NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 22, 2012

World War II veteran to speak at library

NEWBURYPORT — A veteran of the Tuskegee Airmen program from World War II will speak Monday at Newburyport Public Library The free illustrated discussion begins at 3 p.m. and is open to the public.

James Sheppard was one of a small group of African-American fliers during the second world war.

He will share thoughts about his experiences of being a black flier on active duty in Alabama, North Africa and Italy.

"The program will be very educational," said Kevin Hunt, who serves as Veterans Services officer at City Hall. "He'll talk about combat, and he'll also likely discuss discrimination at that time.

"He travels and speaks frequently, and the presentation should be good."

The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African-American pilots who fought in World War II. They formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps, according to military historians.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States' armed forces. During World War II, the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government.

The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. Despite these adversities, they trained and flew with distinction, according to historians.

When the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their planes red, the nickname "Red Tails" was coined.

A film of that name recently has been produced.

The presentation is made possible in part through the Friends of the Library program.

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