The Tuskegee Airmen (1995) Movie Script

Wait for me!
Franklln Delano Roosevelt
wlll address the Natlon.
The Presldent,
speaklng from the Whlte House...
...wlll be dellverlng
one of hls famlllar flreslde chats.
He's expected to talk to the Amerlcan
people on the year-old war...
...whlch began with the attack
by the Japanese In Hawall...
...on December 7th of last year.
Ladles and gentlemen,
the Presldent of the Unlted States.
My fellow Amerlcans,
this war Is a new klnd of war.
It Is dlfferent from
all other wars of the past...
...not only In It's methods and weapons...
...but also In It's geography.
It Is warfare In terms
of every contlnent...
...every Island, every sea...
...every alr lane In the world.
the nelghbors are waltlng to say goodbye.
Thanks, Dad.
Nice of you to come.
- Come on, you're gonna miss the train.
- Okay.
- Make it back.
- I promise I will.
Next stop, Chicago!
Keep your tickets to reboard!
You see any lipstick on me?
Lipstick? No.
No? Frances sure did.
That girl's got eagle eyes when
it comes to spottin' lipstick on me.
If I ain't got nothin' on me
she probably slapped it off.
- Is that seat taken?
- Have a sit down.
Tickets, please.
"Stick and Rudder"? You a pilot?
Me neither.
But I will when Uncle Sam finishes kickin'
my ass and pinnin' them wings on me.
- You fellas on your way to Tuskegee?
- Yes.
- You, too?
- Finally.
Yes, I am.
Excuse me?
A licensed pilot.
I bet he didn't even have to take the test.
Billy Roberts.
On the block they call me, "Train".
As in "A-Train". Quickest way to Harlem.
- Block?
- Lennox and 125th.
What block you from?
I'm from a small town in Iowa. Ottumwa.
I didn't know they had
colored folk in Iowa.
But now I got livin' proof
sittin' here next to me.
What'd you get on that exam there, Iowa?
Ninety-eight. That's very good.
So you did take that test?
That is very good.
But it ain't as good as mine,
which is one-zero-zero.
But congratulations on bein' second best.
Here we go.
Getup. Come on, get up.
- What?
- Move it. That's what.
Get your stuff and move it up front.
Now. Let's go.
- Move it, boy!
- All right.
- I won't ask you to do it again, damnit!
- Excuse me, please.
- Where are we?
- I don't know.
But why are we getting off the train?
See that?
The car you are in
is now for white folks only.
That's why you're gettin' off.
Keep in line now. One behind the other.
Keep it tight.
- German prisoners.
- Make way!
I'll be damned.
German pro car's in the front, boys.
We give up seats
for German prisoners?
This train's leavin, boy.
Either get on or back off.
All aboard!
Hold up!
Where you goin'?
That's me. Just like a raven.
Let's go!
Drill Sergeants, give me two lines of six!
Get the lead out! You gotta start movin'!
- Put your bag behind you!
- Behind you!
Turn to your right!
Your military right!
Pick your bag up with your right hand!
Follow me!
Left, right, left,
right, left, right, left!
Cadets march!
Left, left, left. Group, halt!
Turn to your left.
Push your man on your left to your left.
Come on. Come on. Move over.
Put your bag down on your right.
welcome to Tuskegee Army Airfield.
I'm Colonel Noel Rogers,
the Commanding Officer.
This is Major Sherman Joy,
Director of Training...
...and Lieutenant Glenn, Liaison Officer.
It is the task of myself,
Major Joy, Lieutenant Glenn...
...and others at this training facility... train and evaluate you men
as potential combat pilots.
There have been many obstacles
on the road to getting you here.
Now that you are here,
the only obstacle you will encounter...
...will be how quick you learn... well you obey orders...
...and how expert you fly.
If I am the first to tell you...
...that your being here is an experiment...
...take time to understand
just what that means.
There are people in very high places
wonderin' if this will succeed.
If I and my staff
have anything to say about it, it will.
...we will cut no corners.
We will allow no favors.
Our business is killin' our enemies
from the air... efficiently and expeditiously
as we know how.
Assuming you make it through this
training, that task will be your honor.
- Lieutenant.
- Major.
Why did you join the Air Corps?
I don't like repeatin' myself, Cadet.
To serve my country, sir.
Your country?
Boy, are you stupid?
No, sir.
You people...
Don't you know how bad
we treat you people?
Servin' your country...
This ain't your country.
Your country's full of apes and gorillas...
Ain't no gorillas in Harlem.
Why'd you join the Air Corps, boy?
This country has enemies and there
are people who need protecting from them.
What people, nigger?
All people, sir.
To my knowledge
the Germans aren't sparing the coloreds.
To my knowledge, the colored aren't up to
fightin' the Germans, let alone, beatin' 'em.
Max Schmeling found out differently, sir.
You know what?
My job is to see if you
Joe Louises can fly.
In case the Colonel gave you
the wrong impression, let me clear it up.
You are nothing...
You just heard two
very different speeches...
...from two very different officers.
I hope you were paying attention.
It is my job as Liaison Officer
to ease your transition to military life.
Reveille's at zero six-hundred
PT's at zero six-thirty...
...and breakfast is at zero seven-thirty.
At the top of the military
command structure... President Roosevelt
as Commander and Chief.
At the bottom is you, the cadet.
Everything you need
can and will be found on this base.
Everything you need to know
has the words "U.S. Army Air Corps"...
...written on the cover.
