Today, there are few who have not heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed Red Tails of World War II. These African American pilots shattered the preconceived notions of a nation that was rife with discrimination. Because of their extraordinary efforts in the European Theater, the Tuskegee Airmen took one more step toward equality.
But it’s not as if they were born flying. Someone had to teach them. That educa- tion was conducted at the Tuskegee Army Airfield. The field, built in 1941, was actually designed by an African American architect. Training began in November of that year, before war had even commenced in America. Even though Pearl Harbor would not occur until a month later, leaders in Washington were beginning to feel the winds of war, and they wanted to be prepared for whatever the future might bring. By the end of 1943, the airfield had expanded to four runways and more than two hundred buildings, with 3,500 personnel on staff.
In the first class trained at the field, only five African American pilots made the cut. By the end of the war, nearly one thousand would follow in their footsteps. Sixty-six of these pilots were killed in action.
Astonishingly, even more—eighty- four—were killed in training accidents. And it is these young men, those who never made it to combat but nevertheless lost their lives, who still haunt the old airfield in Tuskegee. At night, when the moon is new and the stars hide, a sound echoes through the forests that have now grown up where the airfield once stood. It is the sound of death, the screams of agony from the dying, the cries of those who see their fate approaching them. It is a haunting and a haunted place, one that is best to be avoided.
And there’s another reason to avoid this place. It is now owned by a hunting club, one that values its exclusivity. The sign that hangs from the fence that sur- rounds the property reads, “WARNING! NO TRESPASSING!!! Anyone found here at night will be found here in the morning.”
In other words, unless you want to join the spirits that haunt the airfield, it might be best to stay away.
Haunted Alabama Black Belt written by David Higdon and Brett Talley – Copyright © 2013 by David Higdon and Brett Talley – All rights reserved