Flying through the Color Barrier Tuskegee Airmen Bring History to the Suburbs

By Daday, Eileen O. | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 13, 2002 | Go to article overview

Flying through the Color Barrier Tuskegee Airmen Bring History to the Suburbs


Daday, Eileen O., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Eileen O. Daday Daily Herald Correspondent

Straight from the history pages to a Northwest suburban high school stage, three members of the Tuskegee Airmen appeared over the weekend to provide an afternoon of living history.

The three airmen, all residents of Chicago's South Side, came at the invitation of the Rev. Bradford Traywick, pastor of Christ Transformed Lives Baptist Church in Streamwood. The airmen took their name from the Army airfield in Alabama where they trained, and they became the first black pilots to fly for the U.S. military.

In the process, Traywick says, they overcame racism to fight for the freedom of all Americans.

"It is such a great honor to be here with you, I'm speechless," said audience member Anthony Phillips of Streamwood. "This is not just about black history, this is history."

"These guys accomplished so much, it's mind-boggling," added Joe Morino of Streamwood, chairman of that village's veteran's commission. "You want to rub elbows with history, well here they are."

The airmen were escorted into the Streamwood High School auditorium by members of Boy Scout Troop 80. A standing ovation and thunderous applause from the audience of nearly 300, greeted the trio. "I just liked (hearing) what they had to go through," said Benjamin Howard, 13, of Streamwood, wearing a Tuskegee Airmen T- shirt.

George Taylor and Robert Martin described their experiences as fighter pilots flying B-51s in the 100th fighter squadron. Lavern Shelton told about his duties back at the airfield, as a crew chief.

All three never expected to become heroes when they joined the service. In fact, Shelton told how he tried to "duck the military" by getting a job, but that his mother enlisted him.

"I ended up right in the middle of it," Shelton said. In the war essentially cared for one plane which had a long-range capacity of flying for six hours without refueling. Consequently for those hours he had little to do, but hope that the pilot and plane returned.

Martin, meantime, flew 64 combat missions before being shot down on his 64th mission over Yugoslavia.

He spent five weeks at a British mission, which he described as his best memories of the war, and that by the time a plane arrived to take him back, he almost could not fit in the cockpit, since he had gained so much weight from his good treatment. …

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