If it doesn't... don't need it.
We got weekends.
I klnd of flgured that would happen.
Hey, Iowa.
You ready for all of this?
I mean, "We in the Army now, boy."
Well, it's not Ottumwa, but...
I've been ready for this for a long time.
What about you, Walter?
What, Stick?
Stick was born ready.
He probably popped out his mama
with a full bomb load.
Come graduation...
...none of your names
will be in front of mine.
Is that right?
What might that name be, Reverend
Book Worm? "Stick" or "Rudder?"
Walter Derrick, the third.
Aeronautical Engineer.
Hannibal Lee, Jr. Pre-med.
Lewis Johns. English Literature.
William "A-Train" Roberts.
Political Science.
Roy Jonas Cappy. Art History.
Andrew Turner. Sociology.
Charles Tate. Halfback.
William Pitts. Economics.
Class. Attention!
Take your seats.
Take one and pass 'em back.
What is this?
Permission to speak, sir?
What is it, cadet?
Sir, I believe we've already taken
this test before.
And I believe you'll take it again.
May the cadet ask why, sir?
You don't have time for an explanation,
You have one hour for this exam.
Begin and end on my mark.
Name an element.
Cadet Lee.
Water, sir.
Any others? Cadet Johns?
Earth, sir.
Cadet Peoples?
Air, sir.
- Cappy?
- Fire, sir.
Water, air, earth, and fire.
Of these elements,
I direct your attention to air and fire.
Although it's your privilege to live in
the air, it's your destiny to die by fire.
Many of you will wash out
before you ever set foot in an airplane.
Others will die during primary
flight training. Still others in advanced.
When you die, we will cross off your name,
close ranks and carry on.
...any of you ever been
up in an airplane before?
Yes, sir. When I was in college, sir.
I have a pilot's license, sir.
Is that right?
Yes, sir.
Follow me, Mr. Lindbergh.
All right, Peoples,
let's see what you're made of.
He's tryin' to wear Stick out.
Doin' it on purpose, too.
Yell when you had enough, "Fly Boy."
How you doin' back there?
What about a loop?
You must read your flight manual
and know it like the Holy Bible.
Yes, sir.
That goes for all of you. Is that clear?
Yes, sir!
Hey you! Cadet Peoples!
Why'd you join the Air Corps, boy?
I ain't thinking about Major Joy.
He's just another door in the way.
Another crack in the box.
Another pecker in the woods.
"I just want to serve my country, sir."
"What country?
You don't have a country!"
Goddamn uppity nigger son of a bitch!
I'm real sorry, sir. Your country!
Uppity niggers turn into strange fruit
where I come from.
Strange what?
"Nigger hangin' from a tree.
"Just swingin'
from a hangman's vine is he.
"Talk Back Joe was his name, all three.
"Massa shut-his mouth
then he turned to me.
"Lord, Massa shut his mouth!
"Then he turned to me."
Did you learn that in English Lit, Johns?
My great granddaddy
told me that sittin' on his knee.
It's a hell of a bedtime story.
As Director of Training
I assumed I had the authority... conduct any testing
I thought necessary, sir.
That assumption was incorrect, Major.
These men have all previously been tested.
Why should you test them again?
The previous test scores themselves, sir.
Nineties, one hundreds.
I am suspicious
about the accuracy of those scores.
You think they cheated to get here?
A lot of people dream to be pilots, Colonel.
Many will stop at nothing to become one.
Eliminating dishonest, untrainable cadets
will save my staff time and aggravation.
I see.
Here are the answers to your retest.
I got the results as soon as
they were compiled. I too have curiosity.
Although, I suspect my motives
are somewhat different.
Cadet Lewis Johns, 98.
Cadet Billy Roberts, 100.
Cadet Walter Peoples, 100.
Cadet Hannibal Lee, 100.
I could go on. No one scored less than 95.
These people are taking up training slots
that would be better filled by real pilots.
There's a war on.
Yes, Major, there is.
And I'd prefer that war
was not on this base.
That'll be all, Major.
Fuel capacity and engine? Cadet Johns.
Fuel: 46 gallons.
Engine: 220 horse power, Continental, sir!
Left spin recovery technique?
Cadet Peoples.
Right rudder, stop rotation, sharp
forward stick, pull out from dive, sir!
All right. Let's go up!
Pay attention, cadet!
- Nose down!
- Yes, sir!
Let's do it now!
- Recover, cadet!
- I'm tryin'! I'm tryin'!
Nose up. Nose down.
Watch your air speed.
Pick up, damn it! Pick up!
Let go! I got it!
Step on the ball.
I'd like to step on his balls.
Let go, damn it!
Cadet Lewls Johns...
...just taught you men the most important
lesson you'll learn here at Tuskegee.
If you don't believe in God,
you better find a damn good substitute.
As you were.
You missed chow.
I wasn't hungry.
- Can I give you a hand?
- I don't need a hand!
What the hell is eatin' you, Cappy?
Three more washed out today:
Bradley, Wade and Patterson.
Wade just broke down
and walked off the base. And Lewis!
I can't get him out of my head.
You'll get your chance to solo.
You'll make it. We'll make it.
That's bullshit, Hannibal! And you know it!
We're not all gonna make it.
When we first got here
this barracks was filled.
Look at it now.
One third of us is gone and
we're halfway through this program.
So what?
Big deal.
I know I'm gonna make it, Leroy.
That's all that matters.
What about you?
You gonna make it?
I don't know.
- What do you mean you don't know?
