Pac-12, Lucasfilm Celebrate Tuskegee Airmen
First African American Military Pilots Helped Battle Fascism Abroad and Racism in America During World War II
The Pac-12 Conference has teamed up with one of its most prominent alums, legendary filmmaker George Lucas, to honor and celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military pilots in U.S. history, during the inaugural Pac-12 Football Championship Game, it was announced today.
As part of the celebration, the Pac-12 will host some of the cast members from Lucasfilm's upcoming movie Red Tails (www.redtails2012.com), a high-flying action epic inspired by the heroic exploits of the first all African American aerial combat unit. Cast member Elijah Kelley, who stars as pilot Samuel "Suicide" George, will sing the National Anthem.
"We are humbled and honored to be able to celebrate the courage, sacrifice and heroism these great men provided to our country," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. "George Lucas is one of our own and epitomizes the innovation, leadership and creativity that are rooted in the Pac-12 Conference. His passion for vividly telling the incredible story of the Tuskegee Airmen really added something unique and special to our first-ever Football Championship Game."
An all-black combat unit created at the Tuskegee Institute in 1941, the Tuskegee Airmen pilots faced unimaginable challenges: fierce discrimination, training on outdated equipment, and their performance was scrutinized by military officials who believed they would fail. Despite these obstacles, the Tuskegee Airmen persevered and played a significant role in defeating Nazi Germany World War II.
Between 1943-45, the Tuskegee Airmen shot down 112 Luftwaffe aircraft, including three of the first German jets. The Tuskegee airmen flew more than 15,000 sorties on more than 1,500 missions throughout North Africa and Europe. They won three Distinguished Unit Citations and earned 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, 744 Air Medals and several Silver Stars and Purple Hearts.