Tuskegee Airmen Visit Marshall College - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/22/06-Longview

Tuskegee Airmen Visit Marshall College

They're a little- known piece of World War II history, and they were in East Texas today. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American fighter and bomber pilots to take part in the second world war. Three surviving members were honored for their service to the country at Wiley College in Marshall, still a little shy about their fame late in life. "I don't feel like I'm a celebrity, but they make me a celebrity," said Claude Platte, 87, a fighter pilot with the group in 1942.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the only black flying squadrons in World War II. They flew more than two dozen combat missions over Europe. In a time when racial lines were drawn and even the army and air corps were segregated, the Tuskegee Airmen proved their worth. "We're really glad to get the recognition we're getting now," said John Flanagan Junior, 82, a former sergeant with the unit.

Donald Elder was only 17 when he joined, but says it was a learning experience, trying to gain equality even in wartime. "I probably learned more about society in general at that time. We accomplished so much without fanfare, without the expectation of any kind of reward," said Elder.

But none of them are bitter, they had a bigger enemy than racism in 1942, Nazi Europe, and they had a job to do. "It says to me, that its not the color of your skin its the character of the individual," said Elder.  And they hope a new generation will be inspired by their story.

Bob Hallmark reporting, bhallmark@kltv.com

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