>> Funding for this program provided by... >> Can looking back push us forward?
>> Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Billie Holiday.
>> Will our voice be heard through time?
Can our past inspire our future?
>> ...massive act of concern.
♪ >> From our farms and cities to the Great Lakes, WPS serves seniors across the country.
WPS -- serving our military and seniors since 1946.
♪ >> To win this war, we must have machines and the brains to direct these instruments of warfare.
>> We were looked upon as being inferior people.
>> An American far from home fighting a war around the world.
>> We were nothing but a bunch of young kids who wanted to fly.
>> The trainees don parachutes and get ready for flight.
>> We escorted the bombers, preventing the German fighters from attacking.
>> They're flying over Italy and over Germany in search of the enemy.
>> Some groups didn't know even till well after the war that the Red Tails were Black pilots.
>> On a bombing mission over enemy territory, a fighter escort is a mighty comforting sight.
♪ ♪ >> On the 16th of January 1941, in Washington, D.C., the Civil Rights Movement in America took a major step forward.
11 months before the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the War Department authorized the formation of an all-Black fighter unit, the Army Air Corps' 99th Pursuit Squadron.
These new African-American aviators, ground crews, and support staff would eventually train in Tuskegee, Alabama.
This was the first-of-its-kind training of Black fliers with the goal of using them in combat.
Tuskegee Institute, later University, was to be the place where African-Americans would be offered an opportunity to prove themselves -- not as equals in the sky, just as satisfactory.
In 1941, Blacks in America were considered inferior to Whites in every way possible, including in the air.
♪ If you look closely, the Italy of World War II still exists.
The Allies left their mark on this country.
♪ On the coast of Salerno, German and Italian bunkers are scattered across the landscape, and homes still bear the scars of battle.
♪ The American-led landings here in September of 1943 were costly, but the Germans eventually had to regroup in the mountains.
That's where the Allied invasion ground to a halt.
American and British soldiers died by the thousands, thanks to German artillery, mortars, and snipers.
The desperate fight in this mountainous country would last right up until the final day of the war in Europe.
Today's Italy comes with 3,000 years of history, much of it seen in person by Allied soldiers during World War II.
Americans saw Greek temples in Southern Italy as soon as they came ashore in Salerno.
They passed through the ruins of Pompeii, which date to 79 A.D.
In Rome, they took photos of the famed Colosseum.
More contemporary historic sites altered by World War II are also preserved today.
The beautiful abbey at Monte Cassino was suspected to be an observation point for the Germans in 1944.
It was bombed into dust by the Allies and then had to be taken by ground troops at a high cost.
It was rebuilt following the war.
Elsewhere, the Italian mountain village of San Pietro, another strategic high point with unlimited views, was left preserved after the battle passed through here in late 1943.
Today, its church, destroyed by American artillery, remains a stark visual reminder of man's capacity to destroy one another.
Underground tunnels and civilian bunkers in Naples, providing safety from Allied bombs, also offer a connection to Italy's violent World War II past.
Here, time stands still.
There is, however, an important place where history has been regrettably overlooked in Italy.
Roughly 200 miles east of Rome, on the Adriatic Sea, stands a building that has seen much better days.
An old stone structure in the middle of nowhere, a building, like the story behind it, that needs to be preserved.
This was once the operation center of a World War II airfield at a base called Ramitelli.
This location, now surrounded by fields, is where African-American pilots took off in their P-51 Red Tail fighter planes.
They famously escorted American bombers over Europe while also striking back at German targets.
Unlike most of Italy, history seems to have been forgotten here.
♪ >> I was upstairs doing my homework, but I had the Eagles game on low so my mother wouldn't hear.
[ Crowd cheering, whistle blows ] And on that game, that's when they announced that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.
>> We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin.
The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced.
>> A Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor, naturally, would mean war.
>> The United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked.
by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.
[ Cheers and applause ] ♪ >> Nobody knew where Pearl Harbor was.
>> Two years before the Allies landed in Italy, the Japanese sneak attack on Hawaii and Americans itching for a fight.
>> I said, "Oh, hey, there's a war.
