The Real Red Tails (2024) Movie Script

[Harry Stewart]
Isn't that something?
[James Harvey] Yeah, it is.
[Harry Stewart] Boy,
what a small world.
[James Harvey] Everything
had to be perfect.
The instructor gave me a
maneuver to practice until
my next check ride.
I practice, practice, practice
until I got it perfect.
I'm having a birthday
party next year.
[Harry Stewart] The 100th?
[James Harvey] Huh?
- 100?
- Yeah.
[Harry Stewart] You fly along
and the sky is so tranquil.
And then all of
a sudden: bang!
And here's an 88 anti-aircraft
shell that might explode
right next to you.
[James Harvey] Each one of
us wanted to be the best.
You get all those best together.
You've got quite
an organization.
And that's what we had.
[George Hardy] We painted
not only the rudder, but
the whole damn tail red.
And so became known
as the "Red Tails."
And it was just a symbol.
Because people started talking
about, "The Real Red Tails."
[breathing with apparatus]
[Narrator] In the
waters of Lake Huron,
lies a P-39 Airacobra
flown during a Tuskegee
training mission in 1944.
[Drew Losinski] Hey there!
[David Losinski]
Please stand by.
[muffled yell].
[Wayne Lusardi] Let me know
when there are 12 there.
[Nicholas Lusardi] I got it.
[DNR Staffer] You ready?
[Wayne Lusardi] You ready?
[Narrator] A recovery team is
piecing together what happened
in these waters all
those years ago.
[Wayne Lusardi] How many
people know that there are
World War II assets and
archeological sites in America,
no less in the Great Lakes?
[Narrator] Wayne Lusardi
and Brian Smith...
[Dr. Brian Smith] Gary,
do you want to zip me up?
[Narrator] ...partnered up
six years ago and they've been
dedicated to this unique
chapter of America's
first Black military
airmen ever since.
[Dr. Brian Smith] Bringing
all this back together,
especially in a museum
of the Tuskegee Airmen,
it's going to just
solidify the fact that
these men who were not
treated as equal citizens,
were willing to
give their lives.
I think what's not in
the history books is...
just the blood, sweat,
and tears that the
Tuskegee airmen went through
to fight for their country.
[Narrator] In training
missions alone, 15 young men
lost their lives here
between 1943 and 1944.
[Wayne Lusardi] We have a
sense of urgency to bring the
aircraft up because
of its deterioration,
because of a potential
looting threat.
The clock is definitely ticking.
[propeller ticking]
[Narrator] The plane was piloted
by 22-year-old Frank Moody,
who had already completed
the rigors of the
fledgling Tuskegee program.
[Wayne Lusardi] Recovering
this from the lake bottom is
really going to hopefully
lead to answering a lot of the
questions that we
have about the site.
[Narrator] The Great Lakes
were an advanced training site,
so by the time the
pilots arrived here,
they were already the
cream of the crop.
[Harry Stewart Jr] As a kid,
I used to view the planes
taking off and landing and
fantasizing about myself being
the pilot who's
flying the plane.
So, I think that's what
actually pointed me towards
trying to get into the
aviation field when
World War II started.
[Narrator] Training for Tuskegee
pilots on the home front
was difficult and dangerous.
[Harry Stewart Jr] There's
this anxiety, every time you
get in that cockpit, you're
always got it in the back of
your mind the danger
that you're in.
[Dr. Brian Smith] The coastline
here in the Great Lakes was
just like the
coastline in France.
[James Harvey] I didn't
know what to expect.
All this is new to me.
I completed the exam, passed it,
then went off to learn to fly.
[Dr. Brian Smith] So, they
trained here in P-39 aircraft.
They would take off from
Selfridge and fly no more than
50 feet above trees, hills,
mountains, all the way to
Muskegon, turn around and
come back just to
prepare them for combat.
[jazzy music]
[Narrator] At that time,
Selfridge Field would have
been abuzz with
wartime activity.
The 332nd had moved from
Tuskegee, Alabama to Michigan
and was supported by young men
who had volunteered to join
the war effort, just
like Frank Moody.
[Wayne Lusardi] He started
working for an aviation
manufacturing company during
the war and then ultimately
was able to get a spot at
Tuskegee, where he earned his
wings in February 1944.
