The Engineering and Aviation Sciences Center at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore hosts The Tuskegee Airmen: Legends of a Different Kind, an exhibit honoring the first African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces.
From 1941 to 1946, over one thousand Black fighter and bomber pilots were trained at the Tuskegee Institute to serve in World War II. They included the pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and instructors associated with the Army Air Corps Program in Tuskegee, Ala.
Technicians, radio operators, crew chiefs, medical personnel, parachute riggers, mechanics, dispatchers, and cooks were also considered Tuskegee Airmen. Women worked alongside the men as mechanics, gate guards, nurses, control tower operators, as well as other occupations.
Rejections of Black pilot recruits during World War I sparked more than 20 years of advocacy by African American citizens who wished to enlist and train as military aviators.
The U.S. Army Air Corps made the standards for entry of Black trainees so high that the Tuskegee Airmen, nicknamed the Red Tails, or the Red-Tailed Angels, became known as an elite group. They formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces.
While the Airmen were subject to discrimination both within and outside the armed forces, they received three Distinguished Unit Citations for their excellent combat record of protecting American bombers from enemy fighters.
The exhibit was the idea of UMES student Derrick Mayes II, a computer science major and baseball player with a keen interest in American history.
His father, Derrick Mayes, Sr., worked to gather art, artifacts, images, films, and books with the help of sponsors and lenders, including UMES Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Alumni, Ret. Lt. Col. Dr. Algner E.A. Broach III and Mrs. Broach, and the Still Family Archival Collection.
Additional support was provided by the Julia A. Purnell Museum of Snow Hill, and the Sgt. Charles King Collection. The exhibit was interpreted by consulting curator Dr. Cynthia Byrd.
The Tuskegee Airmen: Legends of a Different Kind will be on display in the lobby of the Engineering and Aviation Science Complex at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore until May 19, 2023.
Visitors are reminded to stop by the Campus Police Station to obtain parking when visiting campus.