I'll get a chance to go to into the Air Corps and fly."
>> It was an event that would unite the country.
>> Mostly all the men were preparing to go to war.
>> Everyone now wanted in on the action that was about to take place in the Pacific and Europe.
Despite widespread segregation and rampant racism at home, African-Americans also sought to defend the idea of democracy.
This, despite the fact it was not a right afforded many Blacks in the United States in December of 1941.
>> To me, it was simply something far off that happened that was going to affect me because I was being protected from the draft by being in college, and I knew that I was going to have to go to the service.
>> You just want to chance, and particularly when your nation is in conflict and you want to serve and you want to contribute, you want that chance to contribute in whatever form, but you also want to contribute to your full potential.
>> In 1941, fewer than 4,000 African-Americans were serving in the military.
Just 12 were officers.
An early advocate of letting Blacks fly prior to World War II was Eleanor Roosevelt.
The First Lady frequently pressed the issue with her husband, the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Mr. Roosevelt took a test flight with famed Black pilot and air-cadet instructor C. Alfred Anderson in March of 1941 to show her support.
>> It took a courageous woman by the name of Eleanor Roosevelt to come down and fly with us to say, "These men can fly.
They can do anything that other people can do."
>> The first 12 Black aviation cadets under the supervision of Captain Benjamin O. Davis Jr. reported to Tuskegee, Alabama, in July of 1941.
Davis would eventually command the entire 99th Fighter Squadron.
A segregated airfield about 4 miles outside of Tuskegee was still under construction.
[ Fanfare ] >> Three years ago, this was just another farm in Alabama.
More than trees had to be cleared away.
There was misunderstanding and distrust and prejudice to be cleared away.
>> There wasn't a lot of publicity on it.
And, of course, I can understand the Army wasn't publicizing, because they said that first authorization of a squadron, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, they expected it to fail.
>> More Black cadets began arriving in Tuskegee, Alabama, including those making up the 99th Pursuit Squadron.
>> When I got to Tuskegee and I saw all these young cadets, oh, my.
Looked like they came from all over the entire United States.
The I.Q.s were very high.
♪ >> Tuskegee, Alabama, was a hotbed of discrimination.
>> It was difficult understanding segregation and discrimination.
>> We were looked upon as being inferior people, incapable people.
>> And, of course, we were anxious to -- You know, they were lacking in intelligence, lacking coordination, lacking in courage, all kinds of negative stuff.
So we were anxious to prove -- disprove all that nonsense for yourself and for the race.
>> Despite their new status in the American military, Black cadets weren't spared from hate groups that were all over the region.
The Ku Klux Klan was well-organized in Alabama.
>> In the South, we had to sit in the back of the bus.
>> I did the Tuskegee Institute where we had to go.
Ten of us couldn't go off the campus with the Ku Klux Klan.
>> Everybody that studies this doesn't understand the atmosphere of which African-Americans lived.
They were still subjugated.
They were still, in a sense, spat upon, not necessarily in a physical way, but it was hurtful.
And the fact that we were still having lynchings before the war and even during the war gave kind of a testimony to where the country was.
It was not a very much living up to "home of the brave and land of the free."
Land of the free for some, but not all.
>> You can't make a fighter squadron out of concrete and aluminum and a can of paint.
It takes men.
A chemistry student, a welder, a shoe salesman must learn how to fly.
>> White officers were in command early on as Black leaders underwent training.
Up until instruction began at Tuskegee, Blacks could only serve in support roles in the military.
>> At that time, the Navy -- you could only serve in the capacity of a cook or a steward.
>> Preparing Black cadets for aviation at the Tuskegee Institute involved classroom teaching and hands-on learning.
>> I was under Colonel Benjamin Davis Jr.
He was the commanding officer.
I said, "This is the place I want to be."
>> The interesting common fact, though, that surrounded all of their backgrounds was that all the men wanted to fly.
>> Here, above the warm, familiar hills of Alabama, these Americans are learning to fly in those tight combat formations they'll use someday to hunt down the German and Jap above his own cities.