[Dr. Brian Smith] He had gone
through the primary training,
the basic training,
the advanced training,
and he was in
combat training here
at Selfridge Air
National Guard Base.
[Matt Delmont] It's important
to remember how young these
men and women were when they
were called into the service,
taking on these
training missions.
Each time you go up, you could
potentially lose your life and
you're training to go to war.
[John Harrison] I volunteered
to serve my country and
I'm ready to serve my
country and the war.
[Matt Delmont] Their patriotism
was deep and profound
because they not only wanted
to win these military battles,
but they also wanted to
change what America was about.
[Soldier] This isn't
the Army's war.
It isn't the Navy's war.
It's the war of all Americans.
[Narrator] But at the time,
the military didn't see
all Americans as fit
to serve equally.
It took the lobbying of civil
rights activists to force
Congress to alter the
Selective Service Act of 1940.
[Matt Delmont] The
Selective Service Act has
non-discrimination provisions
that are written into it based
on the previous protests
of civil right activists.
That means that Black
Americans can't be excluded
from military service.
[Harry Stewart Jr] Well, I
volunteered at 17, but I was
taken into the service at 18.
At the beginning
of World War II,
they had a mandatory for all
able-bodied males between
the ages of 18 and 36
were to register for the draft.
[Draft Officer] What
machines did you operate?
[Draftee] I operated boring
mills, tool grinders,
drill presses, planes.
[Harry Stewart Jr] But most of
the African American soldiers,
even though they did a fine job,
they were segregated
to the point where
they were put into
strictly menial labor.
[Matt Delmont] White military
leaders just didn't believe
that Black Americans had
the intelligence, courage,
bravery, to be able to be
good soldiers, and they,
military leaders wrote that
into the official documentation.
[James Harvey] "According
to the studies, a Negro was"
barely qualified
for combat duty.
Was by nature subservient,
mentally inferior, and
believed himself to be
inferior to the White man.
Was susceptible to crowd
psychology, cannot control
himself in the face of danger,
and did not have the initiative,
"courage, and resourcefulness
of the White man."
That's what we had
to put up with.
All wrong.
[Lee Archer] I went down
to join the Army Air Corps.
Took the test.
Did very well on it, and after
I had hassled them a bit about
not being called, I was
informed by the military that
I would never be called for
the Army Air Corps because
there were no colored units.
There was never going to be one.
There was no way I could go.
[Narrator] But the Black
activist movement continued
its political
assault on Washington
demanding military equality.
[Matt Delmont] And what Black
activists are demanding are
all things related to the war:
they want access to defense
industry jobs and they want
specific parts of the military
to be opened up, particularly
things like the Army Air Corps.
The White House, Roosevelt,
and other federal officials
just can't ignore anymore.
[James Harvey] Roosevelt was
running for a third term.
The Negro press and the NAACP,
they were on the backs of
Congress wanting
something to happen.
And Roosevelt figured that if
he started a fighter squadron,
he'd get the Black
vote, which he did.
And he won.
But all politics; but
it worked out for us.
[Narrator] In January 1941,
the war department established
the 99th Pursuit Squadron,
based out of Tuskegee, Alabama.
It was the first segregated
unit within the Army Air Corps.
[President Roosevelt] I'm proud
of what Tuskegee has done.
I don't whether in any
individual institution,
realize how much they are being
watched by the outside world.
[Matt Delmont] They were
trained to be successful
fighter pilots, but they're
also trained to really prove
to the larger military
establishment that
Black Americans
could do this work.
[Narrator] And that's exactly
what Frank Moody was doing as
he advanced through the program.
[Dr. Brian Smith] An airman
would have started out at
Tuskegee and then move
to another base that
specifically focused
on combat training.
And that's why they
came to Selfridge.
They were learning how to come
from over the horizon on the
water to strafe or destroy
radar towers or installation
along the coast.
[Wayne Lusardi] On the morning
of April 11th, 1944, Frank Moody
was flying one of the
most sophisticated
fighter aircraft built
at the time: the P-39.
And did his pre-flight, and
the mission for the day was to
leave early in the morning
and to fly up over Lake Huron,
up the Saint Claire River, and
get out over the Lake Huron
and do some gunnery exercises.
[Dr. Brian Smith]
A P-39 Airacobra.
