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Red Tails


Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2009
Reaction score
This got emailed to me

Subject: Red Tails

The George Lucas film, "Red Tails", about the Tuskegee airmen, will be
released in January. This might be a good time to revisit the
facts as stated a few years ago.

Date: July 3, 2008
This letter was not written for publication, but to enlighten you and you
and your staff about some of the errors and misleading
information you continue to publish, Perhaps it should be published to
set your readers straight. As a WWII Historian and former 8th AF fighter
pilot flying 87 missions over Europe during WWII, I am dedicated to factual
reporting about the air war in Europe and aviation in general, and I take
issue with the media (and not with just Atlanta Journal Constitution Newspaper "AJC")
continuing to publish untrue and/or misleading statements about the Tuskegee Airmen (T/A).

Although I have great respect for the pilots and achievements of this
WWII Fighter Group, I do not appreciate the continuing repetition of myths and
untruths about their military record, the latest example in the obit on
Lt.Col Charles Dryden in today's paper, repeating the same errors which
appeared in his obit story a few days ago.

For more than 60 years the myth that they "never lost a bomber they were
escorting to an enemy fighter", was their primary claim to fame! Then,
several months ago, their Historian, William E. Holten, announced that
his research proved that this was not true, that they
had, indeed, lost some 25 bombers to enemy fighters. This myth still gets
published occasionally, but far less frequently since he made
this disclosure, thank goodness. Lies told often enough tend to bemome
truths in the minds of many. However, it now seems to have
been replaced by another false claim, i. e. that the Tuskegee Airmen flew
more than 15,000 combat missions. ALSO NOT TRUE!

Their own official records indicate that the T/A only flew 311missions.
Their so-called 15,000 "missions" were actually 15,000 "sorties.".
Apparently, none of your reporters know the difference between a
"mission"and a "sortie," so let me define these for you
and them. Combat Mission is an assigned flight to accomplish a military
objective. This can be flown by one pilot or a squadron or
group of pilots flying together. It is recorded as one mission. Combat
Sortie. When, for example, 48 or 64 pilots fly together on a
combat mission it is recorded as 48 or 64 combat sorties.

The T/A did not fly 15,000+ combat missions - as stated in your articles
about the demise of Col. Charles Dryden. They flew 15,000+
"sorties". To have flown that many "missions" during the time they were
in combat in the MTO, they would have had to fly about 25
missions a day everyday they were in combat. Do the math. That's one
mission every hour, everyday they were in combat. Impossible! Weather
alone would have prevented this, not to mention the problem of keeping all of
their aircraft flyable everyday over that period of time. FACT: Their
official records indicate they flew only 311 missions, a far cry from
15,000 claimed. Please advise your reporters of the difference between a mission
and a sortie so that another T/A myth is not appearing in every mention
this Fighter group.

The Dryden story also stated that the 99th Squadron of the T/A was "the
most successful squadron in American history." NOT SO! It would be more
correct to say they have been the most publicized squadron in American
history, however, thanks to a fully-paid public relations staff in
Washington, D. C., the only such office of any military unit other than
the U. S. Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard..

Although I do not have complete combat statistics on all the fighter
groups flying out of Africa and Italy (the MTO), I do have the stats
on all of the 16 fighter groups flying in the Eighth Air Force over
western Europe. And, when these records are compared, the Tuskegee
Airmen rank at the bottom of the list despite the fact that they had four
squadrons to only three for the 8th AF groups. FYI, and one of the
reasons the T/A exploit their 15,000+ sorties (which they call missions) is that
on a normal mission they would put up 64 fighters compared to only 48 for the
8th AF groups. And, since they did mostly ground support missions rather than
bomber escort missions, the average length of their missions was about half that
of the time in the air flown by the 8thAF fighters. Re the above mentioned stats, I
would be delighted to provide these for your information if requested.

Another gross error in your first story on Colonel Dryden is that the
implication that he was, individually, awarded the Congressional Gold
Medal recently. ALSO NOT TRUE. Through the efforts of the New York
Senator this medal was awarded to the Tuskegee Airmen, authorizing all Tuskegee Airman
to receive this award. It was not awarded for individual achievements, as
implied, but for the role played by the T/A in breaking the color ban for
pilots, a civil rights accomplishment, not for their military achievements.
Had this award been given for their military achievements alone, it
should also have been awarded to each and every other fighter group
in WWII whose records exceeded those of the Tuskegee Airmen. In my
opinion,this was a "political award" instead of a military award. No other
bomber or fighter units have been awarded this Medal, only Unit Citations.
These are facts. Check them out, and here's to more factual reporting and a
better AJC.
Most sincerely,
Robert H. Powell, Jr.
Author/Editor/Historian/Pilot 352nd Fighter Group
1545 Rainier Falls Dr
Atlanta, GA 30329


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