Tuskegee Airmen Inspire New Generations

Historic African-American fighter pilots subject of new movie

By Scott Gordon and Peter Hull
|  Monday, Jan 23, 2012  |  Updated 6:57 PM CDT
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Pioneer pilots broke the color barrier.

Scott Gordon

Pioneer pilots broke the color barrier.

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Amid the hustle and bustle at a Fort Worth Cajun restaurant, 88-year-old Robert McDaniel, of Allen, is telling war stories.

He was a flight officer in World War II, 68 years ago.

"I never will forget it," McDaniel said. "You can't forget it!"

He was a Tuskegee Airman, one of the group of African-American pilots portrayed in the new movie "Red Tails."

In an era of racism, they trained separately from white pilots at an air base in Tuskegee, Ala. The Tuskegee Airmen fought more than just the enemy.

"You had to fight your countrymen for the right to fight for your country," McDaniel said.

"I thought I was pretty good myself," said Col. Lloyd McKeethan, of Cedar Hill.

He looks back on what they did with pride.

"I thought, I want to fly for my country because we were in a bad situation in those days," he said.

"I'm so excited that a movie named "Red Tails" is going to tell the story to our nation's kids, because we need to know our history," said author C.B. Rice, who wrote a book on the nation's first black pilots.

One of those children is 13-year-old Jack Benson.

"I had chills up my back," Benson said. "It was amazing, to shake somebody's hand who did so well for our country."

"I couldn't imagine what they had to go through to get where they got to," Daylan Holman said. "They worked so hard to make a future for me, and not only me, but other African-Americans."

The Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.

McDaniel wears it proudly -- a symbol of how things have changed.

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