That's a unique airplane; the
engine was behind the pilot.
It had four 50-caliber
machine guns, two of which sat
right on top of the cowling.
In the middle of the airplane,
was a 37-millimeter canon,
which shot a shell that
would destroy tanks.
[Wayne Lusardi] So, four
aircraft, all P-39s,
left Selfridge Field.
Right before 8:00 in the
morning, they came up over
Lake Huron.
They were flying in formation
from south to north.
And when it was Lieutenant
Moody's time, he discharged
his weapons, fired
into the lake.
And then something happened to
the aircraft that resulted in
an almost instantaneous crash
into the water, cartwheeling
of the aircraft,
and he was gone.
He was killed immediately
in that accident.
[Narrator] His body was
recovered in 54 days,
but the plane was never found.
Until April 11, 2014,
exactly 70 years to
the date of the crash.
[Narrator] Frank Moody's
P-39 was discovered by
Drew and David Losinski,
a father-son dive team.
[David Losinski] We were diving,
my son and I, and the water
was crystal clear, this was
early in the Spring, I think.
We went out and went
to the first spot.
We figured it was a rock, I
think, and the second spot,
Drew's at the very bow
of the boat looking down;
we're looking, and he goes,
"Dad, I think you found,
we found an airplane!"
And I'm back driving the boat,
and I says, you know
how parents are,
"yeah, sure, okay."
"No, Dad, it's
really an airplane."
[plash, bubbles]
The main thing that we wanted
to do was to find out what the
plane was or how it got
there, whose it was.
We were down swimming,
looking at the wing,
and we dust it off.
You could see the
red position light.
And looking at pictures,
I figured there should be
something, something
painted, so we fanned it off.
And there was a star,
a box with a star.
It means that it's military,
and it's a U.S. military plane.
[Drew Losinski] So later on,
we found out through lots of
research and finding key parts
of the airplane, we got the
radio call number, which we
linked to the accident report,
which told us that we found
that plane 70 years to the
date of when it crashed.
It was pretty unbelievable.
[Wayne Lusardi] The Losinski's
became immediate stewards
of this site.
We started kind of putting
our head together about
what are the options.
Should we leave it in place?
Should we document the entire
wreck site ahead of time?
Should it be recovered
either in part or partially?
[Narrator] Finding Frank
Moody's plane triggered one of
the most important World War
II archeological missions in
the Great Lakes.
[Wayne Lusardi] This is the
first airplane that has been
archeologically documented
in the state of Michigan.
We're trying to determine
a cause of the accident;
we're trying to
see how an intact,
very complicated machine,
suddenly breaks apart.
[Narrator] Recovering a plane
that's been underwater for
70 years is no easy task.
It's a multi-year effort,
trying to raise
it piece by piece
and then immediately start
preservation efforts.
And the collaboration with the
Tuskegee Airmen National
Museum has been key.
[Dr. Brian Smith] Frank Moody
and his crash brings to light
the sacrifices that the Airmen
made just to get to combat.
[Narrator] While we don't have
his first-hand accounts from
Frank, we do from
other Tuskegee Airmen.
[Harry Stewart Jr] I remember
that when I went into the
service, the first place
I was assigned to was
Kessler Field, Mississippi,
that being below what they
call the Mason-Dixon Line.
Below that geographical point,
segregation was the law.
It was not a choice,
but a law there.
[Matt Delmont] For Moody
and other Tuskegee pilots,
they're always fighting two
battles at the same time.
They're trained to fight a
military battle, which was
frightening in its own right,
but they're also fighting a
battle against racism,
a battle against
second-class citizenship.
[James Harvey] We got
to Washington D.C.
a little early, so I got
off the train, went and had
breakfast, came back, went
to get in the car I was in,
conductor says, no, no, no, no.
You ride in the car
where Negroes ride.
So, that was my introduction
to segregation and the South.
[Matt Delmont] So, if you're
trying to think of a welcoming
place to train Black troops,
Alabama in the 1940s wouldn't
be the first place that
you would think of.
One of the challenges at
Tuskegee Air Base was that it
was a Jim Crow base in a Jim
Crow city in a Jim Crow state,
and that shaped almost every
aspect of what training was
like for these Black pilots.
[James Harvey] I
didn't go to town.
