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news release

Contact:John Dourgarian
609-530-2124
RELEASE: February 3, 1997


NJDOT honors Tuskegee Airmen


The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) will honor the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II as part of Black History Month. As part of this celebration, NJDOT’s Division of Aeronautics and the Division of Civil Rights have worked together to present an an exhibit to highlight the achievements of America’s black aviators.

The Tuskegee Airmen got their name from the U.S. Army Air Corps training base that was established at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1941, which had already been training black pilots under the Civilian Pilots Training Program. After the establishment of the Tuskegee Army Air Field, the first class began its training as a pilot cadre for the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which achieved fame over Europe as the "Red-Tailed Angels." The name derived from the special paint job on the P-51 Mustangs they flew in combat. World War II records indicate that not one bomber was lost out of the groups they escorted on their missions.

Approximately 40 of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen who reside in New Jersey have been invited to attend a reception in their honor, in addition to many dignitaries from the aviation and business community.

"We’re pleased to honor and recognize the exemplary service of these aviators," Acting Commissioner John J. Haley, Jr. said. "Through courage and tenacity, they overcame racial discrimination and the adversities of war and went on to distinguish themselves as outstanding airmen. These men made a difference and our state is proud that 40 of them call New Jersey their home."

"I look forward to this occasion because it highlights the achievement of some pioneer black airmen in America’s history," said Anthony Davis, Acting Director, Division of Civil Rights.

According to Jack Penn, Executive Director of the Division of Aeronautics, General Weaver, who headed the Air Corps Training Command at the time, said "The eyes of the country are upon you. The success of the venture depends upon you."

"And he was right," Penn said. "They overcame all odds and achieved greatness."

The exhibit will be open all day on February 7, 1997 at the NJDOT’s headquarters at 1035 Parkway Avenue, Ewing, NJ. The reception will begin at 7:00 PM in the NJDOT’s Multi-Purpose Room.

 
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