George Lucas Films Present The 332nd Fighter Group, US Army Air Corps And The P-51C Mustang Red Tails

Red Tails - First Installment Released

Over Virginia. Ed Shipley flies a en:P-51 Mustang in a heritage flight during an air show at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)"
Over Virginia. Ed Shipley flies a en:P-51 Mustang in a heritage flight during an air show at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)" | Source

Bravest Heroes

The Red Tail fliers were among the most courageous and accurate air escorts and dogfighters of WWII.

Fans of the Tuskegee Airmen

At the opening screening, some audience members wore special jackets. Some were family members of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
At the opening screening, some audience members wore special jackets. Some were family members of the original Tuskegee Airmen. | Source

Long Long Ago...

George Lucas studied all the World War I dog fights he could find written up in the literature and portrayed on film in order to design fighter sequences for the Resistance X-wing fighters in his Star Wars film series.

Mr. Lucas continued to study WWI and WWII air combat history for 25 years in a plan to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen in a series of three films. He funded the film production and distribution himself.

The first film of the series was released January 20, 2012 and called Red Tails, after the red-painted tails of the historic 332nd Fighter Group planes. It takes the audience through the segregation of American black airmen, their burden of outdated, used up and broken aircraft, and their assignments away from the action of WWII.

Certain Pentagon leaders wanted an excuse to shut them down in order to prove a 1925 study that found blacks to be "cowards and useless in combat" - sheer propaganda. Thus, Tokyo Rose wasn't enough of a discouraging influence to US forces - we had generals in the Pentagon to denigrate our bomber escorts. Neither was effective, however.

The 332nd saved thousands of lives among the Flying Fortress10-man crews and others that they escorted across the European Theater. The Red Tails often escorted 100 fortresses at a time (1,000 people) and never lost a bomber in their early missions. An overall record of ) losses is debated since 2006 and the advent of new information, conflicting reports, and missing records.

Still, their early perfect record convinced white bomber crews to stop bad-mouthing them and to request their escort. Until the 332nd began action, the US lost many more bombers from each mission. The Red Tails sacrificed 66 of their own lives to protect white bombing crews and save 1,000s.

Along with the Navajo and other Native American Code Talkers, the Tuskegee Airmen comprised some of the most important and effective teams in the US armed forces in WWII. The George Lucas/Anthony Hemingway film portrays all this effectively as well.

The Tuskegee Airmen comprised some of the most important and effective teams in the US armed forces in WWII.

Lt. Col. Harold Brown of the Tuskegee Airmen

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Historical Detail Of Red Tails

Red Tails touches on the gigantic heroism of black airmen behind enemy lines in Germany and the former Yugoslavia, much of which is only recently discovered in the 2000s. In the film, one of the airmen, half blind in one eye from a combat flight wound, is later shot down in Germany, where he aids an American POW secret escape mission at Stalag18 prison camp (ala the film Stalag 17).

In reality, author Gregory Freeman's research found that an incredible 513 largely white American Airmen were rescued from behind enemy lines in the former Yugoslavia by the precursor to our CIA (the OSS), General Draza Mihailovich's soldiers, and local civilians, specifically with the help of the 332nd Fighter Group, the Red Tails. This was not realized previously at large, war secrets continuing for a long time.

It was previously unknown that the Tuskegee Airmen flew P51-C cover planes for all the rescues from July through December of 1944 in Operation Halyard.

The 332nd Fighter Group escorted the Fifteenth Air Force heavies (Flying Fortresses) in strategic bombing missions into (at least) the nations Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Germany, besides covering the huge rescue mission of 500+ POWs. This, combined with all of their other missions evidences an incredible amount of work for a total of fewer than 1,000 people involved in the 332nd.

Famous Children

Coach and NFL commentator Tony Dungee's and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts's fathers served with the Tuskegee Airmen. Robin once flew Tom Cruise's red-tailed P51-C.

Operation Halyard - Rescuing 513 American Prisoners Of War

show route and directions
A markerBelgrade, former Yugoslavia -
Belgrade, Serbia
[get directions]

Headquarters of the German-occupied Yugoslavia (Serbia today).

B markerTermoli -
86039 Termoli Campobasso, Italy
[get directions]

Air base of the Tuskegee Airmen, 332nd Fighter Group

Army Air Force 332nd Fighter Group

Shield of the Tuskegee Airmen: Panther passant sable armed and incensed gules.
Shield of the Tuskegee Airmen: Panther passant sable armed and incensed gules. | Source

Historical Context Of The Film "Red Tails"

Red Tails portrays US military leadership's bigotry, black officers' determination, problems with alcohol and hot-headed behaviors, and the saga of belittled men who out-achieved the heretofore most-praised units of the US forces.

By the end of the film, the true-life acceptance and admiration of white bomber squadrons and of Pentagon officials for the Tuskegee Airmen is a score for justice. Unfortunately, individual medals were not presented do the airmen until many decades later, but the unit as a whole received citations and recognition.

