Tuskegee Airmen in Italy, 1945

Tuskegee Airmen in Italy, 1945

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This photo, taken in March 1945 in Ramitelli, Italy (near Naples), shows an escape kit containing cyanide capsules being issued to a member of the 332nd Army Air Force Fighter Group, the "Tuskegee Airmen." In the event of capture by the Nazis in Yugoslavia, the airman was expected to take his own life. You can see the man on the right is armed with an M1911A1 .45 automatic in his shoulder holster, with a two-clip pouch on the strap.

The photographer was Toni Frissell who took hundreds of photos of the Tuskegee Airmen during that period, the only known photos of the group on duty in Europe.

The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 700 missions and never lost a bomber to enemy aircraft. They earned more than 744 Air Medals and Clusters, more than 100 Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, 8 Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, and a Legion of Merit. The group was commanded by Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr, who later became the first three-star general in the Air Corps.

Today in WW II: 17 May 1940 Brussels falls to German forces; Belgian government flees to Ostend, Belgium.  More 
17 May 1943 US Army contracts with University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering to develop ENIAC computer.
17 May 1943 8th Air Force B-17F Flying Fortress named Memphis Belle becomes the first plane to complete a 25-mission tour of duty.
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