To the bomber crews they escorted over Germany, the men of the 332nd Fighter Group, Fifteenth Air Force, were distinguised by the red tails worn by their P-51 Mustangs. To the rest of the US Army, the Tuskegee Airmen were distinguished as the first all-African-American fighter group to see combat.
The 99th Fighter Squadron arrived in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations during April of 1943 and flew P-40Fs and Ls while attached to the 33rd, 79th, and 324th Fighter Groups. In February of 1944, the three combat elements of the 332nd, the 100th, 301st, and 302nd Fighter Squadrons, arrived in Italy. They were initially issued hand-me-down P-39's and flew mainly coastal patrols, finally receiving P-47 Thunderbolts in April and May. They flew the Jugs for about a month before sufficient numbers of P-51 Mustangs arrived to outfit the entire Group in June, 1944. By that time, the 99th FS had rejoined its parent unit based at Ramitelli, Italy. The Thunderbolts were actually the first Tuskegee aircraft to fly with red tails, but it was with the Mustangs that the 332nd built its reputation. Each squadron was identified by its plane-in-group numbers and by different colored trim tabs on all three tail surfaces.
Prior to transferring from the tactical Twelfth Air Force to the strategic Fifteenth in May 1944, the Tuskegees flew mostly close air support, patrol, and armed reconnaissance missions. With the change of assignment, their primary mission became bomber escort. Although the 99th and 332nd destroyed or damaged a total of 409 enemy aircraft in the air or on the ground, their proudest achievement was never having lost a friendly bomber under their protection to enemy aircraft.
Packard Merlin V-1650-7 Liquid-Cooled V-12
Dry Weight: 9 lbs 2.4 oz
Engine: YS 91AC
Prop: Master Airscrew 15x8 Scimitar S2 @ 9,600 rpm
Fuel: Powermaster YS 20/20
Retracts: Robart 551RS pneumatics with Robart 7/16" oleo struts.