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Marietta museum exhibit features Tuskegee Airmen letter


Much has been said about the bravery and tenacity of the Tuskegee Airman, but there are many intimate stories of what they endured and how they felt about their plight that has gone untold.

The public has been offered a rare opportunity through the Marietta History Center to take an intimate look back at the history and lives of the Tuskegee Airman during wartime.

Cobb residents, with ties to the airmen, have made this possible by donating letters written by or sent to the soldiers while they served. This exhibit offers an up-close and personal look at the challenges and triumphs of these unsung Black soldiers during the height of Jim Crow segregation in America.  

During a time when racial segregation was the rule of the land in the U.S. armed forces, Black young men wanting to become pilots were met with hard resistance. In addition to enduring segregation within the military, there were widespread racist beliefs by Whites that the intelligence level of Black soldiers prevented them from learning to fly and operate an aircraft.

A change would only come in 1940 when Roosevelt, responding to lobbying campaigns by Black civil rights groups, newspapers, and others who argued that Black Americans should be included, announced that the Army would soon begin training Black pilots.

The War Department chose the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama, for the training site, which was under construction at the time and located in the heart of the Jim Crow South.

Arriving from all over the country, Black men who were mainly college graduates or undergraduates were the first group of Black trainees who launched what became known as the Tuskegee Experiment.

The program would train over 1,000 pilots and nearly 14,000 navigators, bombardiers, instructors, aircraft and engine mechanics, control tower operators, and other maintenance and support staff.

 Among this group were the first African American pilots to fly in combat during World War II. Although required to train and fight in segregated units, the Tuskegee Airmen proved to be some of the most skilled aviators during the war. Their undeniable courage, bravery, and success on the battlefield helped lead to the integration of the military eight years later in 1948.

 During their time of service, which was often difficult, Black soldiers wrote to and received letters from loved ones and friends using the military systems’ V-mail, a postal system used during World War II to reduce the space needed to transport mail. Their real-time thoughts and ideas are captured in the documents on display. This exhibit offers an up-close and personal look at the challenges and triumphs of these unsung Black heroes.

The Tuskegee Airmen exhibit at the Marietta History Center is open to visitors until March 16. (Courtesy of Zach Edmondson)

These documents and more in this exhibit are offered by the center in partnership with Kennesaw State’s Museum of History and Holocaust Education and are on display at the center through March 16.

It includes artifacts and pieces of V-mail — short for “Victory mail” — sent and received by Tuskegee Airmen, posters displaying educational information, and historical photos.


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