Thursday, February 3, 2011
For today’s post I’m going to look at a man named Joseph Gomer (pictured in the middle) who was a Tuskegee Airman. You might be asking yourself, what is, or was, a Tuskegee Airmen? To summarize, it was a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II.
Gomer was born on June 20th, 1920 in Iowa Falls, Iowa. He grew up in a community where he was one of three black families in the area and graduated as the only black student in his class. While he attended Ellsworth Community College he took a class in pilot training. Taking this class allowed him, when he enlisted in the army, to be sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s program to train black pilots.
He entered his service as a second lieutenant in the 332nd Fighter Group, which was still segregated at the time. During his time he was part of a bomber group in Italy and Germany. This meant he and his other pilots protected his fellow airmen and soldiers on the ground by bombing the enemy. The planes that these men flew had a red tail, so the pilots and soldiers they protected dubbed them “Red Tailed Angels”. By the end of their run in Italy, these Tuskegee Airmen had taken down 111 enemy aircrafts and sunk one German destroyer. Unfortunately, sixty-six of these men had lost their lives for their country, including three airmen that Gomer had shared a tent with.
Gomer balanced fighting the Germans and racism, and was fortunate enough to still be in service when President Truman desegregated the military. He reached the rank of major before he retired the air force and became employed by the US Forest Service. He worked there for 21 years, and was in the air force for 22. On March 29, 2007 President George Bush gave the Congressional Gold Medal to him and the other Tuskegee Airmen.
Now you can find him volunteering at schools and churches near his home in Duluth, MN, or giving speeches about his time in the Air Force. His fight opened the door to many African American men and women in the military. I personally have him to thank, on behalf of my father, for my father’s clothes (and experience) from his time served as marine.
“We were fighting two battles. I flew for my parents, for my race, for our battle for first-class citizenship and for my country. We were fighting for the millions of black Americans back home. We were there to break down barriers, open a few doors, and do a job." – Joseph Gomer