Tuskegee Airmen exhibit coming to Wings in 2015

Tuskegee Airmen exhibit coming to Wings in 2015

Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Eldridge Williams (right) shares experiences with Wings Over Miami-based Civil Air Patrol members. Williams, a life member of the aviation museum, marked his 97th birthday with other friends in South Florida.

Through a $10,000 state grant, an exhibit tracing the history of the famed World War II Tuskegee Airmen is planned to provide an educational week for school trips and the public in 2015.

Wings Over Miami Air Museum, located at Miami Executive Airport in Kendall, has agreed to host the interactive “Red Tail Squadron’s Rise Above” educational trailer for an appearance, tentatively set for the first week in March.

The exhibit was scheduled by Suzette Rice, museum president, in partnership with the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Commemorative Air Force, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that aids in preserving the Squadron’s history.

Housed in a 53-foot semi-trailer, the exhibit includes a 30-seat theater, 160- degree movie screen and additional space for display of photographs, memorabilia and other historical data about the Tuskegee air unit.

To provide a hands-on experience, the exhibit also features a “Tuskegee Warbird,” a strikingly restored P-51 “Mustang” U.S. Air Corps aircraft.

“The goal of the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron is to share with everyone the inspiring legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support crews,” Rice said.

“Their strength, courage, and ability to triumph over adversity during WWII was then, and is presently, a story that can lead others to realize great endeavors no matter the situation.”

The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of African-American military pilots of both fighters and bombers who fought in World War II formally as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps. They were the first African- American military aviators in the U. S. at a time when segregation still separated whites and blacks in military forces.

“The customized trailer and P-51 are designed to illustrate the goal-setting and perseverance that enabled America’s black fighting force to overcome many obstacles during World War II,” Rice noted, adding that the exhibit “meshes with the museum’s mission to preserve the gallant history of America’s aviation pioneers and its wartime heroes and heroines who served in the Air Force.”

Focusing on school-age children, Rice said the museum is hoping to find additional sponsorships from South Florida businesses to make sure that all the schools bringing children during the week to the museum can have minimum costs for the fieldtrips.

While the State of Florida furnishes the exhibit, the museum needs to cover fuel for the planes, hotels for the exhibit staff, and many other associated costs with the exhibit,” she said, adding that she hoped to secure corporate commitments to help pay for those miscellaneous costs and fieldtrips for students.

Each visiting student will receive a dog tag with the six guiding principles of the CAF Red Tail Squadron’s Rise Above exhibit, echoing how the Tuskegee Airmen “rose above all of the obstacles they faced to fly and fight for their country,” Rice noted. The dog tags read: “Aim High; Believe In Yourself; Use Your Brain; Never Quit; Be Ready to Go; Expect To Win.”

Field trips for schools and organizations will be made only by advance reservations while the public is encouraged to visit the exhibit on the weekend. The museum will take advance reservations in late December for the weekday visits of organization and school groups.

Reservations can be made by calling 305-233-5197 with dates reconfirmed with the museum two weeks prior to the exhibit. For more details or sponsorship information, send email to Rice at wingsovermiami.suz@bellsouth.net or message her at www.facebook.com/wingsovermiami.

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