Play / pause Multicultural aircrews

Multicultural aircrews

  • Mark Johnson
  • Interview by: Peter Devitt


Now when it comes to the

service of black airmen

in American forces.

Although it's received a great deal of

tension from Hollywood

with films like Tuskegee Airmen and Red Tails,

those films tell the story

of black units.

Those are segregated units in which only blacks could serve.

They occasionally had white officers.

Sometimes they had black officers.

But there's a fundamental difference

between what the RAF achieved

and what the Americans did.

The Royal Air Force in the space of a year

moved from a situation where it faced

or had imposed upon it a color bar

to a situation where it had incorporated

black and colored air crew within its organization,

within multiracial, multicultural crews.

A typical aircraft would have

a Scotsman as an engineer,

a black navigator perhaps,

a tail gunner from Punjab,

a wireless operator from Belfast,

Englishman flying.

The real melting pot of individuals

in Bomber Command,

and in Fighter Command also there were

a number of black and colored

pilots flying Spitfires, Hurricanes, Typhoons.

And, you know, a really incredible

story of integration,

very, very, important story of integration

because it worked

and because it went ahead almost flawlessly

and there seems to have been almost no conflict.

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