Growing Up in Washington D.C. and Becoming a Fighetr Pilot

Racism in the South and Overseas Deployment

Flying Combat Missions

Segregated Clubs and Appreciative Bomber Crews

24 March 1945 Mission to Berlin

Staff Duties, Gun Camera Footage, Ben Davis and the P-51 Mustang

Crew Chiefs, the Tuskegee Airmen. Inc. and Postwar Accomplishments

Strafing a Train, Higher Education and Civil Rights

The Tuskegee Airmen and Red Tails Movies and Reflections

Raining Bullets

Downing the First German Jet Over Berlin

Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

Flying Into a Train


Dr. Roscoe C. Brown was born in Washington D.C. and lived there for the first 17 years of his life. Washington D.C. was a very interesting place. The public transportation system, Smithsonian museums and the Library of Congress were not segregated but the schools, restaurants and theaters were. Many of the upper class white people sent their children to private schools. The public schools in the black school system had teachers with PhDs and master's degrees because they could not get jobs elsewhere. Howard University was the only place they could go. Brown attended Dunbar High School. Dunbar High School produced many prominent people including the first black federal judge, William Hastie; the man who developed the blood bank in World War 2, Charles Drew; and the first black Congress woman from Washington D.C., Eleanor Holmes Norton. Brown graduated third in his class then went to Springfield College in Massachusetts. Brown had a great childhood. The black community was an integral community. They had their own bank, businesses, theaters, restaurants and schools. People of all social classes lived in the same community because of the segregated housing but this was good for the community because there were good role models there. Washington D.C. was a good place to live but they lived under the specter of segregation and racism. Brown's father was a dentist who became a public health official and a member of Roosevelt's black cabinet. Many of Brown's other colleagues were his role models. When World War 2 started, Brown wanted to be in the Air Corps but back in 1925 the military had conducted a study called the Utilization of Negro Troops which concluded that blacks were not qualified to be pilots or to be leaders in the military. From the beginning of the Air Corps through 1940 there were no blacks in the Air Corps although there were blacks who flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force such as Eugene Bullard, the Black Swallow of Death, and Bessie Coleman, the first black female pilot licensed in America. In the 1930s the air racing movement started. Jimmy Doolittle, Roscoe Turner, Amelia Earhart and Jackie Cochran were the flying personalities they grew up with. When Brown was in high school he took two years of compulsory JRROTC [Annotator's Note: Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps]. After graduating high school, and while he was in college, he went to a Civilian Military Training Camp [Annotator's Note: also referred to by the acronym CMTC] where he trained to become an officer. By the time he was 19 he was rated as a second lieutenant in the infantry. The draft age was 21. Brown was called to active duty as a lieutenant but he wanted to finish college. He resigned his commission and applied for the aviation cadet program. The day after he graduated college, he left for Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi. Keesler Field was a terrible place. Racism pervaded the place. In addition to being segregated, the black non-commissioned officers were harder on them than some of the whites. It was an interesting transition for Brown. The NAACP [Annotator's Note: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], the Pullman Car Porters Union, and the black press had pushed for an aviation unit for blacks during the presidential election of 1940. Roosevelt [Annotator's Note: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt] was under pressure so he did three things. He appointed the first black general, General Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., the father of Brown's future commander, he established the Fair Employment Practices Commission guaranteeing equal pay for equal work for blacks working in the defense industry and he established the 99th Pursuit Squadron. Many people, including General Hap Arnold [Annotator's Note: USAAF General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold], felt that blacks did not have the same abilities. Not all people were that close minded. At Tuskegee Army Air Base where they were trained, their first commanding officer, von Kimball [Annotator's Note: Colonel Frederick von Kimball], was a racist and segregated everything. Because of racism and discrimination, the federal government spent over one million dollars building a separate air base to train African-Americans. The president of Tuskegee Institute, Fred Patterson, allowed the pilots to do their civilian training there. As a result, the Tuskegee pilots got excellent training. Colonel Noel Parrish gave the Tuskegee pilots a chance. 1,000 pilots were graduated and got their wings and commissions out of the 3,000 who had been recruited. Brown believes that another thousand pilots would have graduated if they had been at a white base and there had been no segregation. Brown graduated from college on 12 or 13 March 1943 and left the next day to go to Keesler Field to do his Air Force indoctrination. From there they went to Tuskegee Institute for a transition program, the College Training Detachment, where they did some marching and flew ten hours in a Piper Cub. After that they went to Tuskegee Army Air Base for their preflight training, then returned to the Tuskegee Institute where they lived while doing their primary flight training at Moton Field [Annotator's Note: in Tuskegee, Alabama]. At Moton Field they flew the PT-17 then the BT-13 after that. During advanced flight training they flew the AT-6. Brown graduated flight training in March 1944 in class 44-C. He got ten hours of transition time in the P-40 [Annotator's Note: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighter aircraft] at the Tuskegee Army Air Base after which he was supposed to go to Selfridge Field in Michigan to train on the P-39 [Annotator's Note: Bell P-39 Airacobra fighter aircraft]. Due to racial tensions in Detroit, he ended up on a train to Walterboro, South Carolina. There, they became the first class to do transitional training in the P-47 Thunderbolt [Annotator's Note: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fightr aircraft]. After three months of training at Walterboro, Brown was sent overseas as a replacement pilot. He was part of the first group of replacement pilots sent overseas.


