Tuskegee Airmen P-39 Airacobra

There is a little known story that most people are’t aware of, the Tuskegee Airmen P-39 Airacobra.

The first of the four fighter squadrons to deploy into combat from Tuskegee Alabama was the 99th FS. They deployed to North Africa and were attached to other US fighter groups. There, they experienced combat flying in P-40 Warhawks and became seasoned fighter pilots.

Three other squadrons were still training in Tuskegee. They had flown all of the trainers and, after getting their US Army Air Force wings, they flew older P-40s. When they were all ready to go into combat, they boarded a ship and headed toward the war. Their destination was Italy. The 99th had been working their way from North Africa to join up with the other three squadrons. All four squadrons together became the 332nd Fighter Group.

Now as a group, they were given Bell Aircraft P-39 Airacobras. The Airacobra was a bit of a let-down. It was slow compared to the other US fighters and, more importantly, slower than the enemy fighters. They found themselves relegated to flying cover over the Allied ships bringing troops and supplies into Italy for the invasion at Anzio. They did have the occasional skirmish with the enemy fighters, but this generally ended in frustration most of the time. The Messerschmitt, Focke Wulf, Macchi, and Fiat fighters just walk away from them.

Although frustrated, they did their job well. If protecting the ships was their mission, they did it in a thorough and professional manor. Throughout this period, they learned how to fly combat, doing it well and look out for each other.

Doing their job well did get them noticed. A few months into their war, they turned in the Airacobras and received P-47 Thunderbolts. This was a big improvement. The P-47 was big, fast, rugged, powerful and the equal to everything that the enemy was flying. Now they could really take it to the enemy!