The New Windsor-based Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris Chapter of the National Tuskeegee Airman Inc. has announced that eight scholarships totaling $13,000 will be presented to deserving Hudson Valley High School Seniors. Two of the recipients are from Newburgh Free Academy.
The awards will be presented at a virtual dinner on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.
Seniors Hannah Cullen and Mya Zylberbergof Newburgh Free Academy are among the eight winners. Other winners are: Michaela Brown, Nicole Davis and Nathan Woinicki of Cornwall Central High School; Dominique Gooden of the Storm King School; Celeste Ibarra of Tri Valley Central School and Manpreet Kaut of Middletown High School.
The Trowels-Harris Tuskegee Airmen chapter has been granting tuition assistance awards since 1999. During those 22 years, it has bestowed more than $238,000 on students bound for colleges and vocational schools. The chapter has now established the Hudson Valley Tuskegee Airmen Endowment Fund to guarantee the viability of future scholarships, as part of the chapter’s mission to protect the legacy of the World War II Airmen and their role in the Civil Rights Movement.
The organization honors the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators--both pilots and ground support personnel--in the United States Armed Forces. They flew and fought during World War II, when black Americans in many U. S. states were still subject to Jim Crow laws and the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the Federal Government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination both within and outside the Army.
All black Army Air Force pilots were given primary training at Moton Field and went on to advanced training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield. Both were located in Tuskegee, Alabama, near the famous Tuskegee Institute (today Tuskegee University), which had been founded by Booker T. Washington.
The majority of “Tuskegee Experience” aviators went on to be trained as fighter pilots, though a number of them became medium-bomber pilots. The fighter pilots eventually were sent to North Africa, where they entered combat, while the bomber pilots continued stateside training with the expectation of being sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations. The war ended before this happened, however.
Meanwhile, the Tuskegee Airmen fought over North Africa and participated in the invasion of Sicily and then the Italian mainland. When a fighter base was established at Ramitelli, near the east coast of Italy, the Airmen became bomber-escort specialists, flying their P-47s and P-51s in support of Fifteenth Air Force B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers attacking Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania. The Tuskegee Airmen were popularly known as “the Red Tails,” because their fighters had unmistakable red-painted empennages, and bomber units often requested Red Tails as escorts, since few bombers ever were lost to Luftwaffe fighters when the Tuskegee Airmen were protecting them.
Few of the bomber crews knew that their protectors were African Americans, but all knew that they were very good and very brave.
The Tuskegee Airmen and their all-black ground crews and support personnel achieved an enviable combat record but after the war returned to an America still beset by racial discrimination and segregation. In July, 1948, Pres. Harry S. Truman ordered the integration of all the U. S. Armed Forces. The original Tuskegee Airmen squadrons were decommissioned and their surviving Tuskegee Airmen distributed among other newly integrated units.
The New Windsor-based local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc is named for Maj. Gen. Irene Trowell-Harris, who in 1993, became the first female African-American general in the 357-year history of the National Guard, the military’s oldest branch. In 1986, she was appointed commander of the 105th USAF Clinic in Newburgh,making her the first Air National Guard nurse to command a medical clinic.