Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Freeman Field Mutiny

On the last post I mentioned meeting Lt. Col. James C. Warren. He was directly involved in the Freeman Field Mutiny.
In my new historical fiction, She Built Ships During WWII, a black woman welder is married to a Tuskegee airman who is in the Freeman Field Mutiny.
Here's the history:
There were two officers' clubs at the Freeman Field Indiana Army base. A black officer's club, which was quite run-down, and a nice white officer's club. The black officer's wanted to test the Army regulation stating,  all buildings are open to all officers regardless of race.
162 black officers were arrested when they tried to enter the white officers club. Three were court-marshaled, one convicted and dishonorably discharged. He received a pardon in 1995.
The blacks/African-Americans during WWII fought for a double victory; the war against racism here and the war for the United States overseas.
The mutiny is regarded as an important step towards full integration of the armed forces.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Meeting a real Tuskegee Airman!

Saturday, I autographed my book She Flew Bombers at the Second Annual Mustang/Warbirds at the Nut Tree Airport. I sold 24 books! People loved looking at my scrap book about the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
The highlight of my day was meeting Lt. Col. James C. Warren, (86 years old) a "real Tusgegee Airman." The first thing the Lt. Colonel said to me was, "I won't buy your book, there were no black women in the WASPs." I responded, "I know, Director Jackie Cochran turned down a black woman pilot, Willa Brown because of the segregation laws back then. She told Ms. Brown that she was obviously qualified but knew she would have too much trouble staying in various hotels while "hopscotching" across the U.S. ferrying planes. Mrs. Cochran said she was sorry and was impressed that Ms. Brown had been trained by the famous black aviator, Bessie Cole.
The Lt. Col. came back to my booth a few hours later and much to my surprise we traded books! He wrote a book, The Tuskegee Airmen, Mutiny at Freeman Field. Which I will talk about in my blog next week.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What is the Port Chicago explosion?

Let me tell you all about the Port Chicago Explosion. 
Port Chicago was a naval base in Contra Costa county, California.
African-American sailors loaded huge volumes of munitions under the command of White officers. The officers encouraged informal competition between the segregated all black units and even bet among themselves.
The sailors were never taught how to properly load and were told that the munitions were not active.
The munitions were loaded on ships bound for the WWII Pacific war. The sailors loaded them in a frenzy, 24 hours a day.

On 7/17/44, 4,600 tons of ammunition were loaded from 16 railroad cars. Two ships exploded.
320 Negro (this was the forties term) sailors were instantly killed. The following day the remaining sailors were ordered to clean up the body parts. 
258 men refused (known as the Port Chicago Mutiny) and were imprisoned on a barge. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Those Women Pilots

Last Wednesday, 3/10, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) received the Congressional Gold Medal of honor. It's about time! During WWII they ferried planes from the factories to the bases, 38 died and never left the United States. 200 former pilots (in their 80's & 90's) went to Washington, D.C. to receive the medal. Florence Wheeler of Healdsburg (WASP) went with her son. When I asked her if they paid her way and stay she said NO! My answer, "that's terrible!" Her response: "This is nothing new!" Please read my book "She Flew Bombers" to get a feel for what it was like to be 19 years old and delivering planes back in the forties!