The Tuskegee Weathermen

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By Jason Pelletier on February 26, 2013, 3:10pm Last modified: February 28, 2013, 11:11am

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With Black History Month coming to a close, I wanted to take a look at the men that led the way for African Americans to gain entry into the field of meteorology.

During World War II, the strict racial segregation the United States military due to the country’s Jim Crow laws gave way in the face of the requirements for complex training in technical vocations. This opened the opportunity for African Americans to begin training in the field of meteorology at one of the three universities in the country that offered graduate degrees in meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, and New York University.

The Tuskegee Weather Detachment was formed on March 21, 1942 on the Tuskegee Army Airfield, in Tuskegee, AL.  Wallace Patillo Reed, the first black officer for the Army Air Corps became the Tuskegee Weather Base Officer on March 27, 1942. Reed was later promoted to Captain in 1944 and held that position until the end of the war.  

The Weather Detachment was responsible for planning military and civilian flying operations using their advanced knowledge in forecasting and new technologies. These operations needed to be capable of operating at night and in all but the most severe weather. This ability was integral in the success of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Often overshadowed by their more famous brethren, the Tuskegee Airmen, these weather officers were pioneers in a field dominated by white men. Their ability to succeed where many thought they wouldn’t is proof positive that blacks could serve in the military and beyond.

Other notable Tuskegee Weathermen are listed below:

Carl Fountain, was the only Tuskegee weather officer to receive a regular commission, concurrent with completing the weather officer course. Fountain also flew nineteen B-29 combat missions as a bombardier over Korea.

Archie F. Williams, had been a civilian flight instructor at Tuskegee, but was not at that time eligible for military flight training. He did earn his military wings prior to the end of World War II and served in Air Weather Service the rest of his career, retiring as a command pilot in 1964. Prior to the war, Williams was better known as a gold medal winner in the 400 meter run at the 1936 Olympic Games.

For more information about the Tuskegee Weather Detachment, be sure to check out the following link: The Tuskegee Weathermen

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Jason Pelletier

Town: Harwinton, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since February 2012.

Articles: 33

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