I stayed on the
base the whole time.
You get into trouble
going into town.
Now, down at Tuskegee, one
of the guys went into town,
and the Sheriff told him, if
I ever catch you back in town,
I'll blow your brains out.
[Matt Delmont] The Tuskegee
Airmen had to channel their
frustration, their anger, into
their military performance.
[Harry Stewart Jr] My heart
must have skipped a couple of
beats and that type of thing,
but I guess it was more with
joy than anything else.
I took off, and as soon as
I broke grounds, I just felt
this exhilaration; I've done
it, I've done it, I've done it!
[plane engine rumbling]
[triumphant music]
[Narrator] Despite their
excellence, the military and
the public were not on board,
so the NAACP and the
Black press doubled down.
[Matt Delmont] The Black
press understood themselves
as a fighting press.
And the thing they were
fighting for in the lead up to
World War II and then during
World War II was to make sure
Black Americans had a chance
to be able to serve their
country equally.
[Narrator] This relentless
advocacy laid the foundation
for an innovative initiative:
the Double Victory Campaign.
[Matt Delmont] The Double
V Campaign, is really the
rallying cry for Black
Americans during the war.
It's launched by the
Pittsburgh Courier.
What they're calling for is
a victory over fascism abroad
and victory over racism at home.
[Narrator] Eleanor Roosevelt
lent her powerful voice to the
fight early on.
[Newsreel Narrator] Everything
Eleanor Roosevelt says and
does becomes news.
[James Harvey] Well, she had
always heard that Negroes
could not fly airplanes,
so she went to Tuskegee,
and she rode with a guy
we call "Chief" Anderson.
And she found out
we can fly airplanes
just like anybody else.
So, when they took the picture
of she and Chief Anderson in
the airplane and it was
in all the newspapers
throughout the country.
That sealed the
deal right there.
Yes, they can fly just
like anybody else.
As a matter of fact,
they can fly better.
Just ask me.
[Narrator] In 1942, the first
class of cadets graduated from
Tuskegee Army Airfield.
[Harry Stewart Jr] One of the
most fantastic days in my life
there that I can never forget.
But it was graduation day, and
just before going up and being
presented my wings and
my bars, as I said,
"I think I've done it!"
[George Hardy] Yes,
it was a special day.
We succeeded in the training
and got our wings and now
we're commissioned as an
actual Second Lieutenant in
the United States Army.
And in July, a year before,
I was just getting
into the service.
And now I'm a pilot.
I can fly airplanes.
[Narrator] But the
risks were great.
Nearly 15,000 servicemen died
during training exercises
in the United States alone.
[somber music]
Today, the archeological quest
to understand what happened to
Frank Moody is in
its tenth year.
[Wayne Lusardi] According to
the U.S. Army accident report,
the other three pilots
that were in formation
with Lieutenant Frank
Moody, two of them
reported seeing fragments
coming off of the aircraft,
near the forward fuselage.
It's always a possibility
that there's some kind of
mechanical problem
with the aircraft.
[Dr. Brian Smith] The airplane
started to shake apart,
and he lost control.
The airplane nosed into
the lake, Lake Huron.
[Wayne Lusardi] The Army,
because they never found the
airplane, really never came
to any conclusions as to
what caused the accident.
[Narrator] When the team
started exploring the site in
2015, they had to figure
out the best way to recover
all of the parts.
[Wayne Lusardi] Looking at
a vastly scattered airplane
has been a challenge.
It became very overwhelming.
It's like, okay, well, how
are we going to do this?
The ultimate goal of this
project is to bring the
aircraft up in its entirety.
Nick, you have the go-pro?
[Nicholas Lusardi] Yep.
[Wayne Lusardi]
The site is broken.
It's highly disarticulated.
You had and airplane that was
roughly 30 feet in length and
about a 32-foot wingspan that
is now in literally thousands
of pieces across the lake floor.
[David Losinski] Gimme
that knife for the cable.
[Drew Losinski]
Alright. Winch up.
[radio chatter]
[Dr. Brian Smith] We got this
humongous propeller blade
with the gearbox.
[David Losinski] I say stop.
[Wayne Lusardi] The accident
report suggested that
something may have happened
up forward in the fuselage,
and that could have
been a propeller issue.
