"Your sole mission is to protect the bombers - not chase enemy aircraft for personal glory"
Colonel Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
Group Commander 332nd Fighter Group
With the words of his Group CO ringing in his ears, a pilot of the 332nd Fighter Group returns to protect a crippled American B-17 bomber after downing two Me109s in quick succession. Agonisingly, two more enemy fighters were left to escape but the pilot knew that under the strict leadership of Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, his mission, and that of the other all-black pilots of the 332nd, was solely to protect the bombers. That iron discipline was to earn this famous unit the respect and admiration of hundreds of bomber crews, and to create a legend.
Despite lingering racial prejudice and some opposition within the Air Force, President Roosevelt had ordered the USAAF to form an all-black fighter pilot unit, its cres to be trained at Tuskegee in Alabama. To the surprise of their critics, the Tuskegee Airmen were to prove their detractors spectacularly wrong from the first day they went into action in Italy in May 1943.
Flying first with the Twelfth Air Force, then the Fifteenth, the four squadrons of the 332nd completed over 15,000 combat sorties, destroyed over 250 Luftwaffe aircraft in the air and on the ground, 950 railway trucks and locomotives, and even sunk a destroyer by machine gun fire. The Group was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, their pilots decorated with over 1000 medals for gallantry. But above all, with the spinners and tails of their P-51 Mustangs brightly painted red, the "The Red Tails" as they were affectionately known, became the only US Fighter Group that never lost a bomber in their care.
Richard Taylor's painting, "Red Tail Escort", the Tuskegee "Red Tail" pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group are a more than welcome sight as they close in to escort home a damaged B17 Fortress of the 483rd Bomb Group. Seen high over the Italian Alps during the summer of 1944 this poignant scene conveys precisely the story of the legendary "Red Tails". Every print is signed by six surviving pilots from this remarkable group of airmen including the legendary Colonel Charles McGee, the pilot of P-51 "Kitten" portrayed in this majestic painting.
Lieutenant Colonel Leo R. Gray was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a replacement pilot for the 100th Fighter Squadron, next to last class. He arrived in Ramitelli, Italy, on 14th March 1945. 2nd Lt. Gray had a near encounter with two Me262’s while he and two other squadron mates were escorting home a P-38. But the jets broke off the attack when the Mustangs dropped tanks. He has 15 missions, and flew P-40’s, P-47’s and P-51’s in combat and retired as a Lt. Colonel. Decorations include Air Medal with Cluster and Presidential Unit Citation.
Lieutenant Colonel George E. Hardy hailed originally from Philadelphia, Pa. During 1945 he was based at Ramitelli, Italy, with the 99th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, flying the P-51 Mustang. He flew 21 combat missions. In addition, 45 combat missions over Korea in the B-29 and 70 combat missions in AC-119K Gunships over Vietnam. Decorations include The Air Medal with 2 O.L.C.’s, Air Medal (Korea) with 3-7 O.L.C.’s and DFC (Vietnam) Air Medal with 8-11 O.L.C.’s. He retired as a Lt. Colonel.
Lieutenant Colonel William H. Holloman III was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He flew P-51's with the 99th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, during early 1945. After World War II he flew P-47's with the 301st Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, and during the Korean War was a MATS pilot. On one mission he was flying the wounded back to the States from the Far East and Korea. He was also the first black helicopter pilot in the Air Force. Bill Holloman later flew with Pacific Western Airlines in Canada. He was recalled to active duty in 1966, serving in Vietnam and later in Europe. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Jefferson was born in Detroit. He graduated from Tuskegee Army Air Field and after combat training, joined the 'Red Tail' 332nd Fighter Group, 301st F.S. at Ramitelli, Italy. He flew 18 long-range escort missions for B-17 and B-24 bombers. On August 12th 1944, three days prior to the invasion of southern France, he was shot down by ground fire while strafing coastal radar installations. He spent the rest of the war as a POW and was liberated by General Patton's 3rd Army. He visited Dachau concentration camp and returned to the U.S. as an instrument instructor at Tuskegee Field. Decorations include the Purple Heart and Air Medal. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Colonel Charles McGee graduated from flight school and shipped out to Italy in December 1943, joining the 302nd Fighter Squadron, 332nd FG. He flew missions in North Africa, Italy and Germany, and got his first victory on 24 August on the Ploesti raid. After the war he commanded fighter squadrons throughout the United States, Italy, the Phillippines and Germany, logging up more than 6,100 hours in 409 combat missions spanning World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Serving in the armed forces for 30 years he holds the record of flying more combat missions than any other USAF pilot in history.
Second Lieutenant Lowell Steward
Entering the Tuskegee flight school for training in July 1942, Lowell Steward graduated as a fighter pilot and was posted to Europe to join the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group flying P-51s. During his service Lowell flew 143 combat missions with the 100th Fighter Squadron, and remained in the service until July 1946.
Overall print size: 30 1/4" x 23 1/2" high.
Image size: 23 3/4" wide x 16" high.