THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN STORY: ADMINISTRATIVE, TECHNICAL, GROUND SUPPORT AND SERVICE UNITS
Negro Organizations Providing Broader Support for Military Flight Training and Combat Operations
The preparation of personnel for administrative, technical and service training operations was the Army Air Forces largest single training job, since there was continuous need for ground service cadets and enlisted personnel for carrying out a multitude of separate skills deemed necessary to contribute to the success of a routine mission. Enlisted men predominated ground service units and were expected to specialize in 34 separate skills taught in 80 different types of courses such as communications, air craft maintenance and repair, armament and equipment, weather, photography, aviation engines, motor transport, link trainer, and many others. Negro service men engaged in such operations for the duration of their existence as a segregated Army Air Force is estimated to be in excess of 18,000. They were mostly enlisted personnel, divided among 34 numbered Air Force and service units servicing America's Black Air Force operation from their date of activation in 1941 until its deactivation in 1949. Eleven of the 34 service units mentioned above provided all necessary support for the 99th Fighter Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group combat operations in the North African and Mediterranean theaters, while the remaining 23 provided necessary support for headquarters, flight training, and 477th Bombardment Group and 332nd Fighter Wing operations in the American Theater.
66th Army Air Field Flying Training Detachment
With Tuskegee Institute as contractor, the 66th Army Air Forces Flying Training Detachment (AAFFTC), began operations at Moton Field in July 1941. Its primary purpose was to provide Pre-Flight and Primary Flying Training, with the assistance of Negro civilian flight instructors, to successive classes of aviation cadets, commencing their training in the latter part of August, 1941. From the beginning, the General Manager of the school was Professor George L. Washington, head of the Department of Mechanical Industries and the Division of Aeronautics at Tuskegee Institute. He was also Director of the Civilian Pilot Training program at the Institute as well.
The first Commanding Officer of the 66th Detachment was Captain Noel F. Parrish, who subsequently was appointed its Director of Training, and still later, Base Commander of Tuskegee Army Air Field.
On or about May 30, 1944, the 66th AAFFTD was re-designated 2164th Headquarters Army Air Force Base Unit, Contract Pilot School, Primary. The complement of attached supporting units at the time, included the following: 67th Base Weather Unit, 83rd Fighter Control Squadron, 101st Chemical Platoon, 313th Army Air Force Band, 318th Headquarters and Air Base Squadron, 648th Ordnance Company (Aviation), 689th Signal Aircraft Warning Company, 717th Signal Aircraft Warning Company, 767th Ordnance Company (Aviation), 889th Basic Flying Training Squadron, 890th Basic Flying Training Squadron, 907th Quartermaster Company (Aviation), 917st Technical School Squadron, 941st Guard Squadron, 964th Quartermaster Platoon, 1155th Single Engine Flying Training Squadron, 1451st Quartermaster Company, 2143rd Army Air Field Base Unit and Station Hospital and Medical Detachments.
When the Air Corps activated its Negro military flying program, a large variety of administrative capability was necessary to bring the flying school into functional operation. This capability was acquired by detaching appropriate Black and White personnel from fourteen (14) existing numbered military units and assigning them to facilitate and enable the establishment of the Negro military flight training program at TAAF, Tuskegee, Alabama, and at other such training facilities. In most circumstances, the assignment of colored personnel was to be a permanent change of station, while the assignment of white personnel was, most likely, to be temporary, pending completion of adequately trained colored personnel to replace them. These detachments, which so effectively contributed to the initial success of TAAF, are the following:
20th Aviation Squadron provided base support at Keesler Field, Mississippi, for basic training and medical testing and processing of cadets and recruits intended for participation in the flight training program at Tuskegee.
24th and 25th Infantry Divisions were initial sources of skilled and experienced cadre of trained non-commissioned officers (NCO) for administration and basic training. By order of the Secretary of War, the Adjutant General sent directives to Commanders of colored troops detailing the rank and numbers of non-commissioned personnel required for station complement duty at TAAF and specifying the dates of their transfer. Corporals Theodore A. Haith, a graduate pharmacist, and Marion Mann, an experienced medical administrator, were assigned to TAAF by this process. Both subsequently completed OCS and were assigned for duty in the station hospital. Lieutenant Mann eventually reached the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserves.
67th Base Weather Unit (Documentation not located)
309th Sub-Depot consisted of 49 colored men and one colored woman, all civilian employees, trained through the U.S. Civil Service Commission at San Antonio Air Depot's Duncan Field—now Kelly Air Force Base. They were tutored at various army installations to furnish logistical, ground support and mechanical assistance to the 99th Fighter Squadron currently in training at the all-Negro flying school and on April 24, 1942, the detachment, under the supervision of Mr. Wilber Miller, was ordered to report to their new permanent duty station at TAAF.
318th Headquarters and Air Base Squadron (Documentation not located)
320th College Training Detachment (Documentation not located)
403rd Fighter Squadron was activated at Selfridge Field, Michigan, on March 8, 1943. The Squadron was organized to supervise the training of the 332nd Fighter Group, but from its inception until late in May 1943, it was handicapped by lack of trained personnel to effectively perform its mission. The 403rd was assigned to the Third Fighter Command and its personnel were obtained from fighter groups of the command. Specialists from the Command on temporary duty and assignment of additional trained personnel overcame this deficiency in late May and early June 1943. It should be noted also, that during the period of March through July 1943, the 403rd had three station changes and changed commanding officers three times, and these factors surely adversely affected readiness procedures.
553rd Replacement Training Unit (RTU) was activated at Selfridge, Michigan, on or about February 1944, for the expressed purpose of furnishing colored fighter pilot replacements to the colored fighter squadron overseas. The RTU program at Selfridge was handicapped from the beginning because equipment on hand was intended for squadron level training, and even that equipment was limited, since the other units on station at Selfridge were given higher priority as they were scheduled for overseas duty. Consequently, on May 7, 1944, the 553rd moved to Walterboro Army Air Force Base where more and better equipment was available, for a permanent change of station. Later in May 1944, however, the 553rd was disbanded and assigned to the 126th Army Air Force Base Unit (Fighter). Training aircraft were changed from P-39s to the P-47, and the task of preparing the first shipment of trainees was begun. Walterboro was designated "AAF Staging Area" with primary duty of the base being the final training and "staging" of colored fighter pilots for overseas replacements.
580th Air Service Group, Headquarters and Base Service Squadron (Documentation not located)
689th Signal Aircraft Warning Company (Documentation not located)
717th Signal Aircraft Warring and Control Company (Documentation not located)
789th Technical Training Squadron trained at Lincoln Army Air Base Training School, Lincoln, Nebraska. (Documentation not located)
889th Basic Flight Training Squadron (Documentation not located)
890th Basic Flying Training School (Documentation not located)
821st Bombardment Squadron (M) Separate was activated February I, 1944 by authority of the First Bomber Command at Mitchell Field, New York. Comprised of White aircrew members who had recently returned from overseas duty and, with ample up-to-date teaching experience, they were formed for the sole purpose of training and supervising the colored 477,h Bombardment Group personnel to work together as a B-25 bomb group. Subsequently, the 821st was activated at Selfridge Field, Michigan, as a separate unit.
1155st Single Engine Squadron (Documentation not located)
2143rd Army Air Field Base Unit and Station Hospital and Medical Detachment and Nurse Corps (Documentation not located)
7151st Quartermaster Company (Documentation not located)
7166th Army Air Force Band (Documentation not located)