[Dr. Brian Smith] Of
course, I was imagining
the whole airplane.
[Wayne Lusardi] That's exactly
what I was thinking too.
The remarkable thing is
how far apart they all are.
You know, this one was 500
feet beyond, or the single
blade was 500 feet north,
and the other one was
1,200 feet to the south of it.
[Dr. Brian Smith] This is maybe
the last piece in the puzzle
of why the airplane went down.
It's, so far, you know,
up until this point,
it's just been unexplainable.
It's about 70-some
years and, wow.
[Wayne Lusardi] Yeah,
it's pretty crazy.
[somber music]
[Narrator] By the time
Frank Moody was flying his
training missions,
Tuskegee Airmen had
been in the European
theater for over a year.
[military music]
[Newsreel Narrator] Wing
cameras, synchronized with
blazing guns, record dramatic
evidence of Nazi planes
blasted from the skies.
[Lee Archer] I never thought
about air-to-air combat as
a big problem.
I looked for it.
I'd be flying along, "oh, I hope
we get some enemy aircraft."
I thought about that is
a duel between two men.
I believed that I was a
competent pilot, and I knew in
my mind that I was.
[Narrator] Lee Archer
flew under the command of
Benjamin O. Davis, Junior.
[Matt Delmont] Davis is
one of the amazing figures
from World War II.
He graduates from
West Point in 1936.
He's the first Black person
to graduate from West Point
in the 20th century,
only the fourth overall.
It's only with the Tuskegee
Experiment getting started
that he has the opportunity to
pursue his lifelong dream of
becoming a pilot.
[James Harvey] He was
a no-nonsense guy.
Everything had to be done right.
And you can't
knock him for that.
That's the way things should
be no matter what you do,
you do it right.
And he was our commander.
[William Holloman] He made
a military man out of me.
I think that he
taught us discipline.
And he always tried to
encourage us to improve
ourselves because he said,
"America's watching you."
[drone whirring]
[Wayne Lusardi] Today
is a really big deal.
It's a major piece
of the puzzle.
It's going to tell us a lot
about the airplane and what
was going on with it when
Lieutenant Moody crashed here.
[Dr. Brian Smith] It's
really murky down there.
I thought it would be
better today because
it's sunny and calm.
I think yesterday just
stirred everything up.
[David Losinski] We're
still waiting on straps, ok?
[David Losinski] Ok.
[David Losinski] Do
not move the cable.
Very good. Good.
[Dr. Brian Smith] In a few
minutes we're going to see
Alison engine coming up
that powered the P-39 that
Frank Moody was flying.
I can't wait.
[David Losinski] I got
[inaudible] that the cradle's
going to be the way.
[Dr. Brian Smith] I'm
seeing the airbag.
The crane hook is coming up.
There it is!
About two feet underwater and
it hasn't been this this high
since 1944, April 11th.
Yeah, you can stop right there.
The bolts are underneath.
Good work Wayne!
[David Losinski]
Pretty smooth!
[Wayne Lusardi] Piece by
piece airplane's coming up.
[Dr. Brian Smith] I don't
have the words to express.
[Wayne Lusardi] Probably the
heaviest single component of
the aircraft.
So, very cool, it's really
going to start to teach us
a lot about this airplane.
[Dr. Brian Smith]
Getting it back to the
Tuskegee Airmen National
Museum in Detroit
will start the
conservation process.
Having the engine, the
propeller, the gearbox,
all of that to examine from
a forensics side will help us
determine what was the
cause of the accident.
[David Losinski]
Are we good to good?
[Wayne Lusardi] Now, we have
to transport it to shore.
We've got to get it off of
this barge, move it onto a
flatbed vehicle, and
then transport it to the
laboratory in Detroit.
[Dr. Brian Smith] We do need
to move the water machine.
[Wayne Lusardi] Are
you pumping currently?
[Isis Gillespie] No.
- No.
- Ok.
- We just turned it off.
- Ok.
[Dr. Brian Smith]
Ready for the engine?
- We got it.
- I got it.
[Dr. Brian Smith] You go
up, just a little bit.
Alright, hold.
[Wayne Lusardi]
Alright, nice and slow.
[Isis Gillespie] Nice.
[Wayne Lusardi] The laying out
the plane like this today is
an incredible visual
opportunity to get a feel
for how big this airplane is.
