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Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site honors the first African-American fighter pilots, a group who were trained at and near the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. During World War II, the United States military began training African-Americans to fight in their own squadrons. The pilots and other personnel had to endure much racism, being told at various times that they weren’t capable of doing well or that they didn’t perform well in combat. By the end of World War II the “Red Tails” (so named for the red that they painted on the tails of their planes) had proven that they were great pilots and were recognized for their distinguished service. The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen and lets visitors see the place where they trained.

The visitor center is located in the main hangar at the site and contains numerous exhibits about the beginnings of the Tuskegee Airmen, the struggles they underwent, the development and growth of the training program, and their performance in the war. There is an 18 minutes film that shows periodically, which we highly recommend viewing. The film gives a nice overview of most of the information contained in the visitor center and is quite moving. Since the visitor center is in the main hangar, visitors can also climb to the top of the old control tower, which gives a nice overview of the landing strip and most of the buildings on the property.

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Opposite the visitor center there is another hangar which is set up the way it would have looked in the 1940s, along with a few displays spread throughout the hangar. Visitors are able to look at the small offices and classrooms in the hangar, see where the airmen would hang their parachutes to dry, and learn a bit more about the daily routines of the trainees.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site is, perhaps, a bit out of the way for a lot of visitors, but we cannot recommend visiting highly enough. The site commemorates the history of the Tuskegee Airmen-probably not something with which most people are familiar-and is fun, informative, and moving. While there, be sure to also visit Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site and Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.

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