Roscoe Brown, the last of the Tuskegee Airmen pilots known to live on Long Island, told his family he did not want an elaborate church funeral. He wanted a jazz band to play instead, and for people to get together over shared stories and maybe a cold beer.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the beach with my grandparents in Ocean City, New Jersey. I have fond memories, many of them of my grandfather humming something while working or cooking. Once I asked him what song he was singing, and he answered “the Air Corps song.”
We need to remember and embrace some of the lessons of battlefield excellence that all-black military units displayed during World War II. The perseverance, professionalism, courage, innovation, and sheer guts of all-black military units are significant for a number of reasons. First, the U.S. military was extremely segregated and maintained a structured system of bias toward blacks. Blacks were initially placed in non-combat specialties such as cooks, drivers, and orderlies and they were given second-class equipment and sometimes ineffective combat training. Second, unlike all other military personnel, blacks were told that they wouldn’t and couldn’t be good soldiers.