Chapter XVI

Introduction To Combat: Air Phase And Aftermath
Despite the formulation of several policies on their shipment, relatively few Negro troops of any sort were overseas by the spring of 1943. None of the larger combat units, including the non-divisional units, had been actively employed in an overseas theater. The 24th Infantry Regiment went to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific in May 1942. Plans had been made to employ it in the latter phases of the campaign on Guadalcanal, but Japanese resistance there collapsed earlier than had been expected. The unit did not reach Guadalcanal until the main fighting was over 1 There were antiaircraft and air base security units overseas but few of these had gone to active areas. Converted units were assigned their new functions with the expectation that they could then be shipped and used more speedily and effectively, but these units usually required further training in their new tasks. Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, who had spoken frequently of the desirability of sending Negro troops to active theaters, if only to counter the growing and morale-damaging impression that they would not be sent out of the country, formally recommended in April 1943 that the Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policies specifically propose that a Negro combat unit be sent to an active theater without delay.2
At the time, only 79,000 out of 504,000 Negro troops were overseas-a little more than 15 percent of the whole. The bulk of these were service troops; two thirds of the whole were in engineer, quartermaster, and transportation units. Of ground forces Negro troops, only 7 percent of all types were overseas. Steps were being taken to return the three Negro separate infantry regiments from the defense commands to Army Ground Forces for retraining and preparation for overseas movement. The 99th Fighter Squadron was under orders to proceed to a port of embarkation. The 93d Division could be ready for shipment on 1 October 1943 if desert training were not given it and on 1 December if it received this training. But there was no assurance that it would be accepted by an active theater when ready. Proposals had been made to send the 93d to Hawaii, but this, if done, would not solve the problem, for

Hawaii was only a training and defense area. Moreover, the Hawaiian command was not anxious to give main defense positions to a Negro division.3
The Fighter Program
Of all the Negro combat units, the Air Forces' 99th Pursuit Squadron got the most attention as an immediate candidate for overseas shipment. The chief of the Army Air Forces directed in February 1942, before the unit had obtained its first pilot, that the 99th Pursuit Squadron should be prepared for foreign service as soon as possible. At the time the Air Training Command estimated that on a normal schedule the 36 pilots needed for the first squadron would not be available before 9 October 1942. If the schedule was speeded up by starting students in elementary (without preflight) training, by doubling the entry rate, and by entering pilots directly into basic training if they had completed secondary civilian pilot training under the Civil Aeronautics Administration program, 41 pilots would graduate by 3 July 1942 and 71 by October. There were 29 civilian pilot training secondary graduates available. At least 20 of these were expected to complete aviation cadet training successfully. This schedule did not provide for unit training for the squadron. To provide loss replacements for the 99th and the as yet unactivated 100th Squadron, yet another squadron would be needed.4 To operate independently, the 99th Squadron would require its own supplementary service detachments as well. By March 1942 the Air Staff had selected the Liberia Task Force for the 99th. The 100th would see foreign service, "but it's not known at this time where it will go." 5
As soon as it received its minimum pilot complement and hastily provided service detachments, the 99th rushed to complete its unit training and depart for overseas. Successive departure dates came and went. During the waiting period, its pilots added hours of training time, becoming so proficient as to evoke favorable comment from many observers. This additional training time, later to be weighed against it as though it was a formal part of its scheduled training, enabled distinguished visitors, military and civilian-including Secretary Stimson, Mrs. Roosevelt, and the British Ambassador, Lord Halifax to observe the alert and anxious personnel of the squadron, with the result that before long the legend grew that the 99th, in addition to being well trained, was also made up of especially selected personnel. It was true that the original enlisted specialists sent to Chanute Field for training had been selected from a long list of applicants, but many of these men were not included in the roster of the squadron. Most of the 99th's pilots had been "selected" through the fortunate chance of

