Section of I-70 Named for Tuskegee Airmen – Airplanes

A section of I-70 near downtown Denver has been named the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Highway, in honor of the first African-American military pilots, many of whom now live in Colorado. During the dedication ceremony held in Denver’s state capitol on April 12, 2006, several of the surviving airmen were present. Lawmakers honored the men’s courage both in combat, and for the racial barriers they fought.

The 450 airmen trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama during a time when the prevailing opinion was that African-Americans were inferior in intellect and ability. Until the formation of the Tuskegee pilots, the United States military did not accept African-Americans into aviation training programs. Even while the Tuskegee Airmen served, the United States military remained segregated. As the men trained for fighting in combat, they fought racism at home. Many of the African American officers were charged with insubordination and faced court martial for attempting to enter officers’ clubs that were restricted to white officers only.

The Tuskegee Airmen became the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group. They flew P-40 Warhawks in Italy, North Africa, and Sicily. Not only did the Tuskegee Airmen prove they were not inferior, they became one of the most respected Allied squadrons in the war. Not one plane was lost to enemy aircraft. During more than 15,000 missions in World War II, members of the Tuskegee Airmen earned hundreds of air medals, including more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. Even after the Tuskegee Airmen returned home from the war, they faced racism both in the military and in the civilian world.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is using donations to cover the costs of highway signs that mark the section of I-70 named the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Highway.