Wednesday, March 01, 2006
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Black WWII airmen to get Congressional Gold Medal
March 1, 2006
WASHINGTON -- The Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of black American fighter pilots, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal under a bill passed in the House on Tuesday.
The bill, which passed 400-0, would be the airmen’s second congressional recognition. Both chambers passed a resolution honoring the pilots last year.
“They have fought not really just for black folks. They fought for a better America. They fought for a better world,” said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the sponsor of the bill. “They were pioneers not only in fighting the war but showing and giving self-esteem to so many younger people.”
About 1,000 black pilots were trained to fly and maintain combat airplanes at the Tuskegee, Ala., air base during World War II. Facing strong discrimination in the segregated military, the airmen flew bomber escorts. They were credited with never losing a bomber and with shooting down more than 100 enemy aircraft. Military officials estimate about 200 of the Tuskegee Airmen are alive today.
The bill requires House and Senate leaders to present a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award of the House, collectively to the Tuskegee Airmen. About 300 individuals and groups, including civil rights activist Rosa Parks and Olympian Jesse Owens, have received the honor since 1776.
A similar bill passed in the Senate last October.
Last year the House voted to tighten rules on such congressional awards -- specifically eliminating the ability of groups to win the Gold Medal. That bill died in the Senate.
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