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Red Tails : Now I Understand.

Flight instructing from an island paradise is filled with wonderful moments but who knew today I would be learning a lesson in history. I had just completed a training session in the simulator under fluorescent lights and was enjoying the warm Florida sun while standing next to the small terminal building at Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa.

I watched a Piper aircraft land and taxi to the terminal in front of me and shut down. An older gentleman stepped out of the aircraft and proclaimed “it is a wonderful day to fly!” to the first person who would listen, that person being me. I said to him it sure was but I had just spent most of my day inside and could not wait to get up in the sky.

With outstretched hand I said “Hi my name is Carl and I teach here”. He shook my hand and said “hello my name is Henry”. I then looked at him and said “this your plane?”. Henry then says with a look of a pride “it sure is”. I looked towards him and then said “being able to fly is wonderful. So how long have you been flying?” He then looks at me and said I flew in WWII. I was a Tuskegee Airman”.

“Wow World War II, I just finished showing Chester another WWII fighter pilot how to use our simulator!” I then looked at him and said “Pardon my ignorance what is a Tuskegee Airman?”. He looked towards me for one second and then said to me “when I was young, blacks where not allowed to become pilots in the military. That changed with our all black fighter squadron, the Tuskegee Airman.”

I said “Wow, I never knew that”. I wish I could have listened to stories about this fighter squadron called the Tuskegee Airmen but I had another lesson. I then looked at my watch and said “I need to get going to my next lesson, but I sure would like to hear more about your experience.” He then turned to me and said “look it up in the library, you might also want to look for information under the name Red Tails.”

He left me standing there with a puzzled and curious look on my face. I had to find out what this Red Tails thing meant. Later that day through the wonders of internet search engines I was able to find a bunch of information but it wasn’t until recently that I understood the personal struggles of the brave soldiers called “The Tuskegee Airmen.”

The movie Red Tails is the amazing story of the struggles of African American pilots to be accepted in a segregated military. I really enjoyed this movie because it integrated the story of the the individuals and their unique personalities with the historic events.

The cinematography was unique and while watching I had the feel of a Frank Capra film rather than a modern film with amazing special effects. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose but at one point in the movie in a scene where the pilots were being briefed before a battle I had a flashback to the black and white movies from the past.

I’m not sure if this was purposeful but the special effects especially during the aerial combat where reminiscent of the old movies I have been watching recently. The movie’s story outshines the special effects. However, I came to hear a story rather than watch airplanes, although the airplanes attracted me to this film.

For one who wants to understand the struggles of the black pilots and their acceptance into a segregated military this is a wonderful film. I was glued to the screen during the film imagining myself in the airfields of Europe. Everyone who wants to understand the Tuskegee airmen and watch an entertaining movie which has some wonderful airplanes, this is a must see.

For More Information:

Red Tails Movie Website

Local Tuskegee Airman lived the story: MyFoxTAMPABAY.com

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • CarlValeri February 13, 2012, 1:14 pm

    ‘Red Tails’ Defying Predictions
    Genre Considered To Be Liability Is Becoming Asset

    http://www.aero-news.net/index.cfm?do=main.textpost&id=da02150a-4824-4f2d-a2bf-3cb456af7e3a

  • Jackie March 12, 2012, 12:23 am

    Hi Carl,

    I met you years and years ago at a FAA Safety meeting when meetings were held next to the Egypt Temple Shriners’ building.

    I was wondering, since you mentioned Peter O’Knight airport and a Tuskegee Airman by the first name of Henry, if that was Henry Bohler? Henry was a great man who loved his family and his flying. He also loved talking with younger people about getting involved with aviation. Henry passed in 2007, but TPF bought his Archer; tale number N32426. It looks like they’ve painted the tail Red!

    BTW, love the blog.

  • CarlValeri March 12, 2012, 11:47 am

    Yes it was Henry Bohler I was writing about in this post. He was a great man.

    I did not realize his plane was being used at the flight school. Painting the tail red is a wonderful tribute to Henry.

    Thanks for the comments,

    Carl

  • Henry Bohler Jr. July 31, 2012, 11:26 pm

    Dear Carl,

    Just happened on to your article. It sounded just like my dad. He would have enjoyed it. Thanks.

    Henry

  • CarlValeri August 1, 2012, 1:33 pm

    Thanks Henry.

    I will always remember your father for his beaming smile as he walked from his plane toward the terminal building at Peter O. Knight Airport. He was a great man and had a large influence on my pursuing an aviation career.

    Carl.

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