>> Of course, not everyone qualified to be a fighter pilot at Tuskegee.
Support roles for the Black fighter squadron were also essential.
Trainees were assigned to be mechanics, crew chiefs, parachute riggers, and ground support.
Cadets also handled jobs from administration to medical personnel.
Colette Holt is in Italy on a journey with a small group of travelers, including several students from Syracuse University.
Colette is here to dig deep into her father's military past and his desire to be a pilot and serve his country in World War II.
>> It's the double victory, so democracy at home and abroad.
♪ >> Coleman T. Holt was born in Tennessee in 1922.
Even at an early age, he was confident he would achieve great things.
As World War II played out.
Holt wanted more than anything to earn his pilot's wings.
>> My father was a fiercely independent human being.
He grew up in totally segregated Nashville, Tennessee, and had never been around whites at all until he was in the military.
And he talked about how it busted all these myths for him about how Blacks were inferior and everything.
And so he said it was truly fundamental to who he became.
And he did love to fly.
>> The ongoing program at Tuskegee Army Airfield had proven to be a success, to the dismay of many in the military.
Now it was time for these Tuskegee Airmen to prove their worth in actual combat.
In 1943, the now-renamed all-Black 99th Fighter Squadron left en masse for North Africa.
There, they would fly their first patrol, strafing in close air support missions for the 12th Air Force.
In September of 1943, the war in Italy would take center stage.
After first successfully invading Sicily, the Allies focused on taking Italy.
>> It's supposed to be a quick operation.
>> It's a campaign that's overshadowed by other campaigns and it's -- Now it deserves its recognition because of the casualties the Allies had down here and the destruction, not just the destruction to Italy.
This country was pulverized.
>> The Allies pushed up Italy foot by bloody foot, freeing grateful Italian villages and towns.
>> The Americans were very welcome because they help us to get rid of the Germans.
>> The Tuskegee Airmen would find out soon that, to Italians, it didn't matter if the American liberators were White or Black.
While the Allied Army slowly advanced over the next few months, the all-Black 332nd Fighter Group, made up of three fighter squadrons, was ordered to relocate to Italy in early 1944.
In May of '44, the Tuskegee-trained pilots, now assigned to the 15th Air Force, were sent to a new segregated base just south of the Italian town of Campomarino.
This area was called the Foggia Air Base Complex.
The airmen's new home was known as Ramitelli Airfield.
>> Squadron after squadron out of Tuskegee flying P-40s first -- tough little planes -- then striking with Thunderbolts, P-47s, then riding the Mustangs, P-51s.
>> All I wanted to do was fly, and that was it.
And I finally got the opportunity and I was living out my dream and I was totally consumed by that, and that was the driving thing that just drove me, you know, and kept me focused and right on track.
>> The bombers were getting shot up pretty badly.
So they realized how good the 99th Squadron was.
They asked those guys to come over and protect the White boys in the bombers.
>> Half of the missions were high level, where we escorted the bombers from Italy to Germany, flying top cover back and forth across the top and preventing the German fighters from attacking.
♪ >> Early in 1944, Allied air crews witnessed Mount Vesuvius erupt.
The ancient volcano near Naples and overlooking the famous destroyed city of Pompeii covered military equipment and men in volcanic ash -- perhaps a sign that a seismic shift was under way in the skies over Italy in more ways than one.
>> Neapolitans are very superstitious, and they thought it as an omen of victory.
>> Colette Holt's trip to Italy has her on the road from Rome to visit Ramitelli Airfield, a place where hardly any Americans ever stop.
As Holt looks through a book on the Tuskegee Airmen, she wonders what she'll experience at Ramitelli.
She thinks about her dad during training and all the other African-Americans who just wanted a chance to prove themselves in whatever capacity.
>> He talked about the camaraderie with his fellow pilots and also with the mechanics.
I think there was less kind of a class structure there.
They were all in it together.
>> Waiting for Colette Holt in Campomarino is villager Mario Norante.
Mario, a retired professor, was just a young boy when the Allies liberated his town and the Black American fliers arrived.