It's hard to imagine it when
you're underwater looking at
just a little piece here and
a little piece there and it's
pretty impressive to
kind of see it like this.
This is the first time these
artifacts have come together
in this orientation since
the airplane went apart
79 years ago.
This is the artifact that
designed this entire airplane:
the 37-millimeter cannon.
It was mounted at the nose.
It was also armed with
50-caliber machine guns
on either side.
And so with all of this stuff
up in the forward fuselage,
it was no room for the engine.
So, the engine went
back behind the pilot.
And that was a very unique
situation for a single-seat
fighter aircraft at that time.
[Dr. Brian Smith] It gives me
pause to think this big, massive
1200-pound engine, would
actually fly in an airplane.
[Narrator] But the P-39's
had their limitations;
they performed best
at lower altitudes,
better for strafing.
[Lee Archer] They needed
airplanes that would go
further, and they got the 51.
It could go further.
It could go higher.
It could fly longer.
It could turn better.
It had all of the agile
traits of a fighter.
[Harry Stewart Jr] When I got
in the P-51 and I took it off,
I fell in love with it,
the first time I flew it.
It was such a beautifully
handling aircraft.
[Matt Delmont] The Tuskegee
pilots had a very specific
role in combat.
Their job was to
accompany bombers on these
targeted bombing runs.
[Newsreel Narrator] Huge
fleets of allied bombers
protected by umbrellas of
fighter planes, continue their
all-out offensive upon
Nazi war plants in Europe.
[James Harvey] The White
fighter groups, they were
averaging 46 bombers
lost per mission.
Per mission.
That's a lot of people.
A lot of people.
That's why we got the
job of escorting bombers.
[George Hardy] Colonel Davis
said, "don't leave the bombers."
If that German fighter leaves,
let him go and you stick with
the bombers.
There's ten men on each bomber
airplane, only one man in that
German fighter.
We want to protect the
bombers and bring those home.
[Harold Brown] When we first
started flying with them,
they knew that there was a new
fighter group that had joined:
the Red Tails.
They said who are these guys
flying these damn Red Tails?
These guys are with
us all the way.
By the way, who are these guys?
[Matt Delmont] One of the
things that happens after the
Tuskegee Airmen get into
combat is they start to
receive media attention, not
just from Black newspapers,
but now from
national newspapers.
They say that they've
mastered the art of aviation,
that they're squashing
Hitler's Aces like bugs.
[James Harvey] It got to
the point where they were
requesting us.
They wanted us.
They didn't believe we were
flying airplanes when we got
over there, because the book
said "no, they can't do that."
[Newsreel Narrator] On a
bombing mission over enemy
territory, a fighter escort
is a mighty comforting sight.
This man thought it
was plenty good enough.
As far as he was concerned,
this man could fly tough cover
for him any day.
[Harry Stewart Jr] When I
was escorting the bombers,
there were White guys
in these planes here,
they were just Americans there.
We were all on the same team.
That's what they were, and I
never looked at them as being
White or anything else.
We were just team members.
[Narrator] After their
many successes in Europe,
the Tuskegee Airmen
were unstoppable.
[James Harvey] Now, you
may ask, who was the best?
Depends on who's
telling the story!
Right now, I am!
[celebratory music]
[Newsreel Narrator] Throughout
the world, throngs of people
hail the end of
the war in Europe.
[Matt Delmont] Victory Over
Europe Day was a time of
jubilation for Black Americans.
[President Truman] The whole
world must be cleansed of the
evil from which half the
world has been freed.
[Matt Delmont] The hope that
with the war over, they will
finally be able to come back
to the United States and start
to see some of what they
fought for come into reality.
[William Holloman] I remember
this for the rest of my life:
we were coming down the
gangplank, getting off the
boat, they had a sign at
the bottom of the gangplank:
Whites to one side.
Colored to the other side.
And I said to myself,
"This is some country."
[Narrator] After the war, the
Tuskegee pilots returned to
segregated units, but
their successes in Europe
served as a rallying
cry for change.
[Matt Delmont] One of the
first and most important
civil rights milestones after
the war was the signing of
Executive Order 9981.
[Newsreel Narrator] By
Executive Order of President
Harry S. Truman: integration
of all military units.