- I said "I don't know", okay?
It's not okay.
It's the wrong damn answer.
Now, the question is:
"Are you gonna make it?"
'Cause if you don't think you will,
you won't.
And then you will have failed.
You will have failed your family,
you will have failed your friends...
...and most importantly,
you will have failed yourself.
Can you live with that?
Are you going to make it?
- Yeah. I'm gonna make it.
- Say it like you mean it, cadet.
I'm going to make it.
"Flght, flght, flght, flght,
flghtlng 99th.
"Down in flames they go.
"Fighting men of the 99th
Send them down below.
"For we are heroes of the night
To hell with the axer's might.
"Fight, fight, fight, fight,
fighting 99th.
"Drink up.
"Raise those cups to those gallant men.
"Fighting cross of flame, oh, God.
"Red, white, blue..."
- It's all yours.
- Yes, sir.
Nice turn!
Beg your pardon, sir,
but why are we stopping?
Did the cadet do something wrong, sir?
I'll give you the opportunity of killing
yourself without taking me with you.
You're soloing, cadet!
Give me three circuits around the pattern,
each to a full stop.
Yes, sir!
Any questions on the film you just saw?
No questions?
Timidness is a characteristic
that gets fighter pilots killed.
Sir, where's Major Joy?
I was assumed that he was teaching
air combat techniques.
And why is that...
Because he's white and I'm colored?
Come on, spit it out, man.
No disrespect.
It's just a matter of experience, Sir.
Another assumption.
I'm going to give you the facts, cadet.
Out of 150 U.S. Army officers
on this base... are looking at the only one
with actual air combat experience.
I have three 109 kills...
...and I've had a Spitfire and a Hurricane
shot out from under me.
Both times behind enemy lines...
...and both times I escaped.
But the Air Corps didn't allow
colored fliers. How'd you do that?
He went north. Royal Canadian Air Force.
Right, Lieutenant?
Forty-eight missions.
Now, if you don't think I have
anything to teach you... are free to walk out of that door.
My job... to teach you
basic air combat tactics.
Your next training machine, the AT-6.
"Bank without a turn."
If you learn nothing else, learn this one.
It will save your life.
It starts with a hard bank.
you're supposed to be tryin' to get away.
Yeah? You're lookin' at the man
who put the "dog" in "dogfight."
I got your ass now, Walter.
you didn't expect me to fall for that.
Fall for this.
Where the hell are you?
Look behind your ass, Iowa.
Bang! You are dead.
- Damn! Where'd you learn that?
- Just made it up, man. Just made it up.
Come on, Peoples.
I don't believe you just made that up.
- Where'd you learn it?
- The same place I learned this.
You're too low!
We can't buzz the field.
What's a llttle vlctory
roll between frlends?
I don't see we have much choice, Colonel.
I lost one instructor
when Johns crashed and burned.
This stunt could have cost us
another plane and pilot.
Besides, I've had my doubts
about cadet Peoples for some time.
He and that boy Hannibal are showboats,
with attitudes that get men killed.
And what do you think, Lieutenant?
It was a damn fool thing to do, sir.
But I've seen the Air Corps overlook worse.
Would you trust him
on your wing in combat?
He's one of the few that I'd trust.
Maybe there's a reason for that,
apart from his flying abilities.
I've flown with white pilots
in actual combat...
...who don't have his skills, sir.
When these men arrived, I told them
no corners would be cut for them.
They're gonna have to be held
to the highest standards of the service.
But is it fair for that standard to be
higher than any other group of men?
It was simple youthful exuberance,
I do a difficult job as well as I can,
That'll be all, gentlemen.
- High test scores don't mean everything.
- I said, "That will be all," Major!
Cadets, attention!
I'm sorry.
- Lieutenant...
- I wish there was something I could do.
Walter! Walter!
There's little margin for error here.
I don't see any margin at all, sir.
- Permission to speak, sir.
- What is it?
- I made a mistake. It won't happen again.
- That's right, it won't. You're out.
Colonel, I did something really stupid.
I'll take any punishment, but please
don't put me out of the program.
Son, my hands are tied.
I can't go home like this.
- I'd send you to the infantry if I could.
- Major!
I got a right to fight
for what I believe in like anybody else.
- I'm the best pilot in this damn place!
- Get a grip! Peoples!
- Peoples!
- Walter!
Peoples, get back here!
Don't do it, Walter! Walter! Come on!
Come graduatlon day,
no name called wlll be hlgher than mlne.
Peoples! Get your ass
down here right now!
It's an order!
Pull up, Walter!
Crazy nigger.
You alright?
Look at that.
Took it right after his solo.
I'm gonna send it home to his folks.
Give it a rest.
Let them pack up his things.
- It's not our job!
- No!
Back off, okay?
They'll take care of it. I told you.
They killed him!
Hannibal, they killed him.
Major Joy set out to break him and he did.
Just as clean as if he put
a carbine to his head.
He was my friend, too.
Get off me!
You know he's right, Hannibal.
This shit doesn't make any sense.
Why they even bothering?
- Might as well forget it and send us home.
- You wanna go home, Cappy?
Shove off!
You too, Train, go on!
Tuck your tail between your legs and run
back to Harlem. Make Major Joy happy.
Me too, for that matter!
I'd sooner be here by my lonesome...
...than to play with a pair of jokers
who can't figure out the game.
Don't you see that's what he wants?
He wants us to quit,
he wants us all to wash out!
I'm not gonna give him the satisfaction.
