From the VETERANS series:
Tuskegee Airman, 369 Infantry Regiment (Spitfire), Artillery Corps 617 Squadron,
Dates of service: 1941-42
[Fitzroy Newsum is one of the few remaining Tuskegee Airman. Originally from Barbados, he grew up in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
He was interviewed by Nina Talbot on the porch of his son’s house in Flatbush, Brooklyn on July 26, 2010.]
“Do you mean me when you say ‘our country’?”
July 26, 2010
“My application for flight school was rejected twice by the U.S. Air Corps for flight school in 1943. The U.S. military was not accepting African-Americans at that time. I wanted to fly ever since I saw a plane in the sky when I was ten years old, when I lived with my grandmother in the West Indies, and I thought, ‘I want to do that.’
“I learned about the Tuskegee Airmen, a black division of US flyers, and applied to their school in Alabama. I was inducted into the 617 Squadron, Class 43K, and flew B25 Mitchells, P47s, B29s and B50 Bombers, C54, C46, C47 and C119 Transports during World War ll. The Tuskegee Airmen air force was disbanded after the war when Truman desegregated the U.S. Air Force.
“My mother worked as a servant for a family on Rugby Road in Flatbush, Brooklyn near where my son Eric, now owns a house. I met my wife Joan in the garment district where I had a part-time job during my student years at Brooklyn College.
“After retiring from the military I lived in Denver with my wife, where I founded a U.S. Air Force academy in nearby Colorado Springs. Since then, I have gone on speaking tours at universities, community centers and schools about my experiences of racism in the military. Despite my bitterness about not being included in the mainstream military during WWII, I regard my military career as a successful one. At one of these events, a young white man came up to me and thanked me for serving our country. ‘Are you including me when you say our country?’ I asked.
“I was included in the book Lonely Eagles: The Story of America’s Black Air Force in
World War ll, by Robert A. Rose, a grandson of one of the flyers. I was honored at the Obama inauguration along with the surviving Tuskegee Airmen, where they had special seating and a reception, and received The Congressional Medal of Honor. “