Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 3)

Part three:  A glowing review of Red Tails, the new George Lucas movie

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aerial combat unit. Deployed in Europe during WWII, they painted the tails of their planes red and became known as the Red Tails. To the Americans, they were the Red Tail Angels. To the Germans, they were the Red Tail Devils. To all of us, they are heroes who sought a Double Victory: victory in the war abroad and victory over prejudice, segregation and Jim Crow laws at home.

This is part three of a planned four-part series about the Tuskegee Airmen to coordinate with the January 20 release of Red Tails, the Lucasfilm action movie.  I just got back from the movie and I feel that I MUST write about it.

Red Tails is an awesome movie!  The special effects are amazing—you really feel like you’re in the P-51 Mustangs with the Red Tails.  The dogfighting sequences make you think of Top Gun and Star Wars.  I read that George Lucas spent three years getting the action sequences just right, and it was worth the time and expense.  Red Tails is very, very generous with exciting action sequences.  There are more in this movie than any other aerial combat movie I’ve ever seen, which makes Red Tails the coolest dogfighting movie ever, imho.

The exploits shown in Red Tails are so amazing that they are hard to believe.  I heard fellow theater goers wondering aloud about whether the Red Tails really sank a destroyer.  Yes, they did!  In 1944,  Lt. Gwynn Pierson, Lt. Windell Pruitt and four other Tuskegee Airmen attacked a German Destroyer in 1944.  Accurate machine gun fire hit the powder magazine and sank the ship, and Pierson and Pruitt are credited with the destruction of an enemy ship using only machine gun fire.  You can read about it here.

I also heard people wondering if the Tuskegee Airmen really shot down German jets.  Yes, they did!  It happened a lot like in the movie, on their longest escort mission all the way to Berlin.  Charles Brantley, Earl Laneand Roscoe Brown shot down German jets over Berlin that day, earning the 332nd Fighter Group a Distinguished Unit Citation. Read about it here.  That mission was led by Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., commander of the Tuskegee Airmen.  Terrence Howard’s character was clearly based on this remarkable man.  I will write more about Benjamin O. Davis Jr. in Post Four, which also includes the last of the pictures I took with Tuskegee Airmen.

The last thing I heard people wonder about was whether it was realistic for a Tuskegee Airman to strike up a relationship with an Italian woman.  I don’t know much about the personal lives of the Tuskegee Airmen, but I do know that in Lucasfilm’s Double Victory documentary, the pilots explain that Italian people viewed them not as African-Americans, but simply as Americans.  Double Victory has some neat pictures of Tuskegee Airmen clowning with kids and spending time with Italian families. Since I lived in Italy, I found it enriched my movie experience to understand what Lightning’s fiancée said to him, especially when they first met and neither spoke the other’s language.

Here is a clip showing a special screening of Red Tails for cadets at the U. S. Air Force Academy.  The cadets loved it!  (By the way, my dad is a USAF Academy graduate—the Air Force calls them Zoomies.  My dad is also a retired fighter pilot, and he said Red Tails did a great job of showing dogfights.)

Tuskegee Airmen, Part 1Tuskegee Airmen, Part 2
Tuskegee Airmen, Part 3Tuskegee Airmen, Part 4

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Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 21, 2012


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