I came here for one reason.
To do one thing. To learn how to fly!
I'm gonna do that
and I ain't gonna let you stop me.
- I didn't say that.
- Not you, not Major Joy.
Not the goddamn
Commander in Chief himself!
You readin' me, Train?
What's going on?
Nothing, sir. Just a little discussion.
While you're cleaning up,
add this to your discussion.
You lost a friend today.
And I understand how you feel.
But you better get over it...
Friends die in our business
and for a lot of reasons.
And the only protection you have
against losing one is not to have any.
As you were.
- What's wrong, Cappy?
- I'm losing manifold pressure.
Roberts, break formation.
Yes, sir.
Lieutenant Glenn, it's pretty bad.
I gotta put her down.
We passed a country road
about a mile back.
Stay with hlm, Lee.
Yes, slr.
Comin' around on your other wing.
Hang on, Cappy.
Keep workin' at that hill!
Them's our boys.
Get off the road!
Give 'em room.
I said move it, damnit!
Just a little engine trouble.
Son of a bitch, they're niggers.
They's colored fliers.
Lieutenant Roberts.
Congratulations, sir.
Lieutenant Thompson, sir.
Congratulations, Lieutenant.
Lieutenant Cappy.
- Congratulations, Lieutenant.
- Thank you, sir.
Lieutenant Lee.
- Congratulations, Lieutenant.
- Thank you, Colonel.
Thank you, Lieutenant.
What you men have accomplished,
given the odds against it...
...your friends back home
could only dream about.
And your families watchin' today
never imagined.
You are among a select few who will ever
know the honor of serving their country... the realm of flight.
You are now United States Army
Air Corps aviators.
For that achievement, I congratulate you.
"Down In fllght they go.
"Gallant men of the 99th.
"Send them down belowl
For we are heroes of the nlght.
"To hell with the axer's mlght.
We Amerlcans wlll contrlbute unlfled
acceptance of sacrlflce and of effort.
That means a natlonal unlty
that can know no llmltatlons...
...of race or creed or selflsh polltlcs.
The Amerlcan people expect that much
from themselves.
Thls meetlng Is adjourned.
I understand your position, Beach.
But it's a very sticky subject.
Particularly in the Negro press.
And I've said this committee should not
be concerned with the Negro press.
I know a dead horse when I beat one.
So I think this might inject a little
courage to our more timid colleagues.
What's that?
It's a scientific study that I commissioned
by the anthropology department...
...of one of our most
prestigious Universities.
The credentials of its authors are as
unimpeachable as its conclusions. Look.
The intellectual capacity of the Negro
to operate complicated machinery...
...i.e. a front line war plane,
is questionable.
Smaller blood vessels
in the Negro translates... restricted blood supply
and problems in severe maneuvers.
There are documented reports of
mysterious training crashes at Tuskegee.
Blacking out and losing control
might very well explain them.
Might very well.
- When does the committee get the report?
- In due time.
Right now it's under lock and key.
I got a few more ducks to line up...
...before I make my move.
And see that this Tuskegee nonsense
is brought to an end.
As God as my witness,
those boys will never see combat.
You know you better get that part looked
at before you're ready to solo!
Yes, sir!
General Stevenson, I wish I had
more time to prepare for this visit, sir.
So in the hell do I, Colonel.
Mrs. Roosevelt.
Colonel Rogers is
the Commanding Officer of Tuskegee.
As I said on the phone, the First
Lady is here to look at the operations.
A little background might help before
we start with a tour of the facilities.
The field sits on 1600 acres,
one of the largest in the country.
How would you gauge
the progress of your colored flyers?
Their progress is commensurate with
the standards of the training command.
Plain English.
Does that mean you are or aren't satisfied?
- I'm very satisfied, ma'am.
- Good.
Then I want a ride in
one of your airplanes.
Major, take the First Lady up
in that Stearman over there.
- Take a couple of loops around the field.
- No.
I want to ride with him.
Is there a problem, gentlemen?
I thought you said these men were trained.
The addition of an old lady in the
rear seat won't unravel that confidence.
No, ma'am.
When I'm finished you can also tell
me why these pilots are still here...
...and not overseas fighting for
their country like the rest of our boys.
Mrs. Roosevelt, Lieutenant Lee.
- Good afternoon, young man.
- Good afternoon, ma'am.
It's turned into a beautiful day
for an airplane ride.
Yes, ma'am.
That isn't who I think it is, is it?
Lieutenant Lee's about to
make all your dreams come true.
What do you mean?
Take a good look around you, gentlemen.
I suspect Alabama will soon become
a fond memory.
Hold it, please.
Don't tell me I spelled your name wrong.
I mean, how can you screw up "Lee"?
No, you spelled it right.
- I just never had my own plane before.
- Well, it's not yours, Lieutenant, it's mine.
I put your name on it
so you think it's yours.
Sergeant Toby Wills, sir.
Your Crew Chief. Call me "Tank."
Nice to meet you, Tank. I'm Hannibal.
Don't you worry, I'll take care of
your plane just like it was my own.
I want to welcome you
men to North Africa.
For those of you who don't know me,
I'm Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Davis.
Commander of the 99th Pursuit Squadron.
Tomorrow you'll get an opportunity
to meet the entire 33rd Fighter Group.
Despite the long
and hard road you've traveled...
...and the many obstacles that
have been thrown in your path... have...
I want you to know I'm proud of you.
Welcome to the war, gentlemen.
It's a long day, man.
