Written by Kiki Moore
Tuskegee Airmen Robert D. Rose was a guest speaker as part of a series events for Black History Month sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Omaha Black Studies and Multicultural Affairs.
The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of all-black pilots, later known as the Red Tails. During World War II, 450 blacks served in this unit and 66 were killed in the line of duty.
Robert D. Rose is a retired Air Force Captain in Bellevue, Neb. Although Rose was not a Tuskegee Airmen, he is president of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. Rose spoke to a small crowd about a vast part of history on Wednesday, Feb. 5 in the Milo Bail Student Center.
Rose’s presentation began at 11:00 a.m. with a documentary dedicated to the airmen to better explain the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Rose talked to crowd about what he hoped they could learn.
“It meant learning and not forgetting your history. Racism is not as blunt, but it is still here. It made me think to not forget your history,” said Cornelius Levering, a sophomore at UNO.
The film Rose showed exhibited the discrimination, racism and general facts about the war. The life expectancy of a fighter pilot was about 15 to 20 missions. White bombers apparently did not know the Red tails were black. During the Berlin Mission, the predominant enforcer of racism was General Selway. He executed a white person to be an instructor and a black person to be a trainee. He created two separate clubs: one for the black trainees and one for white instructors. A group of black officers challenged the segregation in one incident, an act of civil disobedience. Another situation occurred where small groups of black soldiers sought service in a club, and once denied, they pursued the issue.
One Tuskegee airman, Roger Terry, was accused of shoving a lieutenant. The film showed that Terry was dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank after the Freeman Field Mutiny. All his rights were reinstated on Aug. 2, 1995. Terry help found the Tuskegee Airmen in 1972 to enforce their history. Terry died in 2009 of heart failure.
Before ending his presentation, Rose said he does not want this part of history to be forgotten.
“These people are before Rosa Parks, before Dr. King. These people deserve tribute,” Rose said.
The Tuskegee airmen received recognition six decades later as they earned the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can give. In addition, the airmen were invited to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first black president.
Rose encourages people to get involved to further recognize what the Tuskegee airmen achieved in American history.