COLLEGE PARK, Md. – They are known as the Tuskegee Airmen — World War II pilots that helped win the war for the Allies.
They were also the first African-American pilots to fight in the U.S. military, several years before it was desegregated.
On Saturday, members of this elite fleet shared their stories with children — and their parents — at the College Park Aviation museum.
The airmen spoke about the courage it took to prove themselves to their superiors and the world.
Major Edward Talibert says people did not trust the pilots, “Because they were black. But they were just as intelligent as everybody else. All they needed was a chance to do it and they got the chance and they did it.”
William Fauntroy Jr. was still in training when the war ended. He told the younger generation to dream big and never give up, even when times get tough.
“I hope that what we have done as Tuskegee airmen will make you understand that you can do it,” Fauntroy said.
Eight-year-old Caelan Rice, from Hyattsville, attended the event.
“These men were told that they couldn’t do it just because of the color of their skin. But they thought that they could do it, so they did it. Then the army people said that, well, now that these guys are so great, I think that black people could be mixed with white people in the Army.”
Rice says she’s going to work hard to reach her goals, just like the pilots.
“I’m going to go to a good high school and college, and I’m going to make sure that I learn the rest of my eight facts for times tables. And I’m going to help other people with doing what they want to be.”
Boy scout Jeremiah Smith, 8, from Glen Dale, says now that he’s met the airmen, he has big plans for the future.
“Well I’m thinking of being a Tuskegee airman. It was pretty cool knowing I actually had ancestors that actually were in the war.”