Tuskegee Airmen Unit

Name: Tuskegee Airmen

Hometown: Across the Region

Known for: African-American fighter pilots during World War ll

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black servicemen to serve as military aviators in the U.S. armed forces, flying with distinction during World War ll.

During World War ll, the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee program to train the black aviators officially began in June 1941 at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Though subject to racial discrimination at home and abroad, the 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground personnel who served with the all-black units would be credited with 15,500 combat missions and earn more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses for their achievements.

The highly publicized successes of the Tuskegee Airmen helped pave the way for the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces by President Harry Truman in 1948.

Lake County was home to seven Tuskegee Airmen: Quentin Smith, Rixie McCarroll, Gordon Rapier, Carl Ellis, Lloyd McKeethen, Sylvester Hurd and Louis Murray. The Tuskegee Airmen were inducted into the South Shore Wall of Legends in 2007. Quentin Smith is being individually inducted Thursday.