Enough room is left in history for two additional Lucas films about the subject, one a prequel targeting the gritty experiences of the black trainees at Tuskegee, Alabama. They trained in the Jim Crow South amidst open rejection from whites to fight Germans and to protect whites. They used an airfield thrown up quickly in 6 months by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's WPA projects. Despite many wash-out failures among trainees, nearly 1,000 airmen were certified ready for action throughout the term of the Tuskegee Airmen..

The other Lucas film in this line is a sequel to Red Tails . Now that most of their missions have come to light through authors and researchers continuing work into the 2010s, this sequel could be a blockbuster. Be that as may be, the non-profit organizations connected with or honoring the Tuskegee Airmen will continue to produce and promote up to date documentaries about them for decades into the future. Many of these productions are used to encourage youth K-12 of all races to stay in school, graduate, and attend college and/or join the Civil Air Patrol and the USAF.

If you have a chance to visit the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton/Fairborn OH, you will see in the middle of the huge exhibit space a long hallway of mannequins decked out WWII flight jackets, some of them from the Tuskegee Airmen. You can also see a Red Tail and browse through exhibits and books about the 332nd Fighter Group. Documentaries are shown free-of-charge in the auditorium and various IMAX films target specific eras of the history of flight and discovery.

During the first week of January 2012, a 1-hour documentary by George Lucas, Double Victory, presented the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to British attendees in the UK. Afterwards, guests spoke with surviving Tuskegee Airmen Le Roy Gillead and Alexander Jefferson.

Mr. Jefferson wrote Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free, about his career as both pilot and POW in WWII. The documentary is narrated by Cuba Gooding, Jr. and includes actual interviews with Tuskegee Airmen. See it, if you have the chance.

Red Tail P-51C. [The P-51C's replaced old broken down planes so the Tuskegee Airmen could do their jobs well. ]
Red Tail P-51C. [The P-51C's replaced old broken down planes so the Tuskegee Airmen could do their jobs well. ] | Source

Cast of Red Tails

This film is an effective tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen and their early struggles with the Pentagon and indomitable victories in the European Theater. The cast is largely well known and provides character-driven events throughout the movie. As a family film, it is effective as history, motivation, and entertainment at a rating of PG-13. Material with an R rating might more effectively portray the total horrors of the experiences of the 332nd Fighter Group.

Terrence Howard plays Colonel A.J. Bullard, probably a proxy for Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. (1912 - 2002) of the real 332nd. Although the actual events shown in the film are fictional, Bullard's determination and his arguments against Pentagon leaders' bigotry mirror those of Davis closely. Davis was a prodigy in initial training at Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama, led the 332nd, and went on to fight in Korea. He then became the first black 4-star General in the USAF in 1998. Cuba Gooding,Jr. plays Major Emmanuel Stance, who always carries a pipe. Stance may be another mirror of Davis's strong qualities as well.

The Red Tails

At the Air Field in Italy: Pilots Lt. Dempsey W. Morgran, Lt. Carroll S. Woods, Lt. Robert H. Nelron, Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner, and Lt. Clarence P. Lester. (U.S. Air Force photo)
At the Air Field in Italy: Pilots Lt. Dempsey W. Morgran, Lt. Carroll S. Woods, Lt. Robert H. Nelron, Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner, and Lt. Clarence P. Lester. (U.S. Air Force photo) | Source

Additional Stories Of The Tuskegee Airmen

Nate Parker as Marty "Easy" Julian, the squadron leader, and David Olewoyo as Joe "Lighting" Little show not only the incredible skills and determination accumulated by the training and experience of the 332nd, but also the social and personal problems inherent in a segregated military and among both young and minority leaders in a war zone pressure cooker.

Pressure to succeed is double on this black unit and the men of the 332nd surpass the demanded success. Additional cast members include Method Man and Ne-Yo and others portraying airmen with nicknames Deacon, Sticks, Joker, Coffee, Ray Gun, and more that are traditional with US military pilots. You can see more nicknames and cartoons painted on fighter planes of the era at the National Air Force Museum and at smaller museums around America.

Combine this film with the HBO special Tuskegee Airmen and a visit to the National Air Force Museum or the relevant National Historic Site (see links above) to gain greater understanding of the men who served in the Red Tails and their ultimate mission. Check your city for current Chapters of The Tuskegee Airmen and look for their sponsored events.

