They are the men and women history at times has ignored, some have tried to forget, others to deny, yet the men who made up the Tuskegee Airmen and the ladies of W.A.S.P. have finally seen their time in history’s spotlight come. At least some of them have as some we’ve lost to the war itself, time and the ages.
Fantasy of Flight and owner, Kermet Weeks, has chosen to not only remember these brave men and women, but honor them with their own place. Set among the planes that were their office and within the greater good of flight’s past, the Tuskegee Airmen room and W.A.S.P. display remind us that their contribution wasn’t just a cosmetic assist, but a real-world, risk-it-all commitment to the greater good, and the fight for freedom.
The Tuskegee Airmen find their room set between hangers with a uniform, photos and memories, along side a moving image of the men and the aircraft they flew.
On the day of our visit, Kermit would fly one of the beautiful Mustang aircraft housed here, (daily flight demonstrations differ the planes, but owner, Kermet Weeks is usually behind the stick) one painted to represent the Airmen and their victories. From the dude in the zoot suit painted at the rear to the red trimmings, this handsome craft is a wonder to watch, and only slightly, scary realistic as he pulls her into a turn, heading for the airfield and giving one the ever-so-slight-feeling of what it must have felt like to have such a plane closing in on you, ready to shoot.
The ladies of WWII are honored with their area, a small group of partitions set among the aircraft – including one they would have trained in – and giving rise to the realization that at a time when Rose the Riveter was turning heads for her contributions in the factories, brave women were stepping into a field few women had know, taking on the dangerous duties of flying aircraft to airfields, pulling targets and testing planes that one day may or may not join the fleet.
These women risked their lives as readily as their male counterparts, taking the same training and performing the same flight requirements, yet until recently, not even recognized as actual members of our military.
The men and women who flew these planes were every bit the heroes as those who saw other forms of combat and air-duty. They went unrecognized for too long, but today at Fantasy of Flight, moving displays offer them a place of recognition and remembrance. For those who visit and linger here, a private moment of reflection can perhaps offer other generations the opportunity to see what those who went first were willing to do when honor and glory were but only in their own hearts, and only time would bring its face to their nation and the world.