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Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II (Oxford Oral History Series) Hardcover – April 14, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Product Description
As the country's first African American military pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen fought in World War II on two fronts: against the Axis powers in the skies over Europe and against Jim Crow racism and segregation at home. Although the pilots flew more than 15,000 sorties and destroyed more than 200 German aircraft, their most far-reaching achievement defies quantification: delivering a powerful blow to racial inequality and discrimination in American life.

In this inspiring account of the Tuskegee Airmen, historian J. Todd Moye captures the challenges and triumphs of these brave pilots in their own words, drawing on more than 800 interviews recorded for the National Park Service's Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project. Denied the right to fully participate in the U.S. war effort alongside whites at the beginning of World War II, African Americans--spurred on by black newspapers and civil rights organizations such as the NAACP--compelled the prestigious Army Air Corps to open its training programs to black pilots, despite the objections of its top generals. Thousands of young men came from every part of the country to Tuskegee, Alabama, in the heart of the segregated South, to enter the program, which expanded in 1943 to train multi-engine bomber pilots in addition to fighter pilots. By the end of the war, Tuskegee Airfield had become a small city populated by black mechanics, parachute packers, doctors, and nurses. Together, they helped prove that racial segregation of the fighting forces was so inefficient as to be counterproductive to the nation's defense.

Freedom Flyers brings to life the legacy of a determined, visionary cadre of African American airmen who proved their capabilities and patriotism beyond question, transformed the armed forces--formerly the nation's most racially polarized institution--and jump-started the modern struggle for racial equality.

Take a look at pictures from Freedom Flyers
(Click on images to enlarge)

By the end of World War II, experienced black officers had fully assumed leadership of the 477th Composite Group of Tuskegee-trained fighter and bomber pilots.
NAACP Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

By the end of the war the pool of civilian instructors at Moton Field had grown to more than two dozen.
U.S. Air Force Historical Agency.

Left to right: Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr., Col. Noel F. Parrish, and Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. Parrish and Davis Jr. were fortuitous choices for the leadership of the Tuskegee military flight program.
U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency.

Pilots of the 477th fly B-25s in formation. Training African-Americans to fly and maintain the world’s most powerful and sophisticated killing machines implicitly challenged Jim Crow.
U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency.

Members of the first class of graduates from the Tuskegee Army Flying School (TAPS) discuss flying with Robert M. “Mother” Long.
U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency.

From Publishers Weekly

Moye, associate professor of history at the University of North Texas, updates a now familiar story in this excellent history of the first African-American military pilots. Under pressure from black newspapers and the NAACP to open pilot training to blacks (and facing a re-election fight), President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 authorized the creation of a segregated flight school at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and an all-black fighter squadron. The program trained almost 1,000 fliers, and nearly half served in combat during WWII, compiling an impressive record flying 15,000 sorties in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Despite official skepticism and occasional hostility, the Tuskegee Airmen successfully demonstrated that racial segregation of troops was inefficient and... hindered national defense. Their record helped persuade the air force—largely for reasons of operational self-interest—and President Harry Truman to seek the immediate desegregation of the military after the war. The author directed the National Park Service's Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project and mined some 800 interviews for his exhaustive research. Moye's lively prose and the intimate details of the personal narratives yield an accessible scholarly history that also succeeds as vivid social history. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Oral History Series
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (April 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195386558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195386554
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,419,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Wall on May 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "Freedom Flyers," historian J. Todd Moye delivers a succinct yet nuanced study of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. Moye's main contribution lies in his utilization of the voluminous oral histories (more than 800) recorded by the Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project (led by Moye from 2000-2005). While the book does chronicle the war-time exploits of African-American fighter pilots during the war, it also tells the story of the support crews who struggled to carve out a place for themselves in a segregated Air Force. Moye provides a balanced account of the Tuskegee Program, skillfully employing oral histories, newspaper accounts, and military records in his study. The result is a valuable military AND social history that accurately portrays the Tuskegee Airmen not as immaculate heroes who never lost a bomber, but courageous individuals who fought admirably for their country and in the process challenged the assumptions of black inferiority that undergirded the American Jim Crow System. Moye allows the pilots and crewmen to speak for themselves, providing agency to the brave men who previously have been lumped into a homogenized group known only as the "Tuskegee Airmen". He argues that the Tuskegee Airmen and their contributions led to the integration of the military long before the celebrated 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and provided a working model for the Civil Rights movement that followed in the 1950's and 1960's. Moye's prose is scholarly yet accessible, and will appeal to historians as well as casual readers. Ultimately, Moye has crafted a well-rounded story of courage and patriotism in the face of racist opposition-the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.
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For what's it's worth this book wasn't bad, but like every other book I've read about the Tuskegee Airmen it is guilty, in my opinion, of false advertising... from the title, to the cover photo you're supposed to believe this is a book about the combat operations of these men. A far more honest title would be "Racial Integration of the US Military in WWII and the Post War Era"
I am a retired fighter pilot. Back when I was serving I loved taking a plane to airshows across North America. Doing so allowed me to meet many interesting people and I've got some great memories. Some of those wonderful folks were Tuskegee Airman. They were, without exception in my experiences, a class act. While I make no pretense about speaking for them, or reading their minds, it was obvious to me from our conversations that they wanted to be remembered as fighter pilots. Fighter pilots that were, in the words of one bomber crewman, "the best of shepherds". And therein lies my problem with this book and every other one I've read on this subject. This is a book about black men who happened to be fighter pilots... I want to read a book about fighter pilots who happened to be black. And I think they'd like that too.
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Freedom Flyers is a thoughtul and well written history of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. Moye does a wonderful job of avoiding hagiography and presents the story of these remarkable men largely in their own words. The author had remarkable access to these pioneers through his work heading up the Tuskegee Airmen oral history project -- and the results are there on the page. No matter how well you think you know this story, you will find something new in this thorough and thought-provoking book. I heartily recommend Freedom Flyers.
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Format: Hardcover
Freedom Flyers is a deeply compelling and ambitious retelling of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. I'd argue that most Americans know these flyers only through the film. Moye does a fantastic job of resurrecting them not only from the ashes of history, but also from the often misguided retellings offered by Hollywood.

The best attribute of the book is the inclusion of the oral history information gathered by Prof. Moye. He's a master of oral history and his access to the men and committment to telling their story honestly is clearly visible through this source material. If you're interested in learning how to do oral history interviews and use them, consult this book.

In sum, this is a valuable piece of military and social history and a damn good read. It is also an excellent addition to the history of the civil rights movement. Indeed, Moye places the airmen and military service back into the framework of the black freedom struggle in important ways. I highly recommend this book.
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Anyone hoping for a blow by blow set of war stories of aerial battles in WWII will not be satisfied with this book. It is written by a highly qualified professor of oral history, and explores the discrimination suffered by these airmen in depth, and makes a very powerful case for the Tuskegee Airmen being very early civil rights pioneers.

As a career USAF SNCO I was appalled at the treatment these men received at the hands of their own Army Air Corps. I won't give away too much of the book, but I think readers will be saddened and angered to hear that German POW's at US airbases received better treatment and were shown more respect than these US airmen.

Never in my 20 years did I see officers refer to the orders of higher ranking commanders as an "experiment", nor did I ever see officers attempt to make sure the objectives they were tasked with were not successful. Why did these professional military men ruin their own careers, seemingly as a form of protest? The book reveals the answer to be resentment at being forced to ignore their own feelings about race and follow orders. This total lack of discipline and disregard for the chain of command is shocking, but the story does need to be told.

This book does a great job of telling that story, and for that reason I highly recommend it.
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