This week marks the opening of the Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit at the Pittsburgh airport as well as the installment of a memorial at Sewickley Cemetary, commemorating those who served during World War II in the all black branches of the Army Air Corps. More than 100 members of the 332nd fighter group and 477th bombardment group came from the Western Pennsylvania region.
Wendell Freeland, one of the four surviving local Airmen, considered his fellow soldiers “the best and brightest.” And despite their completion of intensive military training, along with racial discrimination, the 477th bombardiers never saw combat.
“We were very disappointed. In fact, the whole group was almost completely demoralized because we were looking forward to helping our country overseas. When that bomb dropped, it killed our chances,” says former bomber pilot Edward Harris, referring to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
Despite their disappointment, many of the Airmen went on to lead successful careers.
Harris would eventually get the combat experience he missed in WWII. He went on to become a Lieutenant Colonel and fly over 150 missions in Korea.
Wendell Freeland, is now a retired attorney in Shadyside.
The celebration will continue with a concert by Josh White Jr. at the Edgeworth club, and a performance of the off-broadway play Black Angels over Tuskegee on Saturday at the Byham Theatre.
The four days of festivities will culminate with the unveiling of the Tuskegee Airmen memorial at Sewickley Cemetery.