meeting the requirement of previous civilian pilot training, permitting them to enter the truncated training program designed to fill the unit as quickly as possible for early overseas use. The squadron, when finally filled, included its share (as any unit filled from locally available personnel did) of men and officers who, though qualified, were not so keenly desired by Tuskegee's base units as those whom their personnel officers did not offer to the 99th. The squadron was made up of better than average Negro Army personnel, but it was hardly the handpicked, selected unit that later comments made it out to be. 
The 99th Squadron, still in the United States, technically remained a part of the Liberia Task Force until January 1943 when, with the threats from Vichy West Africa and Axis forces in the Middle East removed, it was no longer necessary to provide for the air defense of Liberia. Meantime, the proposal of the Air Staff that the 99th be sent to China to join Brig. Gen. Claire L. Chennault's forces had been rejected by the Operations Division as politically dangerous, since the inexperienced squadron would there meet combat conditions that might result in heavy losses. These could reflect unfavorably upon the War Departments 6 The squadron continued its training while the Air Forces sought a place to send it. Finally the North African theater was selected, and it left Tuskegee on 2 and 3 April 1943, sailing from New York on 24 April. It left behind the 332d Fighter Group, contributing some of its personnel to the group's three partially filled squadrons. The 992d departed Tuskegee a few days later for Selfridge Field, Michigan, where it was to train so that Tuskegee Field might be relieved of training so large a unit.
It was generally understood that when the 99th reached North Africa it would go into combat as soon as possible, for upon its performance, it was also understood, depended the future of Negroes in military aviation. As it worked out, early reports of the performance of the 99th Squadron became entwined with the future of Negroes in all other types of combat units as well.
Chill Upon the Future.
In May 1943, Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, commanding the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa, advised General Henry H. Arnold that although the desire for an early combat test of the 99th was understood, it was believed that the squadron should be handled on exactly the same basis as other squadrons arriving in the theater.7 Like other squadrons, therefore, the 99th was introduced to combat slowly. It was attached to the 33d Group, 64th Wing, XII Air Support Command. News reports disclosed that the 99th Squadron was used in the attack on Pantelleria in June where its first enemy plane was shot down by Capt. Charles Hall, but few details of its action there were known. In late August the squadron commander, Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., was relieved for return to the United States where he was to command and complete the training of the 332d Fighter Group.
On the occasion of Colonel Davis' return, the news magazine Time pub-

lished under the title "Experiment Proved?" not only an account of an interview with Colonel Davis but also hints and rumors about the current status of the squadron. So little operational data on the 99th had reached Washington, the magazine observed, that it was impossible to form a conclusive estimate of its abilities. "It has apparently seen little action, compared to many other units," the magazine reported, "and seems to have done fairly well; unofficial reports from the Mediterranean theater have suggested that the top air command was not altogether satisfied with the 99th's performance; there was said to be a plan some weeks ago to attach it to the Coastal Air Command, in which it would be assigned to routine convoy cover." 8
Time's account appeared in its 20 September issue, on newsstands four days earlier. It was not until t 9 September that General Spaatz signed a second indorsement to a report on the 99th that had originated three days before in Maj. Gen. Edwin J. House's Headquarters, XII Air Support Command. Protests and queries on Time's suggestion that the Negro flyers were to be removed to less active duties therefore began to come into the War Department at about the same time that official theater reports arrived. As a matter of public policy, the War Department answered inquiries with denials that anything of the sort had been contemplated, but it was not many days before reports on the 99th Squadron had begun to affect the developing policy on the movement of Negro combat units overseas and the formation of further Air Corps units.
General House reported to Maj. Gen. John K. Cannon, deputy commander of the Northwest African Tactical Air Force, that since t 2 June when he took command of the XII Air Support Command he had visited the 99th Squadron frequently and that he was particularly impressed with its commander, Colonel Davis. "On the day of the 99th's first encounter with enemy aircraft," he wrote, "I happened to be on the airdrome and was very complimentary and encouraging to the personnel I met." Since then, he had compared the 99th with a white fighter squadron operating in the same group (33d) and with the same type of equipment. The group commander, Col. William W. Momeyer, had reported to him:
The ground discipline and ability to accomplish and execute orders promptly are excellent. Air discipline has not been completely satisfactory. The ability to work and fight as a team has not yet been acquired. Their formation flying has been very satisfactory until jumped by enemy aircraft, when the squadron seems to disintegrate. This has repeatedly been brought to the attention of the Squadron, but attempts to correct this deficiency so far have been unfruitful. On one particular occasion, a flight of twelve JU 88's, with an escort of six ME tog's, was observed to be bombing Pantelleria. The 99th Squadron, instead of pressing home the attack against the bombers, allowed themselves to become engaged with the log's. The unit has shown a lack of aggressive spirit that is necessary for a well-organized fighter squadron. On numerous instances when assigned to dive bomb a specified target in which the anti-aircraft fire was light and inaccurate, they chose the secondary target which was undefended. On one occasion, they were assigned a mission with one squadron of this Group to bomb a target

in the War Department on his return from the MTO, 10 September 1943. Seated at right of 
the younger Davis is his father, General Davis: Truman Gibson, Civilian Aide, is on his left.
in the toe of Italy; the 99th turned back before reaching the target because of the weather. The other squadron went on to the target and pressed home the attack. As later substantiated, the weather was considered operational.
The group commander went on to remark that the squadron had averaged 28 sorties per man; yet Colonel Davis had requested that his men be removed from combat for 3 days during the battle of Sicily because of fatigue, while pilots in the white squadrons of the group, with an average of 70 sorties after continuous operations for nine months, continued to fly. "Based on the performance of the 99th Fighter Squadron to date," he continued, "it is my opinion that they are not of the fighting caliber of any squadron in this Group. They have failed to display the aggressiveness and desire for combat that are necessary to a first-class fighting organization. It may be expected that we will get less work and less operational time out of the 99th Fighter Squadron than any squadron in this group." 9
General House observed that he had released Colonel Davis, although he did not believe that the next ranking officer would approach Col. Davis' standard; that in many discussions which he had held with officers of all professions, "in-

