Flying with the Red Tails in 1944

The scene is 1944. The situation is World War II. The Germans are not stopping without a fight and the US military starts to think differently.

During the 1940’s the United States was still struggling with race relation…still a country that was separated…Black and White.

But a group of men were given a chance to show their stuff and fly — the Tuskegee Airmen — or the Red Tails.

After years of services, segregation was ended in the military by President Harry Truman and the Red Tails were flying high. But after decades with no true recognition, the Tuskegee Airmen finally received  the Congressional Gold Medal for their courage, hard work and determination on March 29, 2007.

And this past month, the movie, Red Tails, was released and it was the first Hollywood movie with an all black, all star male cast and it was completely funded by George Lucas.

The movie received a lot of mixed reviews — some liked it, some hated it, some thought it was ok. Some believed that it was gritty enough, it was too comical, too humorous, not serious enough. Others thought it was just right, a perfect movie for Mom, Dad and the grandparents too.

I had the opportunity to see the film during a screening sponsored by NABJ at the Newseum and I personally thought that the movie did exactly what it was supposed to do.

I knew the film wasn’t directed by someone like Spike Lee who would have brought a very unique, controversial twist to the movie so I wasn’t expecting a gritty film. But I knew it wasn’t a cartoon, Disney film either, so I expected that there would be some moment that would make the audience feel “uncomfortable.”

But there was one thing that was stuck in my mind before I went to see the movie. It was something George Lucas said when he was on one of his millions of interviews for the movie. He said something along the lines that Red Tails is a movie that was filmed, produced and shot all in 1944 but is being released in 2012.

With that said, I thought back to a class I took in college which was all about the US military and the historical military evolution over the decades. And in that class, we did everything from read books, write papers and even watch war movies — and that’s that thing, some war movies weren’t meant to be too negative of the US or give the audience a sense of defeat, they were created to arouse hope, spirit and pride in the United States military.

And with this mindset, I sat down in a comfy seat in the middle of the theater and watched the movie.

Was the movie outstanding? No. Was it life changing? Not really. But did it make me appreciate that those men went through? Yes. It was a taste what it was like to be living and fighting during WWII as a Red Tail. Yes, there were moments when you saw all the actors joking and singing but you can’t tell me that they didn’t do that. In times of trouble, we do our best to stay positive — we do that by singing, joking around and making every effort to avoid the reality that we’re facing, to avoid the fact that we’re not in happy times.

And the whole movie wasn’t happy, go lucky, they showed moments when the men were called the “n-word,” when they were disrespected by other military officials and they had to fight for a chance to have real assignments and actually have an impact on the status of the war.

But I think the icing on the cake of this event for me wasn’t the movie or the free admission, it was the chance to watch this movie with three of the original members of the Tuskegee Airmen in the audience too.

There they are — some of the original Tuskegee Airmen!

And after the movie screening, I had the chance to talk to one of them and say Thank you, thank you for all that you did for us. Now that moment right there, that single moment really made my day. I had to caught myself from shedding a tear because I was just so touched by these men, there were so humble, so appreciative of the support we had showed them and I got the chance to say thank you, to say thank you to history. That was amazing.

Red Coats for the Red Tails such an honor to see them in real life!

And like most movies, everyone will have their own opinion and they will be things that you like and don’t like but for a movie like this that was shedding light on a time and era that we don’t know much about, I think it successfully completed that job.

But don’t take my word for it, go see the movie and you tell me!

Until next time,

KG

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