The Tuskegee Airmen are known for their great contributions in World War II. The African-American group of 450 pilots flew more than 15,000 missions over North Africa, Sicily and Europe — while also fighting to overcome racism — and collectively received a Congressional Gold Medal three decades later.
What’s not as well known is their connection to Bartholomew and Jackson counties. The airmen trained at Atterbury Air Force Base in Columbus and Freeman Field in Seymour.
That local connection will become better known with the renaming of a stretch of Interstate 65 going through Bartholomew and Jackson counties to recognize the Tuskegee Airmen. Signs at mile marker 50 near Seymour and mile marker 79.5 just north of the Bartholomew County line inform motorists it’s the Tuskegee Airmen Highway.
Renaming that section was a good and welcome idea.
During a ceremony Friday in a hangar at Columbus Municipal Airport, Brig. Gen. Jeffery Hauser, commander of the Indiana Air Guard, said it was important to honor the Tuskegee Airmen’s examples of courage, personal sacrifice and perseverance as they broke barriers for African-Americans serving in the military as pilots.
We agree. Not only did they bravely put their lives on the line for their country to help defeat the Axis powers, they did so during a time of segregation and amid misconceptions about their abilities.
Such treatment played a role in the Freeman Field Mutiny in April 1945, in which more than 100 officers were arrested for refusing to sign an order preventing them from going to a whites-only officers club.
News of the incident contributed to the eventual integration of all branches of the military.
The Tuskegee Airmen are an important part of local and national military history, and that fact is worthy of recognition.
The Indianapolis Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, state lawmakers and local officials are to be commended for finding an appropriate way to honor the airmen’s contributions and local connections, and help their legacy endure.