VA North Texas Health Care System
Dallas VA Hosts Esteemed Tuskegee Aviators
Dallas VA proudly hosted Tuskegee Airmen Capt. Claude R. Platte, Lt. Calvin J. Spann and Staff Sgt. Homer Hogues. They came to share war stories of years past, answer questions and provide insight on the critically acclaimed film "Red Tails."
Capt. Platte served as a primary flight instructor, training more than 300 blacks to fly. He was the first black officer to be trained and commissioned in the newly reopened Air Force Pilot Training Program, also known as "West Point of the Air," at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Lt. Spann received his wings at Tuskegee, graduating in Class 44G. He was a member of the 100th fighter squadron which was part of the legendary 332nd Fighter Group. Spann flew 26 combat missions before completing his tour in Italy.
Staff Sgt. Hogues served in the U. S. Army Air Corps from 1946 to 1949. After basic training at Shepherd Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Hogues transferred to the 99th Fighter Squadron Single Engine 332nd Fighter Group where he worked as an airplane mechanic. In January 1949, Hogues was one of many Tuskegee Airmen invited to participate in the Presidential Inaugural Parade for President Harry S. Truman.
All three men shared their military stories and experiences and reflections on how much technology and society has changed since they were in the air. As humorous, yet humble men, they sparked both laughter and sentiment among the crowd as they answered questions. Speaking of the now antiquated manually-operated flight computer, Spann joked about what they worked with. "We had computers in planes way back then," he said. "It was square with a circle in the middle and the points north, south, east and west…and it worked!"
On a more serious note, Platte responded to an audience member who asked him to describe how it felt to have made such a huge accomplishment. He said, "I always wanted to fly and told myself 'you're just as good as anyone else.'"
The original Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for more to come. They fought hard among so many others during World War II. Considered as the greatest global conflict, World War II resulted in more deaths than any other war. Of the 111,000 Veterans VA North Texas serves annually, more than 6,700 are from the WWII era.
The original aviators were of the U.S. Army Air Corps 99th Pursuit Squadron formed in 1941, the first all-black flying unit in U.S. history. As pivotal figures in both African-American and U. S. military history, the success of the Tuskegee Airmen helped lead to President Harry S. Truman's decision to eliminate racial discrimination in the military in 1948.