cluding medical," the consensus was that "the negro type has not the proper reflexes to make a first-class fighter pilot." On the rapid moves made within his command, "housing and messing difficulties arise because the time has not yet arrived when the white and colored soldiers will mess at the same table and sleep in the same barracks." Details were not being presented, he said, "because it is desired that administrative features not be a part of this report." He recommended that the 99th be assigned to the Northwest African Coastal Air Force and equipped with P-39's so that its P-40's could be used as replacements for active operations still to come and that "if and when'-' a Negro group was formed in the United States, it be kept there for defense command duties. This would release a white fighter group for movement overseas.10
General Cannon shared the opinion that the 99th's men lacked the stamina and lasting qualities of pilots of other squadrons. They had, he concluded, "no outstanding characteristics in which they excel in war the pilots of other squadrons of this command.11 General Spaatz, forwarding these reports to General Arnold, added:
1. Since the arrival of the 99th Fighter Squadron in this theater, I have personally inspected the organization several times. There has been no question of their ground discipline and their general conduct. It has been excellent.
2. In processing them for combat action they were given the benefit in our training system of the supervision of instructors with much combat experience. They were processed into combat action very carefully.
3. I am forwarding this report with full confidence in the fairness of the analysis made by both General Cannon and General House. I feel that no squadron has been introduced into this theater with a better background of training than had by the 99th Fighter Squadron.12
With the arrival of these reports, immediately hand-carried to the chief offices concerned, the Army Air Forces recommended that the 99th be moved to a rear defense area, that the three fighter squadrons still in training be assigned to a rear defense area, thus releasing white squadrons for a forward combat area, and that the continuation of the Negro combat training program, which involved the activation and training of a medium bombardment group, be abandoned. The Air Forces recommended that this be done only with President Roosevelt's approval. It prepared a draft letter to the President for General Marshall's signature.13
The Air Forces attached to its recommendation an analysis indicating that the 99th had required eight months of training in comparison with three months for white units, and that its requirements in supervisory personnel had been "completely out of proportion to the results achieved." 14 Illogically, the unorthodox arrangements through which the 99th completed its training at a flying training command school while under the control of the Third Air Force, with all the attendant delays and problems of supervision, were now

charged against the squadron. After noting a shortage of P-40 aircraft available for training the 99th, the Air Forces declared that it had had difficulty finding "capable personnel to train for the various duties" both in this squadron and in the 332d Fighter Group. The 332d had been re-equipped with P-47's but "thru difficulties of retraining mechanics" this group was again equipped with P-40's, thus further delaying its training. When it was learned that P-40's would not be available in the theater to which the group was . committed, another change was made to P-39's. With the group only half equipped with its newest planes, training was now further delayed. The "full time duty" of the specially erected white "training" squadron, a "luxury not afforded similar white units," was also charged against the 332d Group. Time lost from the necessity for changing airplanes twice in the pilot replacement training system so that equipment in the group might be standardized was also added to the time and expense of training the group.15
In view of the Air Forces recommendations, General Marshall in early October 1943 directed G-3 to analyze again the entire Negro combat unit situation, ground as well as air.16
The 99th: Catalyst
The Air Forces' recommendations arrived at a time when, under the impact of manpower, training, and deployment problems, the whole program of providing Negro units was being pondered by both G-3 and the Advisory Committee. G-3, pursuing further the answer to the problem of the deployment of Negro troops overseas and the conversion of combat units to service types, had already sent messages to the commanding generals of the South Pacific, Southwest Pacific, North African, and China theaters asking for statements on the combat efficiency of Negro units in their theaters under hazardous conditions. Instances of unsatisfactory combat efficiency of Negro officers were specifically requested.17
The South Pacific theater reported no Negro combat or service units further forward than areas subject to occasional bombing; there their services were satisfactory. The theater had no instances of unsatisfactory combat service, though it asserted that individual soldiers lacked initiative and alertness and that neither Negro officers nor replacements were as effective as comparable white personnel.18 The Southwest Pacific theater responded that though it had no Negro combat units in action, its service units had been used in forward areas under the general hazards and privations of campaigning with entirely satisfactory service. Negro officers' service, General MacArthur said, he would rate as average.19
From India came the report that though no other Negro units in the the-