>> [ Speaking Italian ] >> I was only 7 years old, but I remember that time quite well.
I remember trading with the soldiers around here.
As you know, there is a lot of wine production in this area, so I used to get a bottle from my parents and trade a bottle for some meat and chocolates from the Tuskegee pilots.
Occasionally, you would see them in town.
It was always a peaceful meeting between the Americans and the local people.
Of course, they were here for a much more serious reason, but there was never any problems at all.
>> The biggest thing to remember is about chocolate, because Tuskegee Airmen give them chocolate, and in Italy, kids didn't know chocolate in that period, and there was a lot of poverty.
And so the Tuskegee Airmen give them chocolate.
>> At the town hall in Campomarino, there's a museum focusing on the Tuskegee Airmen and nearby Ramitelli Airfield.
>> Oh, there we go.
Look at that.
>> Despite a warm welcome from the liberated Italians, the airmen Ramitelli still understood that, back in America, they were still being treated as something different.
>> The German P.O.W.s is lounging around on the steps, drinking sodas, smoking cigarettes, laughing, having a good time.
And I said, "Damn, they're treating the German prisoners better than they are us.
They have better privileges than we do."
>> Arriving at the new base at Ramitelli, within eyesight of the Adriatic Sea and experiencing combat missions for the first time brought the airmen closer together.
>> We had developed friendships out of being training together, and, in fact, to the point that some folks -- you only knew them by their nickname, you know?
[ Laughs ] Well, we had somebody was "Jelly Butt Walker," but I'd have no idea what his first name was or... [ Laughs ] ...or something like that.
But we were very supportive of each other in that respect.
And, certainly, having gone through training together, it was good to be able to support each other in the combat zone, as well.
>> Ramitelli Airfield was chosen as the base because the Allies needed not only to focus on Northern Europe but also on other important strategic targets closer to the Mediterranean.
>> Italy acted as a platform.
Just as England acted as a platform for Northern Europe, Italy acted as a platform for Southern Europe to go after the German industry over in Romania and Hungary that they could not reach from England and also relieve pressure off the eastern front for the Russians.
>> Segregated Ramitelli Airfield wasn't far from where the all-White fighter and bombardment groups were stationed.
>> In U.S.A. in that period, the law of the land was still segregation.
>> The 332nd Fighter Group was needed to protect American B-17 and B-24 bombers from the German Air Force, or Luftwaffe.
>> The Germans were fighting desperately to protect anything north of Rome.
>> In 1944, American bomber missions covered longer distances to strike at the industrial heart of Germany.
The Black fliers' base of Ramitelli were given a plane that would help them accomplish these longer escort assignments.
The P-51 Mustang fighter was a game changer in World War II and helped make the Tuskegee Airmen famous.
>> Until the P-51 arrived over there, the fighters couldn't go all the way to the target with the bombers, but the 51 had the range that it could all the way to the target and bring them back.
Because some earlier, when the fighters had to leave the bombers, then the German airplanes could attack them when they didn't have fighters.
With the 51s, you stayed with them to the target and back.
>> The Mustang did what you wanted it to do unconsciously.
It's just like sitting in this seat.
And beautifully maneuverable.
It was out of this world.
>> It's such an easy airplane to fly, you know?
And just a smooth airplane also.
Easier to drive than your automobile.
Let's say it that way.
Easier, much easier.
It's powerful and responsive, maneuverable.
It's a joy.
It's a real joy.
>> The orders came in daily to Ramitelli's Air Operations Building -- "Take your P-51s and meet up with the assigned bomb group.
Then escort them to the target and back safely."
>> Our operations people, who got the orders and helped plan the flights knew the group, but as a pilot, I was never given the number of the group we were escorting.
Sometimes, it could be more than one.
>> It wasn't more than three or four missions that I got acclimated to the sequence of things.
>> Of course, the first success is being sure to meet them at the rendezvous point.
>> To see that number of bombers and to see the number of fighters and flying into the enemy territory there, it was -- You know, I was just awestruck by it all.
>> Once they got on the bottom run, regardless of the ground fire, the bombers had to ride it out to put bombs on target.
