African Americans and Women in WWII
Racial and Ethnic Assumptions
These white American assumptions ensured that there would be a limited number of African Americans in the Army Air Force, as well as a limited number of women volunteer pilots in the WASP program. The assumptions and corresponding limitations, however, did not reflect the reality of the situation regarding the abilities of African Americans or that of women in the Army Air Force.
Despite masculine fears that women’s lacked the physical strength needed to control certain types of aircraft, as stated by Molly Merryman in her book Clipped Wings: The Rise and Fall of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the WASPs built a credible record within the Army Air Force during their short existence. According to Merryman between September 1942 and December 1944, 141 WASPs attached to the Ferrying Division of the Air Transport Command flew a collective 9,224,000 miles while delivering 12,652 planes. This is an impressive statistic considering the minute size of the WASP attachment.
African American pilots also built an impressive and enviable combat record while debunking the racial ideology of white America centering on the martial abilities and inabilities of the African American community. The famed Tuskegee Airmen serve as an excellent example of the inherent falsehood of white America’s racial assumptions during the Second World War. By the end of the war, according to Percy, the Tuskegee Airmen bomber escorts boasted a service record of nearly 15,000 sorties and some 1,500 missions — all undertaken without the loss of a single bomber to an enemy aircraft.
African Americans and Women: Untapped Resevoirs
The history of both African Americans and women in the American Army Air Force during the Second World War shows the incorrect nature of white America’s assumptions regarding race and gender in the Second World War. White American masculine fears and America’s attempts to maintain a pre-war racial and gender status quo limited the number of African Americans and women employed by the American Army Air Force in the Second World War. Given the outstanding service records of the African Americans and female pilots, one can only wonder how much more they could have done if America could have freed itself from racial and gender biases.