ater had been under fire, the conduct of the 823d Engineer Aviation Battalion under hazardous conditions of combat during Japanese raids on Assam in October 1942 was "magnificent." After the strafing, these engineers returned to their work promptly and began airfield repairs at once. One member of the unit received the Silver Star for action under fire during these raids; another received a Purple Heart for wounds received while removing government property from a burning warehouse. There was no known unsatisfactory combat conduct in this unit, whose only Negro officer was a chaplain reported efficient in his duties.20
The North African theater replied that its reports were incomplete, but that its only Negroes actively engaged in combat were in the 99th Squadron. The theater summarized the reports on the 99th sent from the Commanding General, North African Air Force, to the Commanding General, Army Air Forces, on 19 September. The conduct of Negro service units under occasional air attacks was generally satisfactory. Negro officers in the theater were generally satisfactory, but the Commanding General, Services of Supply, had stated that his Negro officers were inferior to white officers of similar grade, training, and experience.21
G-9 supplemented these reports with some additional information drawn from its own files. General Eisenhower had reported that during the week ending 5 August the 99th Squadron had successfully carried out difficult missions, strafing Axis communications and supply columns in Sicily. The same communication affirmed that ordnance and supply units which had landed at Gela during the earliest days of the invasion of Sicily were continuing to carry out vitally important supply assignments with the same efficiency they had previously exhibited in North Africa; that antiaircraft units were executing regular missions; and that the 41st Engineers were engaged in construction and repair work at North African invasion ports.22 Moreover, an extract from a personal letter available to G-3 indicated that an air base security battalion in the same theater had held fast at Faid Pass when a white organization ran through it to the rear.23 The theater reports had shown that white troops were generally preferred, G-9 noted, but combat experience had not been cited in support of this preference.

In reporting this information to General Marshall, G-3 advised that Negro units had not yet been employed "in combat on a scale which would justify a conclusion as to their value, nor any fundamental change in the present War Department policies for such troops." Furthermore, G-3 recommended that the Army send both the 93d Division and the 332d Fighter Group to the Mediterranean area in order to provide a "just and reasonable test" of the value of large Negro units in combat .24
A Closer View
The report on the combat efficiency of the 99th Squadron was presented to the Advisory Committee on 13 October for discussion and comment. General White, the G-1, informed the committee that he had received similar reports from the 332d Group's commander when he was in Africa. Truman Gibson was of the opinion that contrary to general reports the 99th Squadron did not have personnel particularly selected and that white squadrons had done worse upon commitment. The squadron had had no flight leaders with combat experience and, Gibson reminded the committee, all of the facts were not currently available. He recalled that the Air Forces had initially believed that Negroes could not fly; now it believed that they lacked the ability to fight. General Davis suggested that veterans could not be made in one campaign and that therefore the program should be continued; he did not wish to criticize General Arnold, but he did not believe that the report justified scrapping the program. General Porter informed the committee that his G-3 Division had recommended that the program be continued but that, in a study then being made, it was shown that Negroes were reluctant to follow Negro leaders. He suggested that an infantry division be developed with all white officers which, after successful combat experience, could receive substitute Negro officers. To this General Davis responded that, although available Negro leadership was limited, such a division would be discouraging. He added that training Negroes in the South put two strikes against them already; they would rather train in forty degree below zero weather anywhere else.
With the discussion rapidly moving into general philosophies on the proper training and use of Negro troops, Secretary McCloy recommended that everybody on the committee reserve his opinion until Colonel Davis, the former commander of the squadron, could be brought to Washington to discuss the matter. Before the war was over, McCloy continued, all manpower might be needed; perhaps training methods needed changing. He directed that a copy of the report be sent to Colonel Davis and that he be brought in for a conference.25 The conference was set for 16 October, three days later.
In the meantime, G-3, the Operations Division, and General Arnold, in an agreement arrived at through Mr. McCloy, decided to submit the problem to Maj. Gen. Walter B. Smith, General Eisenhower's chief of staff in Italy. The Operations Division wished his comment on both the original Air Forces

