Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tuskegee Airmen Maps Available from Ball State University Libraries

Red Tails:  Tuskegee Airmen Map Available from Ball State University Libraries

The Ball State University Libraries’ GIS Research and Map Collection (GRMC) in Bracken Library provides cartographic resources rendering a variety of places, issues, and events for research and learning.  The Atlas Collection also includes thousands of atlases with maps providing visual depictions of people, places and things.

This weekend a new movie, Red Tails, premieres about the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, and the Atlas of African-American History includes a map showing the locations of their missions (above, click to enlarge).

The atlas, written by James Ciment, provides research information about the Tuskegee Airmen and their history: 

Ever since the rise of military aviation in World War I, African Americans had demanded admission and training as airmen.  These demands were dismissed out of hand….It was not until 1939 that the government—in expanding the air corps generally—authorized expenditures for pilot training programs at several black colleges, including Tuskegee Institute, although only for support services and not for combat.

Still, resistance to the idea of black pilots persisted.  Whites refused to serve with them and the army—which ran the air corps in those days—still did not believe that blacks could make effective pilots.  Thus, the Tuskegee airmen continued to train long after whites were sent into combat and, when they were finally permitted into combat, they remained segregated units.

Not surprisingly, the extra training made them especially effective pilots.  By war’s end, the all-black 332nd bomber escort group—of which the Tuskegee airmen were a part—could claim a perfect record.  In 1,578 missions and 15,552 sorties, they never lost a single bomber.  The commander of the 332nd, Benjamin O. Davis, would go on to become the nation’s first black three-star general.

Maps from the GRMC and Atlas Collection can be scanned and added as visual aids to papers and presentations.  Contact the staff of the GRMC for more information about using maps in research and learning.  Or visit Monday through Friday from 8:00 to 5:00.

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