I'll be glad to get some sleep.
Now there's a class act.
- You said it, brother.
- B.O. Davis.
He's a lot shorter than what I pictured.
- West Point will do that to a colored man.
- What do you mean?
He was silenced the entire time that he
was at West Point. Nobody talked to him.
- But he never gave up, just kept on in.
- That's right.
- Like Walter said, "Just a matter of focus."
- Hey, Train, we're startin' up!
Poker calls, gents. Gotta take the pot.
Good luck, Billy.
You know, it's so beautiful out here.
I shoulda brought my watercolors.
You'd never know
there was a war goin' on.
- You guys stay closer in formation.
- Yes, sir!
- Well, time to pay the dances.
- You got that right.
How you doin?
Lift off time is zero seven-hundred.
It's the buffalo soldiers.
A day late and a dollar short.
Take a seat.
Yes, sir.
I guess we can begin our briefing.
Why wasn't I informed
the briefing was earlier?
You and your men are expected to read
the board just like everyone else.
The board said, "0600".
I'd look again, Colonel.
They changed it.
Same-ol', same-ol'.
Might as well be back in Alabama.
- Lee, Roberts, Cappy.
- Sir.
We're flying. You're up.
Follow me for instructions.
Yes, sir.
We've got a rall yard
that has to be taken out.
German target dlvlslons have been
klckln' the shlt out of our ground forces.
But are now low on fuel and munltlons.
G2 thlnks this yard Is the supply depot.
Our job Is to make
those supplles dlsappear.
Target's comin' up just ahead,
over that ridge.
You gotta knock out
the German supply trains, it's the target.
Five miles to target.
Okay. Let's show him what we're made of.
Go get 'em, Hannlbal.
Easy, Hannibal, easy.
Ready and fire!
Let's hit 'em again!
Beautiful! Look at that!
Yeah! Come on you son of a bitch!
I got your mama!
For your first mission
you guys did damn good.
I see Lieutenant Glenn trained you well.
I like that.
- Thank you, sir.
- Nine months of practice didn't hurt, sir.
I'd check that attitude, Lieutenant.
Go get your sleep.
We have a briefing tomorrow at 0530.
Remember to check your fuel.
This one will stretch our range.
Don't suck your tanks dry.
Or it's a long camel ride back home.
You fellas stay in tight formation.
There's safety in numbers.
Safety from what, sir? A circling buzzard?
I haven't seen a Jerry
since we've been here.
That doesn't mean they're not out there.
Dual targets this morning.
The German airfield and the power station.
- Turn out the lights!
- Excuse me, Colonel Davis.
When do you think
we'll be seein' some air combat, sir?
- You in a hurry to die, Lieutenant Lee?
- No, sir.
But we've been doing nothing
but ground runs.
The white units have already rotated
out to France. Why haven't we?
If you're not in a hurry to die,
you must have somethin' to prove.
With all due respect
to the Colonel as a West Point graduate...
...your father being the first Negro
appointed General to the US Military...
...I think we all have something to prove.
Don't you dream of jeopardizing
this mission with your glory seekin'.
Do you understand?
Yes, sir.
Goln' after the first target.
We caught 'em on the ground!
Clip his wings, Cappy!
Ready or not, I'm rollin' in.
I have a little somethin'
from Uncle Sam for you, Jerry.
Take that you Nazi bastard!
I'm goin' after the power station!
I got it! I got it!
Alright, let's head for home.
Hey, fellas.
- Colonel wants to see us.
- Us?
Yeah, you guys, me.
Lieutenants Lee, Cappy and Roberts
reporting as ordered, General.
Gentlemen, relax, have a seat.
I'm General Stevenson,
this is Senator Conyers.
General, I believe we've met before.
Back at Tuskegee with Mrs. Roosevelt.
- You're the one who took her up?
- Yes, sir.
- She could barrel roll with the best of 'em.
- And just what would that mean?
It's a maneuver, sir.
Gentlemen, we all have things to do,
so let's move on.
The Senator and I are on a final swing of
a fact-finding tour through the war zone.
We wanna see how you are settling in.
We've been gettin' reports
which require some clarification.
We have critics back in the States.
- I wasn't aware of any criticism, sir.
- Well, let me make you aware.
Inability to locate targets.
Failure to press home attacks
or find secondary targets...
...when the first is obscured.
Attitude problems with fellow officers.
Poor formation discipline counters.
- Excuse me?
- Lieutenant!
Senator, I...
I'm here to have a talk with the pilots.
I'm not interested in practiced excuses.
I thought I made that clear.
Where do you guys thlnk
they'll reasslgn Colonel Davls?
- We don't know he's been reassigned.
- I don't see him out here anywhere.
They're probably gonna punish him
by stickin' him behind a desk.
It's the worst thing
you could do to a pilot.
It would sure as shootin' kill me.
Shit! Bandits, two o'clock.
Finally some action! Let's get 'em boys!
Cappy, get back in formation now!
They're probably just recon,
they won't attack us If we stlck together.
Here's our chance for some kills!
They're gonna isolate him!
They're gonna cut him off!
Damnl Come on, Traln. Let's go.
- Cappy, there's one on your tall.
- Get him off me, Hannibal. I got this one.
Hannibal, help me!
- I'm hit!
- Hang on, Cappy.
Come on, Jerry. You wanna fight?
Fight me. I'll give you a fight!
I got you dead in my sight
you son of a bitch!
- The Jerrles are runnln' homel.
