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Tuskegee Fighter Pilots Visit Houston To Remember The Historic Flight Squadron

Retired Lieutenant Colonels Harry T. Stewart and Alexander Jefferson are featured in a documentary that premieres Monday at Space Center Houston.

U.S. Air Force photo
Maj. James A. Ellison returns the salute of Mac Ross as he passes down the line during review of the first class of Tuskegee cadets.

Two World War II heroes are visiting Houston on Monday evening. Retired Lieutenant Colonels Harry T. Stewart Jr. and Alexander Jefferson flew numerous combat missions in Europe as part of the Tuskegee Airmen's 332nd Fighter Group, and will appear during a presentation of a documentary about their lives as fighter pilots in the historic squadron.

The documentary is the first installment of a series titled "Our story: Our voices" and will be premiered at Space Center Houston at 6 p.m. The series was funded by the Ford Motor Company Fund and Pamela Alexander, the Director of Community Development with the fund, said they chose Houston because of its historic role in flight and space exploration.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American flying unit in the U.S. military. They got their name because they trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama.

Courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Fund
Retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Harry T. Stewart.

In the documentary, Stewart and Jefferson narrate their stories. They explain why they wanted to be fighter pilots and discuss the difficulties of the training and the hurdles they faced because the United States was segregated at the time.

They also give a first-person account of participating in combat missions and the horrors of war. Stewart told News 88.7 the documentary is a “vivid and accurate” representation of their lives.

“By virtue of their performance during World War II, they were instrumental in the government seeking to integrate the armed forces,” Stewart, who flew 43 missions, said of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Stewart said the Tuskegee Airmen were also an example for the African-American community because of their “perseverance and hard work.”

U.S. Air Force photo
U.S. Air Force Capt. Alva Temple, 1st Lt. James Harvey, 1st Lt. Harry Stewart and 1st Lt. Halbert Alexander pose with their 1949 Weapons Meet trophy in May 1949 at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev.

After the war, one of the highlights of Stewart's piloting career happened in 1949 when he was part of the Tuskegee Airmen team that won the first Air Force Weapons Meet, popularly known as Top Gun. After retiring from the Air Force, he tried to get a job as an airline pilot, but was rejected and ended up becoming a mechanical engineer and a top executive at a Detroit pipeline company.

You can watch a trailer of the documentary here:

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