TUSKEGEE AIRMEN IN FAIR SPOTLIGHT; Two Will Be Honorary Grand Marshals for Veiled Prophet Parade; Black Pilot Will Fly Famous WWII Mustang Plane; FAIR ST. LOUIS

Article excerpt

Retired Col. George Boyd travels across the country to air shows, high schools and universities telling stories about his days as a Tuskegee Airman and delivering a message: Americans should never stop fighting for their rights.

He estimates that he's told more than 80,000 people that message so far, and he'll keep doing so this weekend at Fair St. Louis.

Boyd, 87, of Kansas City, will be one of the honorary grand marshals at the Veiled Prophet parade today, along with another airman, Lt. Col. George Hardy from Philadelphia. This year's air show features multiple World War II-era aircraft, including a red- tailed P-51 Mustang associated with the famous Tuskegee pilots.

"I don't talk about the ills we've had in our country because there isn't a person alive that doesn't know what they are," Boyd said. "I talk about the good things and why they're worth protecting."

The Tuskegee Airmen were black military pilots, navigators, bombardiers and support staff, and were featured in the 2012 movie "Red Tails." The program began in 1941 at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The program trained almost 1,000 black pilots, many of whom escorted bombers overseas in World War II.

The Red Tail Squadron boasts one of only four Mustangs that can still fly. The squadron is part of the nonprofit Commemorative Air Force, which maintains vintage aircraft and performs in air shows across the country.

The federal sequestration budget cuts grounded official military performers such as the Blue Angels. To keep the appeal of military planes, the air show reached out to groups such as the Red Tail Squadron and acrobatic pilots of other World War II-era aircraft, such as the AT-6 training aircraft, the "whistling death" F4U Corsair and a B-17 bomber.

The Mustang will be flown by Bill Shepard, a black pilot from Canada. He became a Tuskegee history buff when he realized how few black pilots perform in WWII-era planes. His favorite part of the job is seeing the expression on kids' faces when they learn about the airmen.

"They don't often see someone that looks like them doing some of the things they want to do or they dream about," Shepard said.

The air show also features an exhibit called "Rise Above." The exhibit is housed in a refurbished semi trailer and travels with the Red Tail Squadron. …


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