BROOKLYN, NY — Black history comes alive at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus on Feb. 15, when two of the iconic Tuskegee Airmen share their stories of being the first black fighter pilots in America’s Armed Forces.
Majors Victor Terrelonge and Bill Wheller were invited by the Newman Club — a Catholic ministry student group at the Brooklyn Campus — to share their experiences as part of the Campus’ celebration of Black History Month in February. A question and answer session will follow the talk.
The public is encouraged to attend the free event, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 15, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Campus’ Dessie Marr Memorial Chapel, third floor of the Student Building. Enter at the Metcalfe Building, located on the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb avenues.
Before the Tuskegee Airmen, there had never been an African-American pilot in the U.S. military. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Air Corps to build an all-black flying unit. To train the black pilots needed for the new squadron, the Air Corps opened a training base in central Alabama at the Tuskegee Institute.
During World War II, black fighter pilots fought the Germans abroad and racism in the ranks.
“The stories of the Tuskegee airmen are so important to the history of the world during World War II, the history of racial discrimination within the armed forces of the United States, and the history of the civil rights movement in this country,” said Brooklyn Campus chaplain Charles P. Keeney, adviser to the Newman Club. “We have a unique opportunity to hear from two of these individuals and make the pages of history books come alive with their first-hand presentation.”
After segregation in the military was ended in 1948, the veteran Tuskegee Airmen found themselves in high demand throughout the newly formed United States Armed Forces.
In 2007, President George W. Bush bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor, on 300 Tuskegee Airmen.