- Cappy? Cappy talk to me!
Oh, shit! Now the plane is...
Hannibal, help me!
Leroy, don't panic! Don't panic, Leroy!
Cappy, jump!
Bail, Leroy! Bail!
The Negro has been observed to have
a chlldlsh and lmpulslve character.
Now, gentlemen,
you must agree that this report is...
...highly inflammatory.
I have on my desk
a War Department memo...
...on a colored pilot
recently shot down in North Africa...
...after breaking formation.
As a description, impulsive...
...quite appears
the appropriate terminology.
Maybe, but this report smacks
of a singular point of view.
All points of view are singular
if they're not to your liking, Senator.
I've got constituents who wonder why...
...when they're sufferin'
from war rationin' and over taxation...
...why we're spendin' their tax dollars
on a bunch of college educated niggers...
...who've convinced the press
that they can fly expensive war planes.
This experiment certainly
had noble beginnings.
But failures are evident and glaring.
Perhaps we should abandon
this project until after the war...
...when calmer conditions will allow
for more thoughtful approach.
Where you goin'?
To give the representative of the accused
an opportunity to defend himself.
General Stevenson you know.
This is Lieutenant
Colonel Benjamin O. Davis...
...the Commanding Officer
of the squadron in question.
Be seated.
Colonel, you are aware
of the accusations...
...such as: Malaise and fatigue
in the face of little enemy contact?
We've been in continuous combat
for months with no replacements, sir.
My men are tired.
Other units get four
fresh bodies a month...
...but something always goes wrong
with our paperwork or movement orders.
- How many missions have your men flown?
- Most have flown well over fifty.
That's the standard cut-off point
for white pilots to be sent home.
- And your men are still flying?
- They don't know what else to do with us.
White pilots rotate back to the States
as instructors.
But since the Army won't allow
colored pilots to train white cadets...
Nine months of training.
Countless missions in Africa...
...and not one air to
air kill. Is that right?
We can't fight what we don't see.
We're so far from front line action...
...we rarely encounter an enemy plane...
...let alone the opportunity to engage one.
You recently lost a pilot
who cut and ran from...
...what, an imaginary Messerschmitt?
Those men understand
Lieutenant Cappy's action...
- ...was a mistake.
- Mistakes are all we see, young man.
Late for mission briefings,
piss poor discipline and leadership...
...and nothin' but excuses.
I see a unit that is an embarrassment... the Air Corps, to the American people
and to themselves!
Might I remind you gentlemen
that this war is by no means won.
And this sad experiment... a drain and a
hindrance to that effort.
My vote is that we abandon the project
and move the agenda.
All we asked for was a chance
to prove ourselves.
A fair and impartial opportunity.
We thought we had that chance.
But you invite us to a poker game,
hand us a fixed deck...
...and then wonder why we can't win?
- Young man, we really don't...
- Let him finish, sir.
Every colored pilot in the 99th...
...went through his own private hell
to wear those wings.
Each of those men carry...
...not only the dream
of becoming American Military Aviators...
...but the hopes
of an entire people as well.
Am I the only one here
that understands what that means?
I was brought up to believe
that beneath it all...
...Americans are a decent people...
...with an abiding sense of
integrity and fair play.
The cheers I heard across this country
when Joe Louis and Jesse Owens...
...humiliated Hitler's "Master Race"...
...didn't just come
from proud colored folks.
They came from everyone.
How are we to interpret that?
As a United States Army Officer...
...who gladly puts his life
on the line everyday...
...there's no greater conflict within me.
How do I feel about my country?
And how does my country...
...feel about me?
Are we only to be Americans
when the mood suits you?
A fair and impartial opportunity
is all we ask.
Nothing that you yourselves
wouldn't demand.
Vance, we got another one
comin' in high over here!
He's on your side, pick him off!
I got two of 'em breakln' upl.
Son of a bitch!
I lost him!
I got one at nlne o'clockl.
Oh, my God! No! No!
Number three's losing MP!
Damnit, I'm feathering!
Look out. There's another one.
Man, he's hit bad!
there's all kinds of hits back at the wing!
I got two Jerries comin' in high!
- Shit! I'm goin' back!
- No, no! I need you up here!
- Where the hell is our escort?
- I never saw them!
Son of a bitch!
Hold on!
Hold on, back there!
Shit! Shit!
Vance, let's get this thing home!
Okay. We're goin' home!
Master switch off.
God, Wally. Wally!
If it's any consolation,
the word's in it was a good strike.
I lost half my crew up there, Colonel.
In my book that's the
shit end of the stick.
The fighter escort never even made
the rendezvous point.
They ran into some trouble en route,
took some heavy casualties of their own.
They always got some sort of excuse.
Me, I got parts of four kids all over...
...the Italian countryside
'cause of their limp dick excuses.
Captain, you're forgettin' yourself.
Take your seats, gentlemen.
Son of a bitch, the
Colonel's gone full bird.
I have good news,
and I have not so good news.
The good news, we've been reassigned
to the European theatre. We'll go to Italy.
- Finally, we're gonna see some action.
- Yes.
However, there will be some changes.
Once in Italy...
...the 99th pursuit squadron will
join three new squadrons from Tuskegee...
...the 100th, 301st
and 302nd fighter squadrons...
...will now comprise
the 332nd fighter group.
They're all colored units,
we're gonna be segregated again.
In addition our mission has changed.
From dive-bombing to bomber escort.
Why has our mission changed, sir?
Why all of a sudden are we chaperons?