>> It was from Foggia, Italy, to Berlin, and that was a 1,600-mile round trip, and that was quite a distance.
It was about a 6-1/2-hour round trip.
>> In 1944 and '45, the Black pilots encountered familiar German propeller-driven fighters on their missions, such as the Messerschmitt 109 and the Focke-Wulf 190.
But now, as the war was winding down, German jet fighters also entered the fight.
The German Messerschmitt 262 jet had a speed of 560 miles an hour, more than 120 miles per hour faster than the P-51.
>> And there were several missions in which there were some fairly heavy dogfights.
>> The only airplanes I saw in the air were 262s, the jets.
>> The Germans, with the 262, would just come straight across and make a straight pass into the bomber formation, through the bomber formation, out the other side.
If you could time it right -- and you always had an altitude advantage -- there was a little 2-to-3-second window as he comes streaking through and as you're pulling yourself in the position.
For about 2 or 3 seconds, you had the opportunity to get off a burst.
If you're lucky, you get a hit.
>> On the Berlin mission, our guys shot down three of those things.
>> Gravity's going to help me, but not him.
So instead of separating himself at 100 miles an hour, now I have cut that speed down to something like 40, 50 miles an hour.
So it means, then, that he stays in my gunsight an extra 4, 5, 6 seconds or more.
>> During World War II, 72 Tuskegee Airmen shot down 112 enemy aircraft in Europe.
In 179 bomber missions escorted by the red-tailed P-51s, only 27 bombers were lost to enemy aircraft.
Because the bases they flew out of were segregated, most White bomber pilots never even knew their P-51 escort pilots from Ramitelli were Black.
All they knew was that these Red Tail pilots were courageous, brave, and loyal.
>> Thanks for what you did, because I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you.
>> I think they were friendly and appreciative, but I am not too sure that all of them knew exactly who we were at the time there.
All they knew was that these were friendly fighters that were helping them out.
>> Although many bomb groups didn't know Red Tails were Black pilots, they were glad to have the Red Tail escorts show up because of the nature of our leadership and insistence that we stick with the bombers as long as we could.
>> We saved a whole lot of White boys' lives.
They didn't want us to, you know, fly, but now, now they keep asking for, requesting for the Red Tails to protect them, to the point where Colonel Davis named his airplane "By ReQuest."
♪ >> The cost in World War II for the Tuskegee Airmen overseas was 84 killed.
Many were also listed as missing in action.
>> There were seven of us, and of that seven, two were shot down.
>> So many fellas paid a price and whatnot.
So you lost a lot of good friends.
♪ >> 38 miles south of Rome is the town of Nettuno, Italy, home to the Sicily-Rome Cemetery.
7,845 American soldiers from the fight in Italy lie here.
Another 3,100 are remembered on the wall of the missing.
In Nettuno, there's no segregation among the dead.
Blacks are buried here alongside Whites.
African-Americans who never saw Jackie Robinson break baseball's color barrier in 1947... >> At Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson... >> ...or the eventual desegregation of the military in 1948... >> All Americans enjoy these rights.
>> ...never witnessed the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s.
>> Lyndon Johnson addresses a joint session... >> ...or heard a Martin Luther King Jr. speech... >> I've seen the promised land.
>> ...didn't see Thurgood Marshall named to the Supreme Court in 1967... >> Nomination of Mr. Thurgood Marshall.
>> ...and certainly could never imagine a Black man becoming President of the United States one day.
>> I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear... >> Nettuno was also where some of the Tuskegee Airmen rest under white crosses or are recognized as still missing in action on a beautiful marble wall.
[ "Star-Spangled Banner" plays ] >> George McCrumby, first lieutenant, 99th Fighter Squadron, Texas.
Alwayne Dunlap, second lieutenant, 99th Fighter Squadron, District of Columbia.
Clemenceau Givings, second lieutenant, 332nd Fighter group, Virginia.
James Polkinghorne, first lieutenant, 332nd Fighter Group, Florida.
Robert Tresville Jr., captain, 332nd Fighter Group, New York.
