March 22, 1941 - March 22, 2016
On March 22, 1941, the all-African American 99th Pursuit Squadron (later renamed the 99th Fighter Squadron) was activated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On March 29, 1941 First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt paid a visit to Tuskegee Institute and toured the Civilian Pilot Training Program flight training location at Kennedy Field where she requested and was granted a ride by chief flight instructor, Charles A. Anderson.
The flight so impressed Mrs. Roosevelt that it garnered her steadfast support for the Tuskegee Negro flight training programs, both civilian and military. That historic event was captured in the photograph below.
We are indebted to Dr. Daniel L. Haulman of the Air Force Historical Research Agency for the use of these documents.
To help commemorate the 75th anniversary of the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Spirit of '45 coalition produced a congratulatory video message from Eleanor Roosevelt's grand daughter Anna Roosevelt that was shown at a gala held in Montgomery, AL on March 22, and by the National Park Service at a special event held at the Tuskegee Airmen Historical Site at Moton Field on March 29.
Anne Roosevelt, chairwoman of the Roosevelt Institute, receiving Spirit of '45 Day National Leaders Medal. Video message during Tuskegee Airmen gala event on March 22, 2016, in Montgomery, AL.
Spirit of '45 introduces Annual National Candle Lighting
To help sustain the legacy of the Airmen, Spirit of '45 and the National Park Service have introduced a new annual tradition of inviting the public to light red candles each year on March 22 to mark the anniversary of the formation of the legendary "Red Tails" so that their story will continue to inspire future generations of Americans, especially the youth of our country.
Members of the Arnold Air Society/Silver Wings at universities and colleges across the country lit candles to honor the "Red Tails" on their 75th anniversary.
Original members of the Tuskegee Airmen were "present at the creation" of Spirit of '45 Day.
Several of the original members of the Tuskegee Airmen and their families were "present at the creation" of Spirit of '45 Day.
- Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr. was a tireless advocate for Spirit of '45 Day since it was passed unanimously by both houses of the U.S. Congress in 2010. His public service announcement (which he did in just two takes!) has been shared at Major League Baseball games and other venues over the ensuring years. He and legendary TV and film writer/producer Norman Lear represented Spirit of '45 Day in the New York City Veterans Day Parade in 2015. Roscoe passed away on July 2, 2016, at age 94.
Roscoe's PSA. (R) Roscoe with Norman Lear, who flew 53 bombing missions in WWII.
- Lt. Col. Bob Friend of Irvine, CA, 95, has attended Spirit of '45 Day events over the past several years and makes personal appearances at community events throughout the country. Lt. Bob and Norman Lear did a short video to help promote public awareness and participation in the Spirit of '45 WWII 70th Anniversary Commemoration in 2015.
Bob Friend with Norman Lear and Spirit of '45 Day spokeswoman Loni Anderson, whose father served in the Pacific as Navy pilot during WWII.
- Colonel Bob's bunk mate, Airman Stanley Harris of the 301 Fighter Squadron, was one of the first WWII veterans to participate in the Digital Clubhouse Network's award winning Stories of Service program. His video "Flying With Neeta" was the first to be archived by the Smithsonian Institute and the Library of Congress Veterans History Oral History Project.
Members of Stan and Juanita Harris' family attended the annual ceremony at the Air Force Memorial on Memorial Day 2016.
- Each year on Memorial Day, youth honor the Tuskegee Airmen who gave their lives in the defense of democracy and freedom by attending the annual wreath laying ceremony at the Air Force Memorial and marching with their photos in the National Memorial Day Parade.
Tuskegee Airmen and Spirit of '45 national spokeswoman Elinor Otto - aka "America's Longest Working Rosie the Riveter"- visited Boeing headquarters in Chicago in 2015.
Tuskegee Airmen and friends welcome Dr. E. Bruce Heilman to Cincinnati during his cross country Ride to help publicize the 70th Anniversary Commemoration in 2015.
Tuskegee Airman and his wife re-enact the famous kiss in Times Square during the first Spirit of '45 Day in 2010, beginning a tradition that is repeated each year on the anniversary of the end of WWII on August 14, 1945.