Their flying fortresses are taking
heavy losses and need effective cover.
Sir, why don't they let
the white pilots cover them?
I don't have time to lay it
all out for you. I will say this.
This entire unit came within
a hillbilly's heartbeat of goin' home.
And, if certain people had their way,
coming back carrying rifles...
...if we came back at all.
Say, you fellas with the 99th?
Reggie Miller, 332nd.
Hannibal Lee, nice to meet you.
This is Billy Roberts.
Call me, "Train."
Hey, Train.
Well, fellas, welcome to Ramitelli.
Right this way.
You mean, "Rami damn Telli."
It's about time you showed up, Lieutenant.
- I thought I shook you in North Africa.
- Not a chance, sir.
- It's good to see you, Tank.
- Good to see you, sir.
I've something to show you later.
- Alright. See you out at the flight line.
- Take care, sir.
Lieutenant Lee.
I depend on you and the others in the 99th
to show some guidance and leadership.
These kids just came from Tuskegee
and they still say their prayers at night.
So do us all a favor
and give 'em some help.
Roger, sir.
By the way, Colonel.
I still do.
- Still do what, Lieutenant?
- Still say my prayers at night, sir.
You gotta be kiddin' me.
No, sir!
- Brand new Mustangs?
- Yes, sir!
P-51B, 275 gallons with drop tanks.
You can ride these ponies
1,000 miles and back.
Six fifty calibers on her wings,
and hauling two one thousand pounders.
If you don't bring back
swastikas with all this... can keep on flyin' back
to Octopus, Iowa.
Ottumwa. Ottumwa.
What's this?
New signature from the group.
Do you like it?
It ain't loud enough.
- Paint the whole goddamn tail red, Tank.
- Yes, sir.
We're less than 90 minutes from Germany.
And they know we're here.
Those of you
wonderin' about seein' action... got your wish.
The 33rd and 324th
regularly tangle with the Jerries.
- Colonel, they're flying bomber escort.
- Occasionally, Lieutenant, yes.
They're doing it occasionally,
we have the honor of doin' it full time.
That's right. Consider it an honor.
Bomber losses to enemy action
are unacceptably high.
Yesterday's run into Germany cost them
65 of 200 bombers. That's one in three.
Six hundred men killed or missing.
You wanna make your mark...'s your chance.
How do you llke this, glrls?
All dressed up and no dates.
Yeah, I thlnk we've been stood up...
...not a B-17 in sight.
This is the rendezvous point...
...they must have been grounded
by bad weather.
He's comln' back aroundl.
Hey, Iowa, turn to Channel 8.
Alrlght, Medlna, come on let's get hlml
Take hlm offl.
Sounds like one of ours.
Must be stragglers.
Let's help them.
Roger thatl.
Hey, he's comln' up on topl.
He's comln' In agalnl.
Hang on.
He's above us!
Here we come, fellasl Here we comel.
Hang on, Hannibal, I got him!
The "Train" is always on time, that's one.
Let's clean 'em up now!
Let's clean 'em up!
- What the hell? Did you see that?
- Oh, yeah! Who is that?
Get the other one, Hannibal.
Wait! We got another one
comin' in high over here.
Come on, Medina!
Keep your shirt on. I got him. I got him.
Moment of truth, Jerry.
We live in the air.
We die by fire!
Say goodbye, Mr. Kraut.
Give my regards to the Fuhrer.
Mustang, starboard side.
Come on, Vance. Who are they?
I don't know.
Red Tall 51 this Is Fortress 3-2-0.
Come In. Over.
I can't raise 'em, they must be
on a separate frequency or somethin'.
- You get any kind of I.D.?
- Nothing I recognize.
I tell you,
we need to find out who those boys are.
- Red tails, huh?
- Yeah.
No fire group I know
carries those markings.
Well, I gotta find 'em.
I got a bottle of whiskey for both of 'em
for savin' our asses.
Try Ramitelli. We're gettin' new escort
assignments, they might be one of them.
I'll check it out.
Poor slob did everything
but pull the trigger for me!
That last kill, I took that son of a
bitch out from a thousand yards!
Sir, how do you get 'em off you?
Splits? Climbin' turns?
No, no. Walter People's special,
"You make it up as you go along."
Hey, how you guy's doin'?
We're B-17 bomb group based at Foggia...
...and we're lookin' for the pilots
who were up at Pleven yesterday.
We wanna say thanks.
A couple of those guys saved our asses.
Don't mention it.
- So where are they?
- Where's who?
The pilots, boy.
We came up here to see them.
You're lookin' at 'em.
Lieutenant Lee, Lieutenant Roberts.
How are you?
- We appreciate your thanks.
- This whole base is colored?
Colored, yes. Lock, stock and pilot.
Let's get out of here, Lieutenant.
- What?
- This isn't right, let's go.
- What's wrong? He just said...
- I don't care.
Them pilots was niggers.
Niggers weren't flyin' them planes today.
Let's move it out.
Yes, sir.
You saved their asses,
and they got the nerve to be insulted?
Makes you wanna hurt somebody.
What are you writing?
My folks.
This boy mails a letter
to his folks every night.
I won't mail this one, you will.
Oh, no, no, no.
I am not mailing that letter.
If you die, you mail it yourself.
You'll mail it just like I'll mail yours.
You won't have to worry about me askin'.
Writin' 'em one of those letters is
like expecting to die.
No one expects to die.
My father had a friend,
he fought in the First World War.