Red Tails Museums and National/State Historical Sites

  • Outdoor Memorial Park at the National Museum of the USAF at Wright-Patterson AFB Dayton, Ohio; 1100 Spaatz Street Wright-Patterson AFB OH 45433. Additional related materials and exhibits are located inside the museum, admission free. The large theater shows films about the Red Tails on a regular schedule.
  • Tuskegee Airmen Statue in the Honor Park at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site of the US National Park Service next to Moton Field Municipal Airport, 1721 General B O'Davis Junior Drive, Tuskegee, AL 36083
  • Tuskegee Heritage Museum, 109 Westside Street, Tuskegee, Alabama 36088
  • The George Washington Carver Museum at the Tuskegee Institute at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama; 1212 W Montgomery Rd, Tuskegee, AL 36088

© 2012 Patty Inglish

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Comments 25 comments

Dexter Yarbrough profile image

Dexter Yarbrough 4 years ago from United States

Hi Patty! You presented this information so well. Kudos to you. This history is important to tell. I am looking forward to seeing this movie and other events surrounding it.

Voted up, up and away!


jenubouka 4 years ago

I enjoyed reading more about this movie and the detailed history behind it. It has been reported that this is George Lucas last film, he has announced he is retiring from the biz. If true, what a way to say goodbye.


Earth Angel profile image

Earth Angel 4 years ago

GREAT Hub Patty! Really well told story of many of our unsung heroes!! You have done Lucas well, and the Airman even better!! Thank you! Blessings, Earth Angel!!


KwameG profile image

KwameG 4 years ago from MS

Thank you for a really great and complete coverage of the movie and the subject.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I'm glad to do this; we never heard of the Tuskegee Airmen in High School and when I finally knew about them, they had my every respect. Sometimes they come to WPAFB to speak - not far from me.

I hope you all love the movie and that the next two will be produced.


Mark Monroe profile image

Mark Monroe 4 years ago from Dover De

Great Hub


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

George Lucas became upset when Hollywood studios did not want to fund the film, so he did so himself. If it makes enough to do another, he will do it. He felt that Hollywood was discriminating against a black history story, but what a great way to go into Black History Month!


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Thanks, Patty. I'm glad to learn that history.


seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 4 years ago

I just read about the making of this film in the Sunday papers. Really looking forward to seeing it. This is a part of history that is rarely revealed. Well done for flagging this up.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

Thanks for this review and history, Patty. My father served in the Navy in WWII and was appalled by how blacks were treated at boot camp, etc. He gives President Lyndon Johnson much praise for implementing the Civil Rights measures started by JFK.


AurelioLeo 4 years ago

I got one thing to say and one thing only....Hooah!

U.S. Army


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I worked with a gentleman that served on an all-white crewed submarine during WWII and he felt he got along great with everyone, but because he was black, he had to have separate quarters, which meant sleeping in the boiler room. I still feel bad about that.


scentualhealing profile image

scentualhealing 4 years ago from Georgia

Oh girl you are so good, very well done. I love your profile


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Thanks very much for visiting here and the kind words.


JLBender profile image

JLBender 4 years ago from Greensburg, PA

I think this is one of the most informative hubs I have ever seen. Not only was the text very well written, but you used beautiful images throughout.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for reading and posting a message, JLBender. Newspaper critics have been negative, but there is dislike for Lucas since he was able to pay for the entire production and distribution himself. I hope you see the film. Thanks!


pmccray profile image

pmccray 4 years ago from Utah

Very well done, excellent work. Voted up, marked interesing, and awesome.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for all the ratings. Glad you enjoyed the Hub!


Jamey B Creel 4 years ago

Watched the movie Red Tails. Good show. Interesting "extra" addition clips on the DVD: the KKK from 1920s in DC are carrying US flags only, the high brass leader that supported and backed the Red Tails was from the South ( must have read Confederate general Forrest account given to US Congress), the song clip played was Southern "Johnny Comes Marching Home"!

And it was Sons of Confederate Veterans member Presidnet Harry Trueman that ended US Army segregation in 1948.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

My wife and I recently watched Red Tails together. I thought it was the movie that should have been made in the 1940s, but wasn't for obvious reasons. It seems that the story of the Tuskegee Airmen is becoming better known all the time. I enjoyed reading this hub.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

I'm pleased that you enjoyed this film along with me, RonElFran. When I saw it for the first time, many gentlemen in the audience wore tribute jackets to the Tuskeegee Airmen and I was happy to see that. They deserved more recognition earlier, though, being outstanding pilots.


Robert Sacchi profile image

Robert Sacchi 23 months ago

Thank you, your information about Operation Halyard supplemented the movie Red Tails, which I and my son enjoyed.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 23 months ago from North America Author

Thank you for your comments - the subject material is all very interesting and I have much respect for the Red Tails. Operation Halyard was quite a historic mission and brings more respect to the Tuskegee Airmen.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 14 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

I've been researching the Tuskegee Airmen, and I've been amazed by their heroism and courage. They were fighting a two-front war, at home as well as overseas, and were victorious in both. I'm so glad they were not overlooked in our history, as so many others have been. I'm sure Lucas's film has been a big help in making their heroic efforts more widely known.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 14 months ago from North America Author

And I hope he makes additional films to tell the rest of their stories. I like this first film and want more! Heroes they certainly are. I was lucky to meet a few at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. I was like a little kid meeting Superman.

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