James Calhoun, second lieutenant, 332nd Fighter Group, Connecticut.
♪ ♪ >> Colette Holt's father, Coleman T. Holt, that young man from outside of Nashville, Tennessee, joined the Army Air Corps with a goal to fly.
He trained at both Moton Field and Tuskegee Army Airfield.
Like any Black aviator who went through the program, Holt's ultimate hope was to join his fellow Tuskegee Airmen and defend his country.
During Holt's ongoing training at Tuskegee, World War II officially came to an end, so he never made it overseas.
Despite that, his daughter, Colette Holt, grew up hearing about her dad's fellow Tuskegee Airmen, the men he trained with and the 355 pilots who made it into the fight overseas, how Black pilots had left Alabama and segregation behind, searching out the opportunity to defend the United States in World War II.
For Colette and Syracuse University student David Barbier Jr., finally arriving at Ramitelli Airfield in Italy offers a tangible connection to a group of trailblazers who made history here by the shores of the Adriatic Sea.
The old Air Operations Building remains in disrepair, as does another small structure.
Crops now grow in vast fields that once were full of planes and portable steel runways.
The images of Black airmen during briefings or running to their P-51 fighter planes from this building can still be envisioned if you try hard enough.
Time has taken its toll on what is left of the old base of Ramitelli, yet the memories remain.
This exact spot represents the beginning of a movement, the fight for equality, the winning of a war, all here in a field in Italy, another monument to the past that shaped the future.
♪ >> This is the original headquarters of the Tuskegee Airmen, the 332nd fighter group.
The briefing where took place, in the building, into the building.
The runways is that way, through the sea.
>> This is real.
This is on the ground.
You can see it now.
You know, even with other parts of World War II history, you just see it in a book or somebody tells you about it.
But to be physically here, you know, when we went to Salerno and to see the beaches, it's really important, if you can, if you get an opportunity to come to a place and get a sense of place, and that's just been really important and to see these beautiful fields and to know how much death and destruction happened out here.
But to see all the life that's here now is really wonderful.
>> Well, going to Ramitelli was like going to, for me, just this shrine to a group of aviators that have become legendary in our history.
But in the time in which they flew, they were almost neglected by history.
And going to the airfield kind of verified to me, well, this is where it happened.
It wasn't the only airfield, but it was -- Even seeing the building in which they were housed and to see where the airfields were that are now farm fields and the kind of a ghost-like structure and going in and out of it and just listening for the whispers of history there, it's there.
You could feel it.
>> First of all, you know, to see the headquarters, to see the field tracks, and they were able to manage a great operation there.
>> I'm 21 now, so 21 back then, and let's say I was being shipped here and I would be serving, you know, what was the feeling of being far from home, not speaking the language, understanding that people were saying I couldn't do the thing that I was set to do?
So understanding that there was a lot of weight on my shoulders, but then coming back to myself in the present, understanding that maybe I wouldn't be here without them.
>> These Tuskegee Airmen proved their detractors wrong, both before, during, and after World War II.
Their accomplishments eventually set in motion a change in America's way of thinking.
Here, a rundown stone building in rural Italy remains a symbol that, given the chance and armed with fortitude, history can change for the better.
Preserving this history, a tribute to change, remains the goal today in this part of the Italian countryside.
>> Now this is a private field, but the idea of the local government is to buy this field and to create a museum, a museum dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen.
>> The stereotype is that Blacks aren't smart, we can't do math, we can't do this.
To know that your grandfathers and, probably pretty soon for some of them, their great-grandfathers were able to do that, it's still rare to see Black commercial pilots.
Every time I get on a plane and I see one, I kind of whip around and want to go, "Hey, hi."
So it's still important that people have role models.
Everybody needs to see something.
You can't know what you can do until you've seen somebody do it.
And to hear the stories and to know what they overcome means you can do it for sure now, too.
♪ >> The legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II can be felt today at the highest levels of the American military.
General Charles Q.
Brown Jr. is the chief of staff of the United States Air Force.
