Ex-bombardier: Tuskegee Airmen aided change
Wendell Freeland's service as a Tuskegee Airman left an indelible mark on more than military history, he said.
"It was the bridge to civil rights," said the Shadyside resident, 87, formerly a bombardier with the Tuskegee Airmen, who during World War II became the military's first black pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen included navigators and support staff.
On Tuesday, Freeland spoke as a panelist at Penn Hills High School, part of a videoconference with seven other Tuskegee Airmen, descendents and historians at nine schools in cities including Dallas, Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio. An additional 122 schools registered to show the event online to their students, who asked questions in a chat room.
The airmen discussed their entry into the military, training and their treatment under segregation, which was worse in the United States than in Europe, even Germany, some said.
Freeland was drafted in 1943 while attending Howard University in Washington. A former flight officer, he told students that despite racism, he strove for excellence and to defeat Hitler.
"So my views were worldwide and not so much to protect the United States, but to destroy the fascists," said Freeland, a Pittsburgh lawyer and civil rights activist.
The airmen's legacy is highlighted by the recent movie "Red Tails," named for the color painted on their aircraft. Although some critics say the movie is simplistic, some panelists said it tells history that many Americans don't know.
"(The film) was a long time coming. It should have been made many, many years ago," said retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Timothy McCray, 82, a Penn Hills resident. He is considered an "honorary airman;" he served under a Tuskegee Airman, 2nd Lt. George "Spanky" Roberts.
Cadet Commanding Officer Cassandra Gates, 18, of Penn Hills High School's Navy Junior ROTC program said she studied the Tuskegee Airmen in her modern American history class.
"They faced discrimination but were proud to be part of our history," she said.
Penn Hills organized the event with Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit in Homestead and the Daniel B. Matthews Historical Society of Sewickley.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin ends practice with third-down work
- Steelers’ Harrison eyes stretch run
- Penguins co-owner Lemieux snuffs rumored rift with Crosby
- Emotional send-off awaits Pitt seniors
- Warrants issued for women accused of prostitution in New Stanton sting
- Starkey: Artie Rowell’s incredible odyssey
- Pirates sign free agent 1B-OF Goebbert, RHP Webster
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Explosion claims life of Washington County garage owner
- Attorney wants evidence from South Allegheny teacher’s cellphone thrown out
- ACEing Autism introduces those with special needs to tennis in Pittsburgh area