Defense Department grant will aid in researching missing Tuskegee Airmen

By | July 21, 2017

A two-year renewable grant from the U.S. Department of Defense will enable Tuskegee University to conduct historical and genealogical research on unaccounted for, or “missing,” Tuskegee Airmen.

The grant, under the auspices of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), will establish a postdoctoral research fellowship in college’s Department of History and Political Science. This postdoctoral fellow will work under the supervision of Associate Professor Godfrey Vincent, who also will serve as the principal investigator for the research project.

“This partnership between Tuskegee University and DPAA is historic and will place both the university and its Department of History and Political Science at the cutting-edge of historical research,” Vincent said. “Our team will have the opportunity to collaborate with DPAA historians, analysts and scientists to research and analyze historical records relating to the service histories of Tuskegee Airmen.”

DPAA strives to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing U.S. military personnel from designated past military conflicts to their families and the nation, including locating, recovering and identifying their remains. Fern Sumpter Winbush, acting DPAA director, noted that Tuskegee University is uniquely positioned to partner with DPAA, due in part to the university’s academic strengths in military and Tuskegee Airmen history.

“Tuskegee University’s focus on the study of African-American military history and the role of war and conflict in world societies and cultures make it a natural partner with DPAA in locating the families of unaccounted for Tuskegee Airmen and other service members,” Winbush said.

“We are delighted to partner with the military and to advance research on the Tuskegee Airmen,” added Dr. Channapatna Prakash, dean of Tuskegee’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The team’s research may include field surveys, archaeological investigations and interviews with the families of servicemen and servicewomen identified as Tuskegee Airmen. They will collaborate with counterparts at the University of Wisconsin and Brigham Young University, which also received grant funding as part of this project.

“Tuskegee Airmen” is the popular name given to the group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II — the first black military aviators in the U.S. Armed Forces. During World War II, black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to Jim Crow laws. As a result, the American military — as well as much of the federal government — was racially segregated, and the Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to discrimination both within and outside the army.

At the time, all black U.S. military pilots trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Air Field, and studied at Tuskegee University. Officially, the Tuskegee Airmen formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Force. In addition, the reference to “Tuskegee Airmen” has broadened to include not just the pilots, but the mechanics, instructors, crew chiefs, nurses, cooks and other support personnel for the pilots.

For more information, visit www.dpaa.mil or http://tuskegeeairmen.org.