>> This particular print is from the Tuskegee Airmen National Convention back in 1995, and a number of the original Tuskegee Airmen there at the convention came by and signed it, and so it's one of my possessions that helped make my connection to the Tuskegee Airmen.
>> His office at the Pentagon reflects the heritage of African-Americans in the military and especially the Tuskegee Airmen.
>> It's a sculpture of the three aircraft that the Tuskegee Airmen flew, and it's one of my most prized possessions, you know, I always display in my office in a place of honor.
It's part of our Air Force history.
And, you know, for those that get a chance to come through my office, I have all parts of Air Force history, but this is my personal connection to Air Force history.
>> General Brown realizes others paved the way for his opportunities in life.
As chief of staff, he is responsible for 689,000 active-duty guard, reserve, and civilian forces serving in the United States and overseas.
>> There's aspects of our history and listening to their stories about what they went through and imagining how challenging it would have been.
But the fact that their fortitude to stick with what they wanted to be able to do and that just -- They wanted to serve.
Their legacy was that they showed they could provide opportunity.
If given an opportunity, anybody can achieve.
And if you think about the Tuskegee Airmen, the aspect of, you know, studies that were done that said that African-Americans were not capable, but given an opportunity, they proved that they were capable and then some.
>> It was never easy for these men.
They were pioneers, and no pioneer has it easy.
They fought lies, they fought heartbreak, and they won.
>> Whether the Air Operations Building at Ramitelli ever becomes an addition to all the meaningful monuments in Italy remains to be seen.
Either way, today, it is important to feel the presence of the Black pilots who were once here.
Their role is celebrated by the daughter of a Tuskegee Airman and a local Italian historian who has devoted his life to keeping this story alive.
Both connected to the spot in meaningful ways.
>> Thank you.
>> Thank you.
No, I'm very glad that you are here.
>> Glad to meet you.
>> Ramitelli represents a successful mission.
This seldom-visited site, a legacy to the Tuskegee Airmen in Italy and a visual reminder to African-Americans in the United States still today that opportunity is earned, as it certainly was here in World War II.
>> The more I thought about it, the more we talked about it, we said, "You know, we really did something special."
>> It was the greatest thing that ever happened.
>> We are proud that we helped defeat the most vicious society in the world.
>> Kids should know more about our history, the country's history.
You don't really know the country's history unless you know the contributions of people of color.
>> I'm glad that I had the opportunity to participate in something that helped change the... the direction in which this country was going and my people were going.
>> I think it turned out to be an overall enhancement for the country itself.
>> I couldn't have written the script for better opportunities that seemed to come my way.
Lifelong friendships came of that in training, in the combat afterwards.
>> You lost a lot of good friends, who paid the price, but they were part of the effort to prove that we could fly, fly as well as anyone else.
>> You know, well, I've always had a positive attitude.
Don't dwell on the stuff that you have no control over.
Just move on.
We finally got our recognition.
>> The Tuskegee Airmen proved that their ability was not inferior, was not less than the White pilots.
>> Before them, there weren't anybody who looked like them doing the things that they were doing.
When you don't see anybody who looks like you doing the thing you want to do, it can be discouraging.
And so to be that fire, to be that trailblazer that says that, "No, I can do it, no, we can do it," you know, it just enables more people to do the thing they set out to do, the dream that they want to achieve.
>> It's a remarkable story.
These are college graduates.
These are men of knowledge and skills, and, yet, they're begging their country to fight.
>> They helped frame what President Truman was able to do, with executive order, to integrate the services.
And, so, from that aspect, you know, their hard work actually proved that anybody, if given the opportunity, can excel.
>> You know, daddy used to talk about the fact that, you know, Blacks were told we were too stupid to be able to learn to fly an airplane.
And my dad did calculus problems in his old age because he enjoyed them.
Just running around and seeing this and knowing that this story is important, that young people know about this, that that doesn't just fade away into some history that doesn't matter anymore.
But they sure led the way.
They were the best of the best, and they knew it.
♪ >> Funding for this program provided by... >> Can looking back push us forward?
>> Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Billie Holiday.
>> Will our voice be heard through time?
Can our past inspire our future?
>> ...massive act of concern.
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