Tyler museum brings Tuskegee airmen to ETX in new exhibit - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Tyler museum brings Tuskegee airmen to ETX in new exhibit

TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

The Tuskegee Airmen are one of the most famous groups of World War II, the first African-American military aviators in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces.

And now, a new exhibit at Tyler's Historic Aviation Memorial Museum is opening their history up to a new generation of war and flight enthusiasts.

I had the chance to walk through the exhibit with one of the museum's board of directors. and she started by walking me through the Tuskegee's history -- how First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt helped influence her husband to commission the Tuskegee after one of the airmen challenged her to fly with him, and she accepted.

And so, in 1941, President Roosevelt asked the airmen of Tuskegee University in Alabama to begin their training for the war -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

"In 1943, the first class of the 99th Fighter Squadron was formulated and they went into North Africa," said Carolyn Verver, president of the board of directors at Tyler's Historic Aviation Memorial Museum. "Shortly on after that, they advanced on into Europe, and from that point on, they were flying the P-40s, the P-47s, accompanying the B-17s, the B-24s, the B-25s."

The Tuskegee airmen flew alongside bombers, protecting them from attack. Eventually, they started flying better planes, like this P-51, or red tail.

"They proved themselves to be very, very good pilots and they saved hundreds of lives of the bomber crews that they were protecting," Verver said. "I think there was about 33 that lost their lives in combat, but there was over 850 medals that was awarded these brave airmen and pilots."

Verver hopes this exhibit will serve as a teaching tool for young and old alike, to shed light on the impact the Tuskegee had as groundsmen, pilots, and fighters during World War II -- and on changing race relations within the military.

"They were just a great group of guys, and it was a time when they went in and they did it, did what they were supposed to do, so it really opened the doors," said Verver. "And it made an impact on what military is today."

In "The Test," you'll be able to see maps of the Tuskegee's advances through North Africa and Europe during the war.

You'll be able to meet some famous Tuskegee airmen.

And you'll see models of some of the planes they flew during the war.

"The Test" is at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum in Tyler through July 31.

For more information about the museum's hours or ticket prices, including information on group rates, visit their website.

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