By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, marked the grand opening and recognition of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field, Tuskegee, Ala., now officially a national landmark. The site serves as testament to the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group of World War II whose combat performance and civilian struggles have earned them legendary status. The weekend's ceremonies were free and open to the public and saw the attendance of thousands, including a few of the surviving airmen.
The event recognized the first phase of the site's overall development -- phase two is due next April when the full site, including an iMax theater in a restored second hangar, is scheduled to open to the public. The progress is the result of legislation passed by Congress in 1998 and signed by the president, appropriating $29.1 million for phase one development. From 1941 through 1946, more than 990 pilots graduated from the flight training program at Tuskegee, with 450 going on to serve their country overseas. The men were the nation's first black military pilots and flew more than 700 bomber escort missions and, according to the Tuskegee Airmain Web site never lost a bomber to enemy fighters.