He was one of the first
colored soldiers in France.
This man had so many medals he came
home decorated like a Christmas tree.
He disappeared one night.
They found him in Georgia,
lynched in his uniform.
Why would you want to fly for a country
that thanks you by lynching you?
I like the feeling of respect that we get.
Especially from colored folks.
Like... and Cappy came upon them fellas in
the chain-gang while training in Tuskegee.
I even got some satisfaction outta the look
on those white fellas today...
...when they found out it was us
that saved their tails.
...that colored outfit, the 332nd,
HQ confirmed.
They were the boys that helped us
at Pleven and...
...we weren't even their assignment.
let me give you a little Sociology lesson.
I think bein' from California and all,
you might be a little bit confused.
Now, I'm a Texas boy.
I grew up with niggers.
I was around 'em every day.
Hell, in Lubbock you can't throw a rock
without hittin' one.
Now, I know how they think.
And I know how they live and
I can tell you with complete certainty...
...what they are and are not capable of.
You don't think they can fly them planes,
Lance, if they was flyin' them planes,
and that's a big "if"...
...then what happened up there
was a fluke. So forget about it.
I'm gettln' tlred of these long mlsslons...
...where we get stuck out here
by our lonesome.
I'm low on fuel,
I say we should head back.
- Wait a second. What's that?
- Where?
Down below,
looks like a German destroyer.
Ain't one of ours.
You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?
Straighten up.
Fly right.
Alright, here we go.
Go down, Papa. Go down, Papa.
Don't you blow your top!
That a boy. That a boy. That a boyl
Hey, Iowa.
You're in the spotlight in there, man.
You sunk a damn destroyer.
People get medals for doin' that shit.
You're gonna tell me you think
they'll give you or me...
...or anybody else on this base
a medal for doin' anything right?
Okay. Alright, so you won't get a medal.
The bottom line is, we know what you did.
And we know it was a lucky shot.
But it's still one destroyer down.
Do you see our escort?
Sure do. And they're right on time.
They know we're here.
They'll give us' their best shot but
we gotta get these guys to Biretta Pass.
Biretta Pass and back.
Heads up. Seven MB 109s at one o'clock.
I'll take the leader.
- Roger that. Straighten up!
- Fly right!
Starboard wlng now,
I almost got 'em In my slghts.
Keep your line unengaged!
Twelve miles till target.
All statlonsl All statlons check Inl
Tall gunner, come upl.
Make it easy for me.
Bring it around. That's it.
Go get 'em, Traln.
You shake that buzzard down, boy.
Roger that!
I got him!
Bomb door's openl.
Target up! Target up!
Got another one tryin'
to sneak over the top, Iowa.
Ground him!
Come on, baby!
That's it, I got you!
That's two, Iowa!
Two mlles to target.
On your six, Train!
Bombs awayl.
- Bombs away.
- Bombs away.
- Hang on, Traln.
- Get this guy off me, Iowa!
I'm comin'!
No, Blllyl Nol.
I'm right behind him, Train!
You go straight to hell you son of a bitch!
Good hit! Good hit!
Train, can you hear me?
Can you hear me, Train?
I got two more, Iowa.
I saw you. You did good, Traln.
Now, come on.
The bombers went back, come on.
You climb. No!
You gotta climb to them, Iowa.
You gotta climb to them!
Straighten up and fly right, boy.
You can make it!
"Oh, we are heroes of the nlght.
To hell with the axer's mlght.
"Flght, flght, flght flghtlng Nlnety-Nlne.
"Down in flames they go.
"Fighting men of the Ninety-Nine
Send them.
"Send them down below.
"We are heroes of the nlght.
To hell with the axer's mlght."
Bllly Roberts.
On the block they call me, "Traln."
As in, "A-Train",
the quickest way to Harlem.
- I'll take some smokes.
- Alright.
...Walter Derrick, the Third.
Aeronautlcal Englneer.
Lewis Johns, English Literature.
Leroy Jonas Cappy, Art History.
just how bad will the Eighty-Eights be?
You'll be attacking Berlin, son.
The very heart of Germany.
Every anti-aircraft gun in the region
will be trying to stop you.
And there'll be the fighters.
Now, gentlemen, on this one,
we need every load placed on the target.
We may not have a second chance.
Sir, who's flyin' cover?
The 51st will escort your wing, Lieutenant.
Now, anymore questions?
If not, good luck.
Why the change?
How come our escort was changed from
the 332nd to the 51st?
Logistics, Captain. Is that a problem?
- No, sir. No problem.
- Good. Have a good mission.
You got a point to make, Captain?
I suggest you get on with it.
Speak up, Captain,
we got a mission to run here.
Yes, sir. Well, I...
...I got men whose lives are
my responsibility up there, sir.
And I want the 332nd as our escort.
Colored boys?
That's right, sir.
I looked into it, and...
...since they've been escorting bombers
they haven't lost one to enemy action, sir.
Not a single ship.
And if it's all the same to you...
...I want the 332nd
to take me to Berlin and back.
Alright, Captain.
I'll take it under advisement.
At ease.
You're up awfully early today.
I haven't gotten much sleep, sir.
We're all gonna miss him, Hannibal.
The really sad thing is
he's gonna miss this.
Distinguished flying cross
for taking out the destroyer.
General Crowell will be here next week
to officially present it to you.
There's somethin' else.
- Sir.
- Congratulations.
Captain Lee.
The word's in about our next mission.
And we weren't assigned.
We were requested.