Less Traveled 2010

Tracy Pou

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Highlight from History -- The Tuskeegee Airmen Memorial

Posted 7/10/2010 2:48:00 PM

On a recent trip back from Hilton Head Island, I hopped off Interstate 26 and took the scenic route home to Charleston. I stopped at the Tuskeegee Airmen Memorial at Walterboro Army Airfield Memorial Park.

The Walterboro Army Airfield was first activated in 1942 and served as the final training base for pilots before overseas duty. At one point, the base housed as many as 6,000 military personnel and also served as a compound for hundreds of German Prisoners of War.

During my visit to Walterboro Army Airfield, which is now the Lowcountry Regional Airport, it was hard to believe that this quiet area was once bustling with so much activity.

Walterboro Army Airfield actually served as the final training ground for one of World War II's most lauded American military units: the Tuskeegee Airmen -- America's first African American pilots. More than 500 Tuskegee airmen from Alabama's Tuskegee Institute trained in Walterboro from April 1944 to October 1945. The Tuskeegee Airmen Memorial commemorates their heroism and determination in the face of incredible odds. The plaque at the site reads:

"In honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, their instructors and ground support personnel who participated in preparing for combat training at the Walterboro Army Airfield during the second World War. Because of their heroic action in combat they were called 'SCHWARTZE VOGELMENSCHEN' (BLACK BIRD MEN) by the Germans who both feared and respected them. White American Bomber Crews in reverence referred to them as the "Red Tail Angels" because of the identifying red paint on their tail assemblies and because of their reputation for not losing any aircraft as they provided fighter coverage for missions over strategic targets in Europe."

The Tuskeegee Airmen Memorial is located at 537 Aviation Way. That's on U.S. 17 just northeast of Walterboro. For more information on the Tuskeegee Airmen, visit www.tuskeegeeairmen.org.