Friday, August 2, 2013

Tom Cruise was Black (The Original “Top Guns” Were Black Fighter Pilots) - Bozeman Development Group

As we pull back the curtains on the hidden history of African American accomplishments, I’d like to mention a couple of facts that dispel the fictional allegations that plagued African American military personnel for too long.  The allegation was that they were incompetent.
In 1897, a surprising proposal was initiated in the higher echelons of the U.S. Army. It was proposed, on numerous occasions, that the cadets of West Point Military Academy, the elite future leaders of the U.S. military, should learn their riding skills and mounted battle tactics from the soldiers who were considered the best fighting horsemen in the Army. Although the proposals were initially denied, finally, on March 23, 1907, one-hundred African American non-commissioned officers were assigned as a special detachment from the all-Black 9th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) to provide riding instruction, mounted drill and tactics at West Point Military Academy. For the next 40-years the West Point cadets received their cavalry training from African Americans, the best fighting horsemen U.S. Army, from 1907 until 1947.
In 1986, millions of moviegoers were thrilled by the drama, acrobatics and intense battle scenes of the movie Top Gun starring Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer. Top Gun was a special program and competitive event for the best fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy. Following the release of that movie, lots of boys across the country dreamed of being a Top Gun fighter pilot.
What was not revealed in that film was that the Top Gun program actually originated in the U.S. Air Force and that the original Top Gun pilots were Black men from the famous Tuskegee Airmen, 332nd Fighter Squadron.
The military’s first “Top Gun” gunnery meet originated in 1949 and was established by United States Air Force. At this point, the Air Force was only two years old. It had previously been the U.S. Army Air Corps before Congress determined that it should be a separate organization from the Army. What is also virtually unknown is that a team of Tuskegee Airmen, Captain Alva Temple, 1st Lieutenant Harry Stewart, 1st Lieutenant James H Harvey III and alternate pilot Halbert Alexander competed in the event with their P-47N Thunderbolts. They not only competed, they went on to win the USAF very “First Top Gun” Weapons Meet (also known as “William Tell” and “Gunsmoke”) in May of 1949. The event was held at the Las Vegas Air Force Base, which later became Nellis AFB.
As it has happened too often in American history, their triumph was not publically acknowledged. Actually, the trophy for which they qualified was “lost” for many years and was finally unearthed after years of searching by renown historical researcher, Zellie Rainey Orr, nearly 50 years later. The team of the 332nd Fighter Squadron was officially acknowledged as the winners of that 1949 competition and finally awarded their trophy by the U.S. Air Force in 1995.
It’s not surprising that their victory was swept under the rug for a half-century. News like that would have been too much of a psychological shakeup for the white population at that time. Their view of the “Negro” was so skewed that they wouldn’t have been able to handle it. For example, there were several so-called studies done in the military to determine the suitability of allowing African Americans into the military.
According to the studies by the Army War College, Negro Soldiers were “Child Like”, “Careless”, “Shiftless”, “Irresponsible”, “Secretive”, “Superstitious”, “Unmoral and Untruthful” and more than likely to be guilty of “Moral turpitude”. The Negro Soldier was also branded as “A Comic”, “Emotionally Unstable”, “Musically Inclined With Good Rhythm” and “If Fed, Loyal and Compliant”.
On his website (, Lt. Col James H. Harvey III, who was one of the pilots on the winning Top Gun team, shares his experiences and the motivation behind the attitude of the Tuskegee Airmen. He states,
“Since every White Commander had a copy of this report this is how he perceived us. Plus, he had a few unfounded ideas of his own. Keep what I just said in mind. During the early forties the “wash out or failure rate” for White Aviation Cadets going through Flight Training was running at 63%. The “wash-out or failure rate” for the first Cadet class at Tuskegee was 40%. They said, ‘There is something wrong with this equation’, so they made sure the wash-out rate at Tuskegee was 70% or higher. We were washed out for anything, it did not have anything to do with our flying. Our Flight Training was different than the White Cadets. Everything we did had to be perfect. So when we graduated, we were better than our Instructors. Colonel Noel Parrish, our Commander at Tuskegee Army Air Field would go to the White Flying School at Montgomery, Alabama and tell the Commander there that, “We wash out better pilots at Tuskegee than you graduate here at Montgomery”, which was true. Colonel Parrish was a White Military man from Kentucky, but he was behind this program at Tuskegee 100%. This “Tuskegee Experiment” or “Tuskegee Experience” as it was called, was designed to fail. Yes, the whole program was designed to fail. We were out to prove them wrong. We were not just learning to fly for ourselves, we were out to prove that we, as a Race of People can do anything they can do, but only do it ‘Better’.”
When the United States Air Force held it’s “First Ever” Weapons Meet (also known as William Tell) in May 1949, the members of the 332nd Fighter Group (Tuskegee Airmen) organized a team for the competition. The primary members of the team were, Captain Alva Temple, 1st Lieutenant James H Harvey III, 1st Lieutenant Harry Stewart and alternate pilot 1st Lieutenant Halbert Alexander. They met with their commanding officer, Colonel Benjamin Davis, prior to their departure from Lockbourne Air Force Base for the Las Vegas event. His final comment to the team was, “If you don’t Win, Don’t come back” (tongue in cheek). That was their incentive to win the Meet and they came back with the win, even though it would take 50-years for the world to hear about it.
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