The Tuskegee Airmen entered their first training class 80 years ago with a goal to complete their mission and pave the way for airmen of color today.
Lt. Arthur Wilburn was one of around 900 black military aviators to enter the U.S. military during World War II. His son, Karl Wilburn, said his father was among the cream of the crop of airmen at his time and his service to his country speaks volumes.
“Because of them, the Armed Forces were integrated. Now, we can look back on that, the 99th, the whole group of Tuskegee Airmen and say if it wasn't for them, maybe we wouldn't have such a diverse Air Force or services, period,” Wilburn said.
“Without the sacrifices they made, the challenges that they encountered and the success that they had in the face of expected failure, I wouldn't be where I am today,” Air Force Maj. Solange Douglass said.
The legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is displayed throughout Tinker Air Force Base, honoring one airmen who spent time in Oklahoma City.
“A lot of people didn't want the Tuskegee Airmen to continue on. They wanted to scrap the program. So when Charles B. Hall shot down that aircraft, that changed the whole game,” Wilburn said.
Douglass recalled a quote from one of the Tuskegee Airmen displayed on the gates at Tinker Air Force Base.
“Regardless of what challenge I’m encountering, I know that it's my responsibility to be there for the airmen that come after me and make sure that the path that they have is one that's a little less difficult because of me,” Douglass said.
Douglass and Wilburn both agree that the Tuskegee Airmen would be proud of the progress made, but are looking forward to more work being done.