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
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
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
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 email@example.com
or (601) 266-2864, or contact the Southern Miss Honors College at