On Oct. 4, 2016, as reported by Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs in the article Tuskegee Airman reunites with Red Tail, a unique event took place at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath.
That day in fact a P-51D Mustang, one of the best WWII fighters, flew down the flightline at the Suffolk base.
One of the 18 remaining Tuskegee Airmen, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. George E. Hardy, was aboard the aircraft.
Referred to as “Red Tails” because of their brightly painted aircraft tails, the Tuskegee Airmen were an all-black fighter group during WWII and consisted of more than 900 pilots.
Hardy, among 354 others, were sent overseas to conduct bomber escort missions. He was only 19 and he didn’t even have a driver’s license but he completed 21 sorties in his P-51 during WWII.
A bomber was never lost to enemy fire during Red Tails escort missions. However, the group lost 66 Tuskegee Airmen during the war.
Flying the restored P-51D Mustang, nicknamed “Tall in the Saddle”, was Peter Teichman, Hangar 11 Collection pilot.
“Colonel George Hardy is a real war hero, the real deal,” Teichman said. “I never thought I would get to meet the colonel or to take him flying. He’s a very remarkable man, and men like him need to be remembered.”
Teichman tracked down Hardy through history groups after acquiring the retiree’s original P-51 and 71 years later, reunited Hardy with his plane, giving him the chance to complete one last flight to RAF Lakenheath to share his story with the base personnel who awaited his arrival.
“The greatest thing about this is that there’s a Red Tail flying in England,” Hardy explained. “It means so much to us that there’s a Red Tail still around. So many great pilots, and I was flying with them. You couldn’t beat that – I was on top of the world. We [Tuskegee Airmen] demonstrated that we could fly like anyone else.”
Following the heroics of the famed Red Tails during WWII, the U.S. Air Force was established and became the first service to integrate racially. Many attribute this milestone in U.S. history to the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen and those who served with them.
An achievement admitted also by Col. Evan Pettus, 48th Fighter Wing commander, who states “This is a huge honor for us here at the 48th Fighter Wing. The Tuskegee Airmen have a very rich history and an incredibly important place in the culture and heritage of the United States and the United States Air Force. To see him [Lt. Col. George E. Hardy] here on RAF Lakenheath in his aircraft is very, very special for us.”
Noteworthy RAF Lakenheath is home to the 48th Fighter Wing, also known as the Liberty Wing. In addition to supporting three combat-ready squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagle and F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft, the Liberty Wing houses the 56th Rescue Squadron’s HH-60G Combat Search and Rescue helicopters.
Photo credit: Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield and Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew / U.S. Air Force
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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