It will take time, but the
policy was established.
[Harold Brown] The more
I thought about it,
we really did something special.
If we had not been as
successful as we were, there is
no way that Truman would
have possibly made that move.
[Matt Delmont] So, the
military becomes integrated
before most of corporate
America, before most of
higher education does.
And so, it really provides one
of the building blocks for the
larger success of the
Civil Right Movement
in the 1950s and 60s.
One of the troubling things
that happens at the end of
World War II is that the first
wave of books that come out
about the war,
really write Black
Americans out of the story.
That's why it took so
long before the service,
the patriotism, the tremendous
successes, and path-breaking
work of the Tuskegee Airmen
to come to the forefront.
[Narrator] Now, Frank
Moody's recovered P-39...
[Wayne Lusardi] Hey,
we'll swing around.
[Narrator] Is adding a new
chapter to the Airmen's stories.
[Dr. Brian Smith] It's amazing
that this gun isn't bent.
[Wayne Lusardi] When we start
to look at this and when we
have this all kind of laid out
here, we're starting to see a
lot of damage that happened
in the propeller blades.
And you might think that
that's just a rock hole or
something that was damage as
this artifact was sitting on
the lake floor for the last
eight decades, but when you
start looking at the other two
blades and they have identical
holes in them, suddenly we're
starting to see something
here; a major problem that's
going on with this aircraft.
[Dr. Brian Smith]
gone to dance class and
danced with a partner,
you don't want to
step on their toes.
So, you would synchronize
your steps, so that you always
miss each other's feet.
And this airplane had a
synchronizer or an interrupter
in the hub, which knew where
the propeller blade was and
would stop this gun from
firing when the blade was
in front of the gun.
[Wayne Lusardi] In in a sense,
the pilot's not actually
shooting the gun.
He's pulling the trigger, but
then the airplane's deciding,
right here, when that
gun is actually firing.
[Dr. Brian Smith] Yes.
[Wayne Lusardi] When Lieutenant
Moody pulled the trigger,
the guns fired into the
propeller blades and
they created an entry
hole and an exit wound.
And that's the same,
very consistent,
on all three of these blades.
[Dr. Brian Smith] If it was
Frank Moody's fault, you know,
due to pilot error or a
collision with another aircraft,
we would see other damage,
especially in these blades
that we're not seeing.
[Narrator] The proof found
in these blades serve as a
testament to Frank Moody and
his extraordinary journey.
[Dr. Brian Smith] Amazing!
[Narrator] In the end, it
was the mechanical system
that failed him.
[Dr. Brian Smith] Now we can
chronicle, highlight, and
talk about his life and the
importance of his life toward
the war effort, toward
fighting the Germans.
[Matt Delmont] Artifacts like
the plane help us make those
jumps between scale in terms
of how we talk about history.
Frank Moody's story is one
piece of the puzzle that helps
to fill in our larger
understanding of what America
was like during World War II.
And more than anything, it
gives us an opportunity to
help honor the service
and sacrifices of
those Black veterans.
[Narrator] For years the
Tuskegee Airmen pushed the
boundaries of what was possible,
themselves in the air,
while breaking barriers for
Black Americans everywhere.
[Matt Delmont] One of the
through lines in Black history
is Black people having to
prove they could do things
other people doubt
that they could do.
[James Harvey] Outside, the
next day, then it all came back.
Everything we did
had to be perfect.
Everything had to be perfect.
That helped us and
made us better pilots.
That's why we were so good.
What can I say?
They were trying to
take us down the drain,
and we said, no, no, no.
[George Hardy] Well, it's a
matter that we prove them wrong
that we could do a job and
that's about all you can do.
But they'll always be
some doubting Thomases,
but we did the best we could.
[Harry Stewart Jr]
Well, that's it.
That's it, we proved it.
And that hangs on you when you
feel as though that every day
you have something to prove.
[James Harvey] We showed
them that yes, we can think.
We can think under pressure,
we can think all the time.
We know how to do the job and
get the job done, done right.
[Harry Stewart Jr] I'm in
the mood to fly that Cessna
right now, you want
to go up with me?
[James Harvey] Ok.
If I can get in!
That's my problem!
[Harry Stewart Jr] Ok!
Captioned by Cotter Media Group.