UNSUNG HEROES PART OF ANNE FRANK IN THE WORLD

 The story of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen — the first African-American pilots to fly in combat during World War II — is told through “The Tuskegee Airmen: The Segregated Skies of World War II,” housed at the Anne Frank in the World exhibit in Sandy Springs.

The Tuskegee Airmen are the subject of “The Segregated Skies of World War II,” at Anne Frank in the World until Dec. 20.

This addition to the exhibit’s permanent, titled “The Tuskegee Airmen: The Segregated Skies of World War II,” explores the history and heroism of the first African-American pilots to fly in combat during World War II.

In 1941, the U.S. Army established a segregated training program for African-American pilots at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Ala. Over the next five years, more than 1,000 pilots trained in what became known as the “Tuskegee Experiment,” and the “Red Tails” – as they became known in combat – compiled a stellar record during the war.

They, as well as the 16,000-some men and women who served as support personnel, made up a group of undeniable courage and skill that helped bring about the desegregation of the United States Armed Forces. The Airmen’s contributions to the Allied war effort influenced President Harry Truman to integrate the military in 1948.

Now, “The Tuskegee Airmen” – a series of 10 panels on display at Anne Frank in the World until Dec. 20 – offers a look into the historical challenges and triumphs of these unsung American heroes.

“We hope the exhibit will be replicated by other institutions and communication resources and will reach not just the youngest population, but the total population,” said original Tuskegee Airman Val Archer.

“We don’t know how the history books will record what the Tuskegee Airmen did, but somehow, someone will remember this,” said Hiram E. Little, also an original member of the storied bunch.

The Georgia Commission on the Holocaust awarded the Tuskegee Airmen with the 2012 Humanitarian Award at the State Official Observance of the Victims of the Holocaust. Additionally, students of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Atlanta decorated a trunk honoring the Airmen for the Holocaust Learning Trunk Project, a joint effort of the Commission and the Georgia Department of Education which provides educational materials about WWII and the Holocaust to all middle-school educators in Georgia.

“The Tuskegee Airmen” complements “Witness to the Holocaust: WWII Veteran William Alexander Scott III,” another exhibit also housed at Anne Frank in the World. The latter is a permanent display that follows Scott, a photojournalist in a segregated battalion and witness to the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp, as his experiences inspired him to speak out about the dangers of unchecked hatred, prejudice and discrimination.

Scott was a tireless civil rights leader, whose message resonates with hundreds of visitors to the Anne Frank in the World exhibit each year. A traveling version of “Witness to the Holocaust” will be available to schools and libraries throughout Georgia in 2013.

“The Commission is dedicated to instilling a sense of personal responsibility to combat indifference and apathy so individuals will not be a bystander in the face of bigotry and discrimination,” Viki Staley, Commission Executive Director, said. “These exhibits and the Holocaust Learning Trunk Project allow the lessons of the Holocaust to reach students and adults through awareness and education. Partnering with Kennesaw and the Department of Education strengthens these core values.”

Special For the Atlanta Jewish Times

Editor’s note: For more information and exhibit hours, visit holocaust.georgia.gov or call (770) 206-1558.