Rumsfeld Backs Tuskegee Honor; Rangel Aims to Grant Congressional Gold Medal
Byline: Brian DeBose, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Rep. Charles B. Rangel's quest to have Congress honor the Tuskegee Airmen with its highest civilian honor - the Congressional Gold Medal - got a boost yesterday from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Mr. Rumsfeld, in a letter sent to Mr. Rangel, praised the all-black World War II fighter squadron for its distinguished service, which won national acclaim and helped pave the way for formal desegregation of the military.
"In my view, this recognition is well-deserved," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "This is of utmost importance to me."
Mr. Rangel, New York Democrat and a Korean War veteran, has long admired the fighter pilots, whom he said are directly responsible for his opportunity to serve in the military. He introduced the bill in March, but has been unable to garner 280 co-sponsors needed for consideration.
"I am confident that his support will make a difference in gaining bipartisan support for the legislation," Mr. Rangel said. "I don't agree with the secretary on too many things, but as regards the Tuskegee Airmen, we stand shoulder to shoulder."
The Senate has passed a version of the bill introduced by Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Gene Carter, 86, a native of Tuskegee who entered the cadet training at 19 and served for 27 years, said the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor would be a long-awaited official recognition of the Tuskegee Airmen's contributions.
"We overcame the adversities of second-class citizenship and all of the other discrimination that prevailed at the beginning of World War II," said Col. …