They simultaneously fought two wars--and won both. In 1942, as the United States entered World War II, Hitler ruled the skies in Europe and Jim Crow ruled the skies in the United States.
The cream of black youth poured into Tuskegee, Alabama in the early 1940s when the Army Air Force reluctantly opened pilot training to blacks. They became the "Tuskegee Experiment;" an experiment that was supposed to fail.
It didn't. Because of their desire to fly and the determination of a few white officers who believed in them, they disproved the myths about blacks' ability to fly. Overcoming the obstacles raised by white officers vehemently opposed to the experiment, they succeeded.
The first squadron, the 99th, under the leadership of LTC B.O. Davis, Jr. arrived in North Africa after months of languishing in the United States awaiting assignment. In spite of the menial tasks they were given, they proved themselves in combat.
As more pilots arrived, they formed their own group, the 332nd, and became a part of the newly created 15th AAF. Fate now favored them. With the decision to begin daylight bombing over Central Europe, the men of the 332nd--the 'Red Tails'--were assigned escort duty for the B-17s and B-24s undertaking those bomb runs. Shepherding their 'babies' on those long, perilous journeys from Italy to Central Europe and back, they earned the reputation of never losing to enemy aircraft a bomber they escorted.
Thus began the 'Red Tail' legend.