Duck Commander Independence Bowl
The Independence Bowl Foundation has selected the Tuskegee Airmen as the recipient of the 2014 Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award.”
"This is a very special year because the Tuskegee Airmen have been instrumental in representing democracy and independence that we all enjoy in the United States,” 2014 Independence Bowl Foundation chairman Paul Pratt said. “We are so elated to honor them in our city and at our bowl game.
“As we prepare for the 2014 Duck Commander Independence Bowl, we are very excited to continue to celebrate the reason why we got started back in 1976.”
Two documented original Tuskegee Airmen – Ret. Staff Sgt. Homer Hogues and Ret. Lt. Calvin Spann – will be on hand to accept the Spirit of Independence Award at halftime of the 2014 Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 27. Ret. Brig. Gen. Leon Johnson, National President of Tuskegee Airman, Inc., will also be in attendance on behalf of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the United States armed forces, making up the 332nd Fighter Group and 447th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army. Because the military was still segregated, the black pilots trained at Moton Field and Tuskegee Army Air Field, both in Tuskegee, Ala.
The 99th Fighter Squadron was the first to be comprised of men from the Tuskegee flight training program. As more pilots graduated from the program, they would form the 100th, 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons. These four squadrons made up the 332nd Fighter Group.
The 99th Fighter Squadron was the first to see combat, initially being sent to North Africa. They then moved to support the Allied campaign in Italy and then Germany, joining the rest of the 332nd Fighter Group in Europe.
The 332nd received its nickname, Red Tails, because of the distinctive paint job used to identify the unit. They were also referred to as the Red-Tail Angels by the bomber crews they protected during escort missions.
In addition to pilots, participants in the Tuskegee Experience of World War II included men and women who were bombardiers, navigators, aircraft maintenance, ground crew, flight instructors and support personnel. More information about the Tuskegee Experience can be found on the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. website at http://www.tuskegeeairmen.org.
Through their courage, valor and exemplary record in combat, the Tuskegee Airmen helped to pave the way for racial integration in the U.S. armed forces.
This prestigious award has been given out annually at the Independence Bowl after the Sports Foundation directors decided to recognize an outstanding American citizen, with the “Spirit of Independence Award.” The first recipient honored in 1977 was General Omar N. Bradley, the only living five-star general in the United States at that time. The following year, and until his death, General Bradley presented the “Spirit of Independence Award” to his fellow recipients. After his death, the General’s name was added to the award.
Since the award’s inception, this honor has been bestowed upon outstanding American citizens, or organizations, which symbolize the spirit of freedom and independence on which our country was founded. Some past recipients include: John Wayne, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, Wounded Warrior Project and the Doolittle Raiders.