Tuskegee was chosen for the military aviation program because the Tuskegee Institute already had in place a civilian pilot training program; it also meant that Blacks would be isolated on an all-Black training facility. None-the-less, in early 1941 a contract was signed and the 66th Air Force Contract Flying School at Tuskegee Institute was established to provide the primary training of all Black cadets.

The continued rejection/segregation of Black men who applied to the Air Corps led to lawsuits supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP rejected the policy of segregation and encouraged men who applied to request their training in a facility closest to their home and not at the Tuskegee facility.

Despite challenges, the 99th Squadron was activated on March 21, 1941. It was expected that the squadron would consist of 33 pilots and 27 aircrafts. The total of 278 men expected to receive training at the institute in a range of complementary roles including mechanics, weather specialist and technical clerks. Training officially began on July 19, 1941 and the group received their first flight instruction on August 25, 1941.

Although these pioneers endured separate and unequal facilities--an incomplete airfield, crowded instruction rooms, etc--the first graduation class of Tuskegee pilots took place on March 7, 1942. The five Army Air Corps pilots were CPT Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., District of Columbia; Lemuel R.Curtis, Connecticut; Charles Debow Jr., Indiana; George S. Roberts, West Virginia; Mac Ross, Ohio.


Copyright 2001-, Terry Muse
Revised: December 30, 2001
Contact: Terry Muse