Thursday afternoon on Capitol Hill the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame received a collective Congressional Gold Medal “in recognition of their unique military record, which inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces,” reads the public law (109-213) authorizing the award. The legendary airmen became the first black US military pilots, training at a separate facility near Tuskegee, Ala., hence the name. Of the 992 graduates, some 450 served in combat during World War II, establishing an exemplary standard in fighters and bombers. Their ranks included Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who would retire as a three-star general and receive a fourth star years later, and Daniel “Chappie” James, who would become the first black four-star general. (Read Benjamin Davis, American and Tuskegee Airmen from the archives of Air Force Magazine.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.