plan and the new G-3 proposal that both the 332d Fighter Group 26 and the 93d Division be sent to the Mediterranean. After discussing the matter with Maj. Gen. Thomas T. Handy, Col. Edward J. Rehmann, acting chief of OPD's Troop Movement Section, tried to brief the problem. He concluded that the reports on combat units, particularly the 99th Squadron, were "somewhat conflicting." The injection by G-3 of the question of the employment of ground forces into the problem brought up new questions, those of shipping and the acceptability of a division to the North African theater. "In view of the limited use of these units and the conflicting viewpoints it would appear desirable to have the matter fully investigated by the Theater Commander in order to obtain sufficient data to back up the proposed letter to the President," Colonel Rebmann advised. He noted that General Eisenhower's willingness to accept a division might be greater if it were not used as a substitute for the white units already planned for the Mediterranean, and that one advantage of sending a division to the Mediterranean was that from this location it could easily be sent to other theaters "in the event the unit proves its combat efficiency." 27
A portion of the Advisory Committee met with Colonel Davis on 16 October 28 Colonel Davis began his answers to the committee's queries by saying that the main part of General House's letter was quoted from Colonel Momeyer's report and that what Colonel Momeyer, one of the best fighter pilots known to him, had to say, was entitled to respect. Colonel Davis then went on to state that the squadron had entered combat with certain handicaps. Because no one in the squadron had had combat experience there was a lack of confidence despite the high quality of the squadron's training. Mistakes, arising out of inexperience, occurred on the squadron's first missions. For these he would offer no excuse. On the squadron's first encounter with the enemy, over Pantelleria, it failed to maintain a flight of sixes, breaking down to twos. There was one occasion when the squadron failed to dive-bomb a target. Colonel Davis had led that mission and turned back on account of weather. No secondary target was involved. That the squadron had a reputation for disintegrating when jumped came as a surprise to him, for only the one incident, the one which he had mentioned, had been called to his attention. The squadron met fighters on 8o percent of its sorties; if there was a lack of aggressiveness, Colonel Davis felt, it was at first only. "Later we had it," he declared.
He had asked on 15 August that the squadron have 48 hours off, but he thought the circumstances should be considered. The squadron had operated continuously for two months without receiving replacements although the

standard set up was 4 per month; consequently the 99th Squadron had only 26 pilots as compared with 30 to 35 in other squadrons. On heavy days, therefore, his pilots flew from three to six missions. If he had had a full quota of pilots, the strain would have been lighter.
As to the stamina of the individual pilots, Colonel Davis had noted no differences between his pilots and others; his pilots had received the same food as others, and were in good condition. Housing and messing difficulties had not arisen, although they might in winter. Each squadron had bivouacked separately and his squadron was not a member of a group except for operations. His men were more tense, but Colonel Davis attributed this to the smaller number of pilots available. He had no complaint about his pilots or their training. The impression that the squadron was not aggressive enough had not been brought to his attention in the theater. "I carried out my mission-if given a mission to bomb a target," he said, "I went ahead and bombed it." 29
The Operations Division in the meantime went ahead with the preparation of its own recommendations for the Chief of Staff. If the conclusion on the value of Negro combat troops was not justified for ground troops on the basis of existing evidence, as G-3 had said, it certainly was for "air combat units, particularly fighters," General Handy insisted. The one fighter squadron had been made up of especially selected and very well trained personnel, Operations Division reiterated. "I do not believe we should activate any more such units and that the squadrons now in existence should be used in other than active combat areas," General Handy wrote, adding that there were several other matters to be considered in connection with G-3's recommendations. If the 93d Division was moved to the Mediterranean, it was doubtful that it would be used in combat. General Smith, Chief of Staff, Allied Force Headquarters, had stated that a maximum of sixteen divisions could be maintained in Italy. Faced with active German opposition, "one of the sixteen will certainly not be the colored division as long as tested white divisions were available." The question of over-all command of American Negro units could not be ignored. "In my opinion," General Handy stated, "our colored divisions should be employed in a theater where it can be reasonably expected that they will always serve under American high command." The chances of the 93d's entry into combat would be just as good if it went to Hawaii. He therefore recommended that the action proposed by Army Air Forces be approved, that the 93d Division be sent to Hawaii with a view to its later employment in the Central, South, or Southwest Pacific, and that the proposed letter requesting the President's approval of the alteration in the air program be dispatched over Secretary Stimson's signature. 30
General Arnold felt that these Operations Division recommendations were all right, but noted that action should be deferred until word came from General Smith. General Handy concurred

on 20 October.31 The whole proposal, now comprising a thick sheaf of papers, was deposited with the Deputy Chief of Staff at the end of the month, pending receipt of General Smith's comments.32
Expansion in the Air Program
Action on the medium bombardment group could not await decision on the continuation of the general combat program. Consideration of this group had been under way since the spring of 1943 33 a Complicated schedules for the training of necessary enlisted specialists, arranged so that the necessary space for the required numbers of Negro students would be available in specified classes at Air Forces training centers at the proper times, had been set up.34 Enlisted specialist trainees were already enrolled in some schools. Tuskegee Field was to continue training all pilots. Bombardier-navigators, the original group coming from former Tuskegee
cadets, were scheduled to enter navigation school in the Central Flying Training Command in October and to join bombardiers later at another central command school.35
The Air Forces' shift in policy for training flying officers had grown out of developments at Tuskegee as well as o>et of a recognition of the economies and improvements in training efficiency to be obtained by the use of existing school facilities. Tuskegee had developed into a unique school. While most training fields were devoted to one specialized phase of training only, Tuskegee carried the cadet from the college training stage to graduation and initial tactical assignment, all in fields and-installations within a radius of about five miles of the main post.36 Not only the increase in numbers of men but also the variety of activities caused administrative and training problems there. At times, portions of the field were under the Third Air Force, the Air Service Command, the Technical Training Command, and the Flying Training Command, most of which had little knowledge of the variety of activities supervised by other commands through the one small post headquarters. By late 1943 the field was the training station for Negro pre-aviation cadets, preflight pilots, preflight bombardier-navigators, preflight bombardiers, basic pilots, advanced single-engine pilots, advanced twin-engine pilots, and pilots in transitional training in the P-40 after graduation from the advanced single-engine school. The field also trained field artillery liaison pilots for the

