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Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Representing the 2nd District of Maryland

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Honoring the Tuskegee Airmen

Feb 9, 2005
Hearing

Madam Speaker, today I rise in support of H. Con. Res. 26, honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and their amazing contributions during World War II, and their impact in creating an integrated United States Air Force. I am honored for this opportunity to speak during Black History Month on this important resolution.

As the first African American combat unit in the Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen helped shatter stereotypes by fighting for freedom both abroad and here at home. Their individual and collective acts of courage helped pave the way for the desegregation of the Army in 1948.

I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize four members of the Tuskegee Airmen with ties to the Second Maryland Congressional District. Alfred L. Woolridge, Gordon T. Boyd, Leroy A. Battle, and Alfred McKenzie were four individuals with separate lives and histories. Each brought unique skills to their service and each helped form this historic group of this Tuskegee Airmen. On behalf of a grateful Nation, I thank them for their contribution and service.

These gentlemen exemplified the bravery of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. They served their country, both on the battlefield and off, and were valuable members of their Maryland communities.

Madam Speaker, at a time of war with a new generation of service men and women serving bravely to bring liberty to the oppressed, I think it is only fitting that we remember these members of the greatest generation, the Tuskegee Airmen.

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Madam Speaker, today I rise in support of H. Con. Res. 417 honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and their amazing contributions during World War II and their impact creating an integrated United States Air Force. I am honored for this opportunity to speak during Black History Month on this important resolution.

As the first African-American combat unit in the Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen helped shatter stereotypes by fighting for freedom both abroad and here at home. Through their heroism in the skies above North Africa and Europe, the Airmen demonstrated that African-Americans could be effective members of the military. Completing over 500 missions during the war, the Tuskegee Airmen destroyed over 250 enemy aircraft without losing a single American bomber. Their individual and collective acts of courage helped pave the way for the desegregation of the Army in 1948.

I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize four members of the Tuskegee Airmen with ties to my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Alfred L. Woolridge, Gordon T. Boyd, Leroy A. Battle, and Alfred McKenzie were four individuals with separate lives and histories. Each brought unique skills to their service and each helped to form this historic group of Tuskegee Airmen. I would like to take this opportunity to speak briefly about each of these incredible men and share a bit about them with you.

Mr. Alfred L. Woolridge, a Baltimore resident, joined the Tuskegee Airmen after enlisting in the Army in 1942 and being assigned to the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. A scientist with a master's degree in chemistry and mathematics, Mr. Woolridge worked as an aircraft engineering officer ensuring that the planes were safe to fly every morning. After leaving the Army in 1946, Mr. Woolridge worked as an analytical chemist in Maryland until 1974. He remained an active member of his Baltimore community until his death in March of 1998.

After being inducted into the Army Air Corps during World War II, Mr. Gordon T. Boyd Jr. became a bombardier and a navigator. He joined the Tuskegee Airmen after being assigned to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Mr. Boyd ascended to the rank of first Lieutenant and is credited with helping newer cadets adjust to military life. After being honorably discharged in 1946, Mr. Boyd worked as a management specialist for the U.S. Census bureau until his retirement in 1979. Before his death on May 5, 1995, Mr. Boyd became a charter member of the East Coast Chapter D.C. Tuskegee Airmen Inc.

Mr. Leroy A. Battle was a jazz musician who played with Billie Holliday before he was drafted into the Army in 1943. He volunteered to join the Tuskegee Airmen and soon became a bombardier and a navigator. On April 5, 1945, Mr. Battle along with 100 other airmen, defied orders by attempting to desegregate the officer's club at Freeman Field in Seymour, Indiana. The Freeman Field Incident played an important role in African-American attempts to combat racism in the Armed Forces and eventually paved the way for President Truman's order to desegregate the Army in 1948. After being honorably discharged from the Army, Mr. Battle spent 29 years teaching before retiring in 1978. He continues to be an active member of this community by speaking out about his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman.

Mr. Alfred McKenzie joined the Tuskegee Airmen after being drafted into the Army in 1942. After completing advanced training, Mr. McKenzie became a B-25 pilot. He was sent to Freeman Field in Indiana where he later joined Mr. Battle and 100 other airmen in attempting to desegregate the officer's club. After World War II ended, Mr. McKenzie continued to fight for the cause of civil rights. After being passed over for a promotion numerous times at the Government Printing Office, McKenzie filed a class action law suit. The suit resulted in an order to end discrimination in promotions and a $2.4 million award back pay to over 300 people. He continued to work for various civil rights causes until his death on March 30, 1998.

These gentlemen exemplified the bravery of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. They served their country both on the battlefield and off and were valued members of their Maryland communities. Mr. Speaker, at a time of war, with a new generation of servicemen and women serving bravely to bring liberty to the oppressed, I think it is only fitting that we remember these members of the Greatest Generation--the Tuskegee Airmen.

Reference: HConRes 26

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