Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Tuskegee Airmen

Never was so much owed by so many to so few.
Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill spoke of the brave English RAF pilots in his wartime speech on August 20, 1940. The same can be said about the Tuskegee Airmen, the courageous Black fighter pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, 99th Pursuit Squadron, who protected the B-17 bombers on missions over Germany. But, they fought more battles than faced by the RAF fighter pilots. They fought discrimination and bigotry on the home front before, during, and after the World War II. When finally permitted to fly combat in a segregated Air Force in 1944, they epitomized bravery and courage in aerial combat with the Luftwaffe over Germany.

According to Wikipedia, the Tuskegee Airmen are credited with destroying at least 112 airborne enemy aircraft, 150 planes on the ground, over 600 trains, and over 40 barges/boats. Their destruction of a navy destroyer was the first such accomplishment of its time.

Charles Brantley, Earl Lane, and Roscoe Brown in their P-51 Mustangs shot down the first jet planes used in combat on March 2, 1944, over Berlin. On March 24, 1945, the Tuskegee Airmen flew the longest bomber escort mission of WW II. Of the hundreds of mission flown, the Tuskegee Airmen only lost 25 bombers. One hundred fifty Airmen lost their lives in accidents or combat and 32 taken as prisoners of war.

The Tuskegee Airmen received the following awards and decorations: Three Distinguished Unit Citations, one Silver Star, estimated 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, 744 Air Medals and 8 Purple Hearts. The Congressional Gold Medal was presented to the approximately 300 surviving Tuskegee Airmen or their widows at U.S. Capitol rotunda by President George W. Bush on March 29, 2007.

I recently saw the entertaining and realistic George Lucas movie, Red Tails. The name derives from the painted red tail sections of the planes flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. Lucas states that Hollywood refused to support his efforts to make the movie. Just imagine. George Lucas of Star Wars and Indiana Jones fame told by all of the Hollywood studios that a movie made by him about Black pilots wouldn’t find an audience.

After trying for twenty-three years to obtain backing for the movie, Lucas put up millions of his own money. He got the last laugh. Red Tails opened 2nd at the box office and made $19 million the first week. Every American who wants to see a good movie about highly-skilled and courageous fighter pilots should help George Lucas laugh all the way to the bank.

The rallying cry of the Red Tails: "From the last plane, to the last bullet, to the last minute, to the last man, we fight!"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bureau of Land Management: The Good Guys?

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Mahatma Gandhi

Although I love dogs and even wrote a book about my Scottish terrier therapy dog, horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. As a coal miner’s daughter growing up in Pennsylvania, I learned to ride by taming a half-wild mine horse and riding him bareback. To this day the desire to own a horse has never wavered.

I live in Nevada now where the wild mustangs roam free. Large herds of horses have inhabited the range in northern Nevada for years. That’s why it struck me as strange that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would suddenly take such a huge and all consuming interest in rounding them up. And, not in the most humane way. Helicopters herd them in the extreme heat over rough terrain until the hooves fall off of some, and mares abort their foals. Many horses drop dead from sheer exhaustion.

I realize that the ranchers want to get rid of the horses because they want the land cleared. They have big bucks and lobbyist to help them get their way. Madeleine Pickens, wife of oilman T. Boone Pickens, offered to develop and fund a one-million acre sanctuary for the 31,000 horses rounded up by the BLM. No deal. For some reason, the BLM seemed hell bent to hang on to them.

Now I know the reason! Under the radar while traveling in Asia on November 18th, President Obama signed a bill by autopen containing a provision that paves the way for the slaughtering of horses in the United States. Now I get it. The BLM, politicians, and the rest of the fat cats will make a fortune in the horse slaughterhouse business due to their knowledge through insider trading. If you don’t believe that they all knew what the president was up to, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you.

The Occupy Movement speaks for the 99%. Who speaks for the thousands of horses waiting for butchering at American slaughterhouses now that the ban has been lifted?