Ground Forces and Haitian and French colonial- cadets. It also acted as a pool, holding enlisted and officer specialists awaiting assignment. The commandant of cadets had eight different types of classes to supervise. Training was so closely confined to the facilities of this field that cadets were not given standard classification tests to predetermine flying aptitudes until April 1943 when the field got its own psychological section.37 Screening Negro applicants to determine their relative aptitude as pilots, bombardiers, or navigators, not used when all candidates were presumptive fighter pilots, began in November 1943.
Because Tuskegee was officially classified under the Advanced Training Wing of the Training Command, directives concerning the preflight schools sometimes never reached it, with the result that training there was often out of step with that at other stations. One advantage of the compact school was that all previous records of a particular cadet were always available, but "one of the disadvantages of the concentration of training at the field is trouble in the traffic pattern resulting from the various speeds of planes; neither can the over-all field be used but one runway must be operated from at a single time." 38
Periods of crowding, followed by slack periods, were normal for the station. In late 1943 when the question of superimposing the bombardier-navigator program upon existing activities at Tuskegee came up, the station was already complaining that excess men, for whom no assignments existed, were arriving in large numbers. Tuskegee informed the Air Forces:
For the past six (6) months, enlisted men have been sent to this station, especially from technical schools of both the Air Corps and the Signal Corps, classified and trained in jobs for which, in the main, there are no positions at this station .... At the present time the number is approximately 120 and this station is operating under a Manning Table anti has no personnel available to care for these men. No further training can be given them as they are all specialists and in most cases due to their rank are not suitable for reclassification nor for assignment to any other job on the station. Not only are these men presently at this station, but daily men are transferred into this station . . . . This is certainly a waste of manpower and malassignment of personnel and a serious imposition on this station as these men are not needed, can serve no useful purpose at this station, and constitute a serious drain upon our personnel which has to be assigned to care for them. This office has made repeated reports of this matter and to date no relief has been forthcoming.39
Some of these men were technical trainees scheduled for use in the now doubtful bombardment group and its supporting units. Tuskegee was falling heir to a byproduct of indecision in Air Forces headquarters. To complicate

training at Tuskegee further by the addition of bombardier and bombardier-navigator training to the types already there would have been nearly intolerable.
The Air Forces, breaking quietly with the concentration of flying training at Tuskegee and avoiding thereby the previous year's experience with Jefferson Barracks, decided to schedule the new trainee classes into existing schools formerly used for white trainees only. Some of these schools were located in areas previously thought of as impossible for training Negroes.
The first class of navigation cadets, selected from men eliminated from the Tuskegee fighter pilot training program, arrived at Hondo Field, Texas, on 25 October for cadet navigation training, although a definite decision on the bombardment unit had not yet been made.40 Since the activation of this unit was involved with the outcome of discussions on the future of Negro combat units then under way, hesitancy about continuing plans for the new bombardment group increased within Air Forces headquarters. In some conferences and communications the group was definitely mentioned as being "out"; in others, planning for the group went ahead.
"We must have a decision, a definite one soon, on the above subject," Brig. Gen. Mervin E. Gross wrote to Brig. Gen. Howard A. Craig on 2o October. The training schedule then being followed for Tuskegee would provide more pilots than could be used by the fighter group. If the bomber group was to be discontinued, no directive eliminating it had been given to the responsible chiefs of staff. If it was to be continued, the First Air Force had to be directed to prepare to receive its personnel and activate its units. If the bomber group was not to be activated, then the Air Operations, Commitments, and Requirements and the Air Training Divisions should be informed so that other uses of personnel earmarked for it could be made. Otherwise, the Air Forces would find it difficult to explain why it had trained so many men for whom it had no need.41
General Arnold, who, in the spring of 1943, had reacted to the suggestion of the Tuskegee commander that political pressures might force a change in the Air Forces' training program with the remark that the training program would be determined by him in the future as it had been in the past, and that it would be based only upon the foreseeable use of Negro squadrons '42 decided on 27 October to go ahead with the bombardment group. He directed that it be organized, trained, equipped, and sent to North Africa.43
It would now be necessary to set up auxiliary supporting service units as well, General Gross advised.44 Although Air Training had warned of

