The surviving Iowa members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War Two were honored in a ceremony Saturday at the Iowa Air National Guard base in Des Moines. Audio: Dar Danielson report. :67.
In a hanger that now holds modern day jet fighters, the seven airmen and three widows of their colleagues, watched the unveiling of a fiberglass replica of the P-51-D Mustang.
The P-51 was one of several fighter planes the men flew as the fought for their country and against racism. The all-black Tuskegee Airmen unit achieved an outstanding record of success — never losing a single bomber they escorted. Luther Smith of Des Moines flew 133 combat missions before becoming a prisoner of war in 1944. He says the Tuskegee Airmen flew with a purpose.
They had something to prove, and in proving it, they also realized they had a job to do with every other American, to bring peace. The Mustang fighter replica carries the name of Robert Williams of Ottumwa on one. Williams’ life story was the focus of the HBO movie about the airmen.
The other side of the plane carries Smith’s name. He says the display and the turnout at the ceremony is demonstration that the Tuskegee Airmen are a legend. The P-51-D replica will be on permanent display outside the guard base. The ceremonies unveiling the replica included a fly-by of a P-51-C Mustang, another version of the plane flown by the Tuskegee airmen. The Iowa airmen were also honored at a dinner Saturday evening in Des Moines.