.S. Launches its first peacetime draft. All men between the ages of 21 and 35, regardless of race, are required to register. Among them is Charles Mcgee from Cleveland, Ohio. And I learned about the program because of the now called tuskegee airmen. The first were the mechanics. The policy of the army at the time was saying that, they couldn't use a black pilot because there were no black mechanics. They insisted on segregation. Reporter: The same year, under pressure from the naacp, president Roosevelt orders the army air corps to begin training black pilots in Alabama at tuskegee institute. We were trained by black instructors. Their job was twofold. One, teach us to fly. And secondly, to condition us for the white instructors that we would have in basic and advanced. Reporter: In early 1941, the 99 pursuit squadron was established. But the pilots at tuskegee aren't given a combat mission, despite their stellar training record. Finally, in April 1943, 16 months after pearl harbor, the 99 pursuit squadron is sent into my dad was in the 477th medium bombardment group. Our war, my dad said, was also fighting bigotry, prejudice, and segregation. The men of the 99th are used as escorts, or support fighter pilots, one of the riskiest roles in air combat. Their job was to protect white pilots flying in b-17 and b-24 bombers. To the surprise of white pilots, the tuskegee airmen go on to play a vital role in the U.S. Victory in World War II. Yesterday I fulfilled one of my ambitions as a combat pilot. I got one airplane. Reporter: By the time of their last mission, in April 1945, they had flown over 15,000 sorties and earned one legion of merit, one silver star, 14 bronze stars, 96 distinguished flying crosses, and many purple hearts. But the returning tuskegee airmen were in for disappointment. Segregation was still a part of the army leaders. Reporter: Just prior to the war's end, at the Freeman field air field in Indiana, a group of tuskegee-trained pilots decided to push back against their mistreatment. This event and others drew attention to the issue of discrimination in the military, and by 1948, president Truman integrated the armed services. They made the decision to bring about a change, and that's why I'd say the air force really led our country in the integration and evening of opportunity. It goes from generation to generation. But you need that young fire to help push us to where we need to We didn't set out and go do it because that's what we wanted to happen, but certainly what was accomplished is we carry on the valuable lessons we have to pass on to youngsters for the future. As a younger person who was finding my way, seeing the great sacrifice that the tuskegee airmen made is what sort of gave me inspiration. Reporter: That inspiration, the fuel for generations of black Americans, was widely recognized in 2007. When more than 300 of the Orange tuskegee airmen received the congressional gold medal. The tuskegee airmen helped win a war, you helped change our nation for the better. I never thought I'd worry about my baby girl anymore. Oh, no need to worry. Reporter: My father passed away in 2004. But his legacy, like that of all the tuskegee airmen, is enduring. It is a legacy of determination, pride, and courage. "Tuskegee airmen: Legacy of courage" premieres on the history channel tomorrow night at 8/7 central.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"5:10","description":"The Tuskegee Airmen were sent into war to fill risky roles protecting white pilots. The group pushed back on their mistreatment and the Air Force was the first military branch to fully integrate.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Nightline","id":"75796464","title":"Tuskegee Airmen played crucial roles in US victory in WWII and civil rights movement","url":"/Nightline/video/tuskegee-airmen-played-crucial-roles-us-victory-wwii-75796464"}