Tuskegee Airmen Claude R. Platte and Robert T. McDaniel recently shared a resounding message with an audience primarily of South Campus students:
“Take advantage of your opportunities so you will be prepared when your Tuskegee opportunity comes.”
Platte, 91, and McDaniel, 86, told the crowd of more than 200 how the delays in receiving legitimate combat missions, coupled with the competitiveness among the African-American pilots to out maneuver one another equipped them to succeed once given the opportunity to fight for their country.
The first African-Americans trained as pilots in WWII defied detractors who wanted the experimental operation to fail to perpetuate the myth that blacks were inferior to whites. Instead, the Tuskegee Airmen proved blacks could fly and excel as pilots.
They distinguished themselves despite missions designed to make them look bad, McDaniel explained. “We were sent to shoot down G planes in North Africa when there were no G planes in North Africa,” he said. “Then, it was publicized that the Tuskegee Airmen were ineffective.”
McDaniel was also in the forefront of fighting segregation in the armed services. He was one of 100 officers who suffered unjust court marshal for treatment in an officers’ club during the April 1945 Freeman Field Mutiny. They were later cleared and were honorably restored more than 50 years later.
Platte and McDaniel were among 72 Tuskegee Airmen who received honorary doctorates in public service from Tuskegee University in 2006. That same year, the famed Tuskegee Airmen also received the Congressional Gold Medal, becoming the largest group in U.S. history to receive the medal, Congress’ highest distinguished civilian award.
View pictures from the Tuskegee Airmen’s visit in the TCC Buzz Galleries.