these needs as far back as July, it now appeared that there would be insufficient pilots to activate the Replacement Training Unit Medium Bomb Group in December as planned.45 Delays of this type were to play a continuing part in the career of the new 477th Bombardment Group. Demands on Tuskegee for single-engine pilots continued to grow in order to meet the needs of the 3324 Fighter Group and the 99th Squadron. As schedules for twin-engine training were trimmed and altered to fill these demands, one or another phase of the supply of men to the bombardment group went out of kilter.
The Air Training Division requested that Tuskegee be relieved of the responsibility of producing all types of Negro pilots because its production rate was not sufficient to meet replacement fighter requirements and, at the same time, turn out enough pilots to meet O-Day (Operational Day) requirements for the bombardment group. Restriction to the maximum production possible at Tuskegee, Air Training predicted, would mean a delay in the bomb group until July 1945. Excess Negro flying cadets could be entered in existing white schools, thus increasing the output of Negro pilots.
Instead of acquiescing or increasing facilities at Tuskegee, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, rescinded the requirements for the bombardment group on 15 November. With the exception of B-25 transition, all pilot training continued at Tuskegee, with successive 0-days set for the bombardment group. O-day for the group inched forward, until it eventually reached 10 January 1945 .46 Navigators alone were trained elsewhere.
Hondo Field's first class of navigators -the first air cadets to train outside of Tuskegee-graduated on 26 February 1944, after flying a training mission to New York City which attracted national attention. By the time four classes had entered, with two of them graduating, Hondo Field had some observations to make about the Air Forces' departure in training Negro cadets at the Texas school:
The morale of negro cadets is as high as the morale of any group of cadets on the field, according to their instructors, and there is no question that they doubt the value of their opportunity here. Instructors report almost no complaining or faultfinding on their part and they state the colored cadets take additional study classes and the restrictions imposed on all cadets without losing their sense of humor.
There have been very few cases of animosity toward negro cadets from white cadets; if animosity has been felt, it has not been shown. White cadets often ask negro cadets to oppose them in games on the P. T. field. Except during P. T. hours, there is little association between the two groups, however. The strenuous class-room and flying schedule makes leisurely association a luxury which cadets seldom enjoy.
In the opinion of their instructors, it is difficult and perhaps unfair to compare the negro cadet to his ground and air work with the white cadet. Class 44-11-9-B was equal to the average white classes in flying and considerably above average in ground school. A great deal of additional effort, however, was expended by their instructors in order to master even the smallest details of ground school work.

With class 44-50-N-9 on the other hand, a pronounced diminution in the quality of work has been observed and there is every reason to believe that the explanation lies in the native quality of the students, not in the quality of the instruction. Of the thirty-two cadets who entered with the class, ten had stanine scores [composite scores from special Air Corps psychological tests] of four; five had stanines of five; eleven had stanines of six; two had stanines of seven; three had stanines of eight; and one had a stanine of nine. Thus only six of the thirty-two have stanines of seven or above and no white cadet is accepted for navigation training unless his stanine score is seven or more.
Men with stanines of seven or above are doing work that compares well with accepted, standard work; the others are noticeably slower in learning and a great deal slower in retaining the material. In the opinion of their instructors these men will, inevitably, be less proficient navigators than the average white graduate.
In the most recent class to enter Hondo, however, the situation is very different; only four of the twenty-nine men have stanines below seven, these four having stanines of six. Up to the end of the period of this installment this class had done no flying, but the composite on the first examination was 78% compared to a white composite of 85 % .
Though this class promises to be very much superior to 44-50-N-9, their instructors are nevertheless inclined to believe, on the basis of the first test, that the students are somewhat slower in grasping the material or at least in retaining it than are average white cadets. The evidence of the quality of work that can be expected from white and colored cadets of equal stanines is inconclusive and it does not point to any marked difference in any event. Instructors are agreed, however, that no cadets, whether white or colored, with stanine scores below seven should be accepted for navigation training.
Colored cadets live in their own barracks and have their own classroom. They eat in the same mess as white cadets and have equal privileges and enjoy access to the same recreational facilities, namely, the Cadet Club, the cadet P. X., the cadet Day Room, and (for colored officers) the Officers Club and the B. O. M.
Colored cadets fly missions prescribed by the standard details of the missions. White pilots fly the planes. Extended missions have been flown to many fields and colored cadets have received the courtesies extended to white cadets. Like white cadets, they are usually fed in the enlisted men's mess unless they land at a field that has cadets, in which event they are fed at the cadet mess.
The extension of equal access to post facilities has resulted in some grumbling by white personnel, it goes without saying. It can be said, however, that behavior by all post personnel has at all times been "correct." 47
In the meantime, an imbalance in the production of pilots and aircrewmen, followed by a shortage of trainees, developed. By the spring of 1944, Tuskegee noted that the balance in production of pilots, bombardiers, and navigators was going askew. Originally the stanine numbers for Negroes were set at not less than 4 for pilots and bombardiers and 5 for navigators. At the same time, the white minimums were 6 and 7, respectively. In April 1944 the stanine number for all Negro aircrew trainees was raised to 5, reducing the number of men eligible for pilot training. As early as 6 March 1944, the psychological unit at Tuskegee saw Negroes with high stanines diverted from pilot to bombardier and navigator training. While Tuskegee was turning out classes of 7 to 15 twin-engine pilots, classes of 20 to 87 preflight bombardiers and bombardier-navigators were leaving the school for

