attacked Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Territory of
Hawaii on December 7, 1941.
But fi rst, as the radio announcers used to say before they
read a glowing advertising testimonial before the actual
program would begin, let me remind you of the sad state
of affairs in race relations before World War II. I grew up in
tidewater Virginia. Colored people by law were segregated,
went to colored schools, were buried in colored cemeteries,
drank from colored-only drinking fountains, etc.
I have met one of the famous Tuskegee airmen, Colonel
William Campbell, US Air Force (Retired) who lives in Seaside,
California. I have read several books about these colored
pilots and am reading one right now, an autobiography by
LtCol Charles Dryden, a friend of Col Campbell.
Col Dryden's book gives details about his life. His parents
were Jamaicans who came to New York City. He was born
in Manhattan, went to public schools there, and was bright
enough to be admitted to CCNY (City College of New York)
which had free tuition. His parents had taught him to speak
English -- not American -- so that he had problems in
elementary school when he would say, "It is I," rather than
the American "It's me."
He was lucky to be selected for pilot training in Alabama
at the Tuskegee Institute, a school founded for freed slaves
after the Civil War. It was his fi rst trip south so all the separate
"colored-only" drinking fountains, etc., were new to him.
Eleanor Roosevelt came to visit Tuskegee and was impressed
when one of the colored pilots took her for an airplane ride.
Apparently she told Franklin Roosevelt all about this and this
eventually helped push the War Department to set up one
fi ghter squadron, the 99
with all colored pilots, and colored
maintenance mechanics, colored armorers, cooks, bakers and
However, the colored pilots could not "RON" -- remain
over night -- if they went on a cross country mission. They
had to fl y back home to Tuskegee because they were not
allowed to go to eat at an Offi cers Club at another Army base