HAMM Preps Tuskegee Exhibit The Test
By JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS
Learn more about the "Red Tails" this week when the Tyler Historic Aviation Museum unveils a new exhibit about World War II's heroic Tuskegee Airmen.
The exhibit showcases the little celebrated group of first black World War II aviators who faced racism and skepticism amid a time of war.
The group was part of an effort by the U.S. War Department to determine whether blacks were capable of serving as effective combat aviators, a situation that came to be known as the "Tuskegee Experiment."
"The Test" exhibit opens at 10 a.m. Friday and runs through July 31 at the museum, 150 Airport Drive.
"This exhibit has been set up at a large museum in Detroit," Museum Board President Carolyn Verver said. "I think a lot of people who enjoy aviation will appreciate this exhibit. The Tuskegees have been in the background a number of years, but this year they are getting more attention."
The educational, self-guided display, which consists of a pictorial history and miniature replicas of vintage aircraft, is intended to remind people of the important role they played in the nation's history, Ms. Verver said.
The exhibit comes on the heels of the recent release "Red Tails," produced by Lucasfilm and released by 20th Century Fox, which focuses on the racism and heroism associated with the group.
The name "Red Tails" originated from the markings on the Tuskegee aircraft, many of which featured tails painted red.
Museum officials said they wanted to offer the display, only the second time the organization has played host to a traveling exhibit, in hopes of attracting more people to the facility and the volunteer organization that supports it.
"There's a common bond," Ms. Verver said. "And when you bring in the guys, a lot of wives come with them."
Work featured in "The Test" is the creation of North Carolina photographer Jerry Taliaferro, who attempts to describe the challenges and achievements the flyers made in World War II.
Money used to fund the display came from community donations, officials said.
Admission to the museum and exhibit is $5 for adults, $3 or less for children, depending on their age. Members of the military, with valid identification, are free.
War veteran Marshall Ewing, 82, is glad to see the exhibit come to Tyler.
He served as a pilot during the Korean War, entering the Navy in 1948 as a "white hat" and then entering flight training, earning his wings in 1951. He served on the USS Essex, an aircraft carrier, before leaving the service in 1954.
"I think it (Tuskegee recognition) is very overdue, considering this is 2012," he said. "They did good work in extreme circumstances ... they didn't get a lot of publicity."
Ewing is a fan of old aircraft, especially the P-38s that were common in that era.
"I would have loved to have flown them," he said. "I flew 56 missions. I was very lucky, I didn't get a scratch. I credit the Navy and the Good Lord."
Air Force veteran Jerry Jordan, 66, said he appreciates the work of the Tuskegee Airmen and wants to learn all he can about it.
He worked in the Vietnam era as a jet flight mechanic and crew chief, servicing F-100 Super Sabres.
"I think it (Tuskegee participation) was very instrumental in changing the attitudes of the military," he said. "As with most anything, there's more than one source of information and that's certainly the situation with this organization."
Sponsors and supporters include Lawrence L. Anderson, Svetislava J. Vukelja, Christopher F. Njeh, Michael P. Ashigbi, Seni A. Sise, Albert Stephen, Deborah Stephen, Myrtha Elsie Basile, Frank T. Ward, Agnes M. Ward, Aparna Reddy Kumar, Rajeev S. Kumar, Habte Yimer, Abebech Mehari, Thomas F. Gregory, Rachel C. Gregory, Mark Saunders, M.D., Mary V. Saunders, APH Hospitalists P.A. and Gordon Spine Associates.
To learn more about the Tuskegee exhibit, call 903-526-1939 or visit the museum's website, www.tylerhamm.com