advanced training, with some of the bombardiers and navigators in these unbalanced classes having stanine pilot scores of 8 or 9 but only 6 in the specialty to which they were assigned. These assignments were often based on predetermined quotas which were filled at the expense of the pilot classes. Tuskegee, at the same time, was producing single-engine pilot replacements. Eventually, a pilot shortage resulted. The backlog of Negro applicants was soon exhausted. In the spring of 1944 applications for flying training from men in the Ground and Service Forces were discontinued, thus slowing up production further.
Not until January 1945 did the balance begin to right itself. By then applications from nonflying Negro Air Forces officers (many of them men who, originally hopeful of a cadet appointment, had chosen an Officer Candidate School appointment while on the once long waiting lists) were readmitted; then bombardier navigator training stopped and excess bombardier-navigators were returned for pilot training; and, in February 1945, applications from Ground and Service Forces personnel were again accepted for Air training. About the middle of March 1945, personnel again began to "pour in for Aviation Training from all headquarters." 48 On 15 March 1945, the shortage was further alleviated when the Eastern Flying Training Command again lowered pilot stanine requirements to 4.49 The net result, as originally predicted by Air Training, was that the 477th Group was not fully manned with pilots and aircrewmen until the early summer of 1945-
The 99th Shakes Off a Chill
By 9 December 1943, when General Arnold, returning from the Cairo Conference, briefly visited the 99th Squadron at Madna Airfield, Italy, in company with Generals Spaatz and Cannon, the career of the squadron had changed considerably since the first reports on its operations had reached the War Department in September. After several weeks of duties in which its pilots saw few enemy planes and its men wondered what its future would be, the 99th joined the 79th Fighter Group at Foggia NO-3 in Italy on 17 October 1943. The 79th had been operating as an independent fighter group since the preceding March, and was already on its third compliment of pilots by the time the 99th joined it. It was flying missions "every hour on the hour." In November the group moved from Foggia to Madna, a landing strip so bogged down in mud that the units had to wait until British Basuto (East African) Engineers laid additional landing mats in order to operate. When the weather improved the 99th kept up with the older squadrons. For the men of the 79th's four squadrons, "That meant rebombing, rearming, refueling, and repairing. Damaged aircraft were repaired, props were changed and instruments adjusted practically on the spot." 50 On 30 November the 79th Group flew 26 missions, a new record. Of these the 99th flew nine.

Pilots of the 99th, under Maj. George S. Roberts, gained in experience and confidence in their association with the 79th Group. After two months with the 79th, the 99th, which, in the absence of a means of direct comparison, had thought of itself as a combat wise veteran of the Pantellerian and Sicilian campaigns, found that it had learned a great deal more through the adoption of the flight tactics, take-off system, and formations of the older, more experienced group. "With these changes comes more experience and with the experience comes confidence. These two attributes are precisely what pilots of the 99th Squadron are getting," the unit reported.51 Shortly after joining the group, one 99th pilot took off with landing gear jammed by a collision before take-off, but continued and completed a dive-bombing mission. Ground crewmen of the Negro squadron were surprised and pleased when, in servicing and gassing their allotted twenty of fifty P-38's landing at Sal Sola Field, they received "splendid cooperation" from men of the 79th in their joint project.52 Pilots of the 99th eligible for return to the United States after flying fifty missions began to request longer tours. The unit began to feel that in its association with the 79th Group it had at last joined the air team.
By early January 1944 General Spaatz had told General Arnold that he no longer believed that this one squadron was sufficient for a thorough test of Negro flyers' capabilities. Spaatz now wanted "one or two more squadrons there to make a full group," General Arnold informed General Craig of the Air Staff. Arnold suggested that the Twelfth Air Force be queried on the dates when a second and third squadron should arrive.53 General Craig replied on 11 January that the 332d Fighter Group had already left for the Twelfth Air Force and the 553d Fighter Squadron had been set up in the United States to furnish pilot replacements for the units overseas.54 On the same day, the binder containing the October proposals for the further reduction of Negro air units and the reassignment of those in existence was filed without further action.55 The fighter units were now fully deployed and their prospects for full employment were brighter than for many months past.


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