Tuskegee Airmen Use Social Media to Share Experiences
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 27, 2009 As the Defense Department ventures into social media, even the famed Tuskegee Airmen are using popular social media tools to engage others and inform the world about their service to their country.
When four Tuskegee Airmen participated in a trip to Southwest Asia to visit with U.S., joint and coalition forces and thank them for their service, an Air Force public affairs officer accompanying the airmen reported about their trip through Facebook and Twitter.
“Troops are following this journey on Facebook,” Maj. Andra Higgs, director of public affairs for 4th Air Force and assigned to Air Forces Central Command for this trip, said during a “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable April 24. “We’ve got this capacity now to communicate by way of satellite around the world in real time.”
Higgs said he used Twitter to provide instant updates on the Tuskegee Airmen’s activities.
“I’m taken aback by the technology of the young people, the technological expertise. … It’s mind boggling,” said retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, one of four airmen participating in the trip. Jefferson served during World War II as a P-51 fighter pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group’s 301st Fighter Squadron in Ramitelli, Italy, and said his experience in uniform provided many opportunities for him.
“Coming through the Tuskegee Airmen experience in World War II was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “It opened up vistas, opened up windows. It opened up doors to succeed in later life.”
Jefferson flew 18 long-range escort missions for B-17 and B-24 bombers, providing protection from enemy aircraft. On Aug. 12, 1944, three days prior to the invasion of Southern France, Jefferson was shot down by ground fire. He was captured by German troops and spent nine months as a prisoner of war, but was liberated by American forces on April 29, 1945.
Jefferson said his visit with troops was a great way to see how “they’re carrying on the traditions of our country.”
“It was an inspiration to see these young people carrying on the tradition of the 332nd Fighter Group and the Expeditionary Wing,” Jefferson said.
The airmen of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing in today’s combat theater share a piece of history with the Tuskegee Airmen; they fight under the same designator that the airmen used in World War II.
Jefferson was discharged from active duty in 1947 and retired from the reserves in 1969 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the war, he became an elementary school science teacher in Detroit, and he retired as an assistant principal in 1979.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)