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Released February 25, 2005


HATTIESBURG – A series of educational programs spotlighting the achievements of the renowned Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter pilots during World War II, has been scheduled in conjunction with The University of Southern Mississippi's annual spring Armstrong-Branch University Forum.

The forum will be held March 8 at 7 p.m. at Bennett Auditorium on the Southern Miss campus.

Col. Herbert Carter and Maj. Carroll Woods will share their experiences as members of the historic fighter pilot squadron, which trained at Tuskegee, Ala., and was the basis for a movie produced in 1995 starring Laurence Fishburne. The

Armstrong-Branch University Forum honors the first African-American students to attend Southern Miss, Elaine Armstrong and Raylawni Branch.

"The Center for Human Rights and Civil Liberties is ecstatic to have two retired Tuskegee combat pilots visit the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi, and are honored that they will share their experiences as WWII heroes in the United States military," said Southern Miss student Katrell Nash, who has helped organize the events for the center, one of several student organizations sponsoring the events along with the Honors College.

According to the National Museum of the United States Air Force Web site, on July 19, 1941, the Army Air Force began a program in Alabama to train black Americans as military pilots. Primary flight training was conducted by the Division of Aeronautics of Tuskegee Institute, the famed school of learning founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881 (now Tuskegee University).

Once a cadet completed primary training at Tuskegee's Moton Field, he was sent to nearby Tuskegee Army Air Field for completion of flight training and for transition to combat-type aircraft. The first classes of Tuskegee Airmen were trained to be fighter pilots for the famous 99th Fighter Squadron, slated for combat duty in North Africa. Additional pilots were assigned to the 332d Fighter Group which flew combat along with the 99th Squadron from bases in Italy.

By the end of the war, 992 men had graduated from pilot training at Tuskegee, 450 of whom were sent overseas for combat assignment. During the same period, approximately 150 lost their lives while in training or on combat flights.

"We're honored to have these heroes of World War II come to the Southern Miss campus and look forward to learning more about the sacrifices they made for their country," said Dr. Ken Panton, dean of the Southern Miss Honors College.

Other events leading up to the forum include a showing of the Tuskegee Airmen film March 1 at Stout Hall, Room A at 6 p.m., with an introduction by historian Clint Martin; a forum panel discussion March 2 at Stout Hall, Room A at 7 p.m., featuring African-American leaders in the Hattiesburg community; and a tour of the African-American Military History Museum, located at the N.R. Burger Center, 305 E. Sixth St. in downtown Hattiesburg, March 3 at 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Katrell Nash at or (601) 266-2864, or contact the Southern Miss Honors College at (601) 266-4533.


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April 5, 2005 1:19 PM