Claims Reports Show Escorted Bombers Were Shot Down
For over 60 years, it
has been a mark of pride... the claim that America's first black
fighter pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen, never lost a bomber to enemy
fire while flying escort runs in World War II. But one man says he
has evidence that claim may be inaccurate.
William F. Holton has been the historian for Tuskegee Airmen
Inc. for nearly 10 years... and he says Air Force records show at
least a few bombers were shot down while under escort by the famed
Red Tail Squadron. Holton first made his comments Sunday to the
Montgomery (AL) Advertiser.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Holton says the
unblemished record claim appears to have started in May 1945.
That's when Colonel Buck Taylor wrote a letter commending Tuskegee
group leader Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., in which Taylor stated the
group had the distinction of never losing a bomber.
"That's sort of where the whole concept emanated from," Holton
But that goes against several combat mission reports from the
period, Holton says. He cites one report from July 1944, that
states "1 B-24 seen spiraling out of formation in T/A (target area)
after attack by E/A (enemy aircraft). No chutes seen to open."
Another report says "10 Me-109s attacked the rear of the bomber
formation from below and left one B-17 burning, with 6 chutes seen
Daniel Haulman, of the Air Force Historical Research Agency at
Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, came to the same
Holton's comments have been scornfully rebuked by surviving
members of the Tuskegee Airmen, who say the historian is trying to
damage the group's reputation, years after the fact.
"I think they are trying to destroy our record. What's the point
now?" said former Airman Carrol Woods, adding the claims are
Holton said his only interest is making sure the group's history
is as accurate as possible... and he notes that while the Tuskegee
Airmen's record may not have been perfect, it was still very
The issue may forever remain the subject of conjecture, and
deeply-held opinion... but already, the president of the Tuskegee
Airmen says he will no longer claim in speeches the group never
lost a bomber under its escort.
"I'm going to drop (it) until we can get this thing clarified,"
said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Russell Davis. "We've got some
homework to do, obviously."