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A People at War headerNational Archives and Records Administration
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Prelude to War
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Gen. Benjamin O. Davis
The 99th Pursuit Squadron
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Women Who Served
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Science Pitches In

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Men from the 99th Pursuit Squadron

On January 16, 1941, the War Department announced the formation of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, an African-American unit, and of the Tuskegee Institute training program. On March 7, 1942, the first graduating class of the Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Tuskegee Field included Col. (later Gen.) Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., who became the commanding officer of the 99th Fighter Squadron and later the 332d Fighter Group. These units were unique in United States military history because all the personnel were African American


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The 99th Fighter Squadron went to North Africa in April 1943 and flew its first combat mission against the island of Pantelleria on June 2, 1943. Capt. Charles B. Hall was the first African-American pilot to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Later the squadron, operating from its base in North Africa, supported the invasion of Italy and participated in the air battle against Sicily. The 332d Fighter Group flew more than 3,000 missions in Europe and destroyed almost 300 enemy planes. Eighty-eight of the group's pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross, proving their test by fire a success.