"Red Tails" movie review

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aja Smith
  • 50th Aerial Port Squadron
I was fortunate enough to see the recent movie release, "Red Tails," a history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Their story is one I believe every American should know.

"Red Tails" documents how African Americans, who were part of the U.S. Army Air Forces "Tuskegee Experiment" in the deep south, were courageously waging two wars at the same time, one against America's enemies overseas and the other against discrimination within the American military at home.

The experiment, to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft, proved that given equal opportunity and training, they could fly in combat units and command or support them as well as anyone else. Tuskegee Airmen consisted of pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors and all support personnel.

"Red Tails" skipped the training and began with the Tuskegee Airmen flying missions in Italy during World War II. For me, the film carried important lessons about camaraderie, persistence and courage in the face of nearly impossible obstacles.

Due to prejudice in the country, African American pilots were deemed inferior and assigned second rate aircraft to fight missions. Even so, their persistence and courage led them to battle with German fighters where the Tuskegee Airmen scored their first victory by destroying a German airfield. After that battle and victory, Col. A. J. Bullard, 332nd Fighter Group commander, was tasked by the USAFF Bomber Command, to fly their fighters as bomber escorts over Germany, which gave the group another chance to show their skills and bravery.

Bullard accepted the task on the condition that his group receive new aircraft. When the new planes were delivered, the Tuskegee Airmen painted the tails bright red to stand out. The red tail also added to the camaraderie between the Airmen, giving them world-wide recognition and a sense of pride and belonging.

In addition to the red tails standing out, the movie's special effects during the dog fight scenes stood out as well. They were very detailed and a close personal interaction with the pilots in their planes almost gave me the sensation of being there with them. The movie illustrated that the Tuskegee Airmen broke the stereotype that African Americans could not fly or win, and they proved that they could do it all in sophisticated aircraft.

I had the privilege of meeting some of the Tuskegee Airmen at the University of Riverside a few years ago. Now that I have seen the movie, "Red Tails," I can better visualize the life stories that I heard from those Airmen. The movie, coupled with their stories, gave me an emotional experience that I will carry with me for a very long time.

I was not able to meet my Great Uncle Bob Webb, who was an original Tuskegee Airmen pilot, but his obituary in the Seattle Times tells his story of never being allowed to eat or spend time in the officers' club, similar to a story I heard from one of the Tuskegee Airman at UCR.

Their stories made me feel sad because regardless of what rank they had earned, the discrimination was due to the color of their skin. They went through the same training as the other pilots and deserved to be treated with the same respect and dignity as their counterparts.

One of the Tuskegee Airman's wives told me that African Americans in the military were forbidden from socializing with each other and other military members and their families on base. Being a Tuskegee Airmen may have helped those military members cope because of the camaraderie but she said some of the spouses passed notes to their friends at the laundrymat in order to communicate with one another.

"Red Tails" was an excellent movie. The Tuskegee Airmen story was told in a brave and magnificent way that had me laughing and crying. It was inspiring, the action sequences were compelling, and the relationships were believable. Red Tails was a good fighter pilot movie, based on true events of the all-black Tuskegee Airmen team who flew in WWII.

I recommend to everyone that you see this movie to gain a better understanding of the history of The Tuskegee Air-men and their bravery.