Dr. Roscoe Brown feels that Washington D.C. was an ambivalent city when it came to race. When they got to Virginia they had to get into a segregated street car. They were also not allowed to fly on a recreational flight. Brown's father got him his first flight by telling the people at the airport that he was a federal official, which he was, and that he had the two children of a South African diplomat who wanted to go on a sight seeing tour. He took his first flight out of a segregated air base that is now Reagan International Airport. They knew about racism but not the rampant racism and lynchings down in Alabama and Mississippi. When they got to Keesler Field [Annotator's Note: now Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi] the black non-commissioned officers showed them how tough they were and how they were not allowed to go over to the white area. Brown had white friends who he was not allowed to visit because of the racism. They had to put up with the obstacles of racism but they were obstacles that they looked past and they knew that if they made a breakthrough there were enough fair minded people who would speak up and say that this was wrong. That is exactly what happened after the war. African-Americans have always felt that way. They have always been disappointed. They did their jobs then came back to a country that was racist. World War 2 changed this. Technology and manufacturing brought people of different colors together because of the Fair Employment Practices Commssion Act which stated that people had to be paid the same regardless of color and when people work together they get to understand each other. World War 2 also brought women into the work force. The Womens' Army Service Pilots [Annotator's Note: Women Airforce Service Pilots], the WASPS, did a lot of flying of every airplane that the United States produced but not in combat. Today, women fly in combat. Brown shipped out from Fort Patrick Henry, Virginia. It was painful to realize that they were segregated. They were going to fight for their country but could not go to the officers' club where the whites were. It was ridiculous but that was the law and they knew they had to abide by it. They thought that if they did a good job things would change. It did. The G.I. Bill and other bills made it possible for people to get housing but then it slipped back until the civil rights movement later on. While they were at Patrick Henry they met some of the original 99th Fighter Squadron pilots who were rotating back after their tour of duty. One of them, John Rogers, got them in a tent and they started talking about what it was like to fly in combat. They had to be disciplined. If anything describes the success of the Tuskegee Airmen it is their discipline. Ben Davis [Annotator's Note: then Colonel, later USAF General, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.] insisted that they stay with the bombers they were escorting. Davis felt that if the individual pilots went off to get victories for themselves and some of the bombers were lost, people would say that the blacks could not do it. They were on a troopship for a couple of weeks. After arriving at Naples they were put on a truck and taken to Ramitelli. There, they were assigned to different squadrons. Brown and three others were assigned to the 100th Fighter Squadron. Others went to the 301st and 302nd Squadrons. As soon as they arrived they were transitioned from the P-47s [Annotator's Note: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fightr aircraft] to the P-51s [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft]. The group [Annotator's Note: the 332nd Fighter Group] had gotten the P-51s in July [Annotator's Note: July 1944]. Each of the new pilots got a few hours of solo time in the P-51. They had some accidents while learning to fly the plane. After three hours in the P-51, Brown went out on a mission. Brown's first mission was flying wingman for Lieutenant John Bridges. During the mission, they were ordered to stay with the bombers which they did. The more missions Brown flew the more comfortable he got flying in combat and the more responsibility he was given.


Dr. Roscoe Brown's first mission was to a target in Austria. All of the mission targets looked the same from 25,000 feet. They flew 500 or 600 feet over the bombers and did not have to fly through the flak field. They would pick the bombers up after their bomb run. Watching the bombers fly through the flak made Brown glad to be a fighter pilot. When they escorted bombers, they would place eight planes on each side of the bomber stream and would weave back and forth. If any enemy planes showed up they would attack them. They always stayed with the bombers because they knew that the Germans would send in planes to engage the bombers first then when the fighters took off after them more German planes would slip in and attack. Most of Brown's missions were about five hours long. They would leave about an hour after the bombers and would rendezvous with them at the bomb line. Different groups were assigned different bomber wings. In the 15th Air Force, there was the 306th Fighter Wing which was equipped with P-51s [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] and composed of the "Red Tails" 332nd Fighter Group, the "Yellow Tails" 52nd Fighter Group, the "Candy Stripes" 31st Fighter Group and the "Checkerboards" 325th Fighter Group. Each group was assigned a different part of the bomber stream which may be composed of 300 or 400 bombers in a stream that was 25 miles long. Another fighter wing was the 305th Fighter Wing which was equipped with P-38s [Annotator's Note: Lockheed P-38 Lightening fighter aircraft] and comprised of the 1st Fighter Group, 5th Fighter Group [Annotator's Note: actually the 14th Fighter Group], and the 82nd Fighter Group. The P-38s did not have the range the P-51s had. In addition to better fuel consumption, the P-51s carried wing tanks which gave them additional fuel capacity. They would only drop their wing tanks when they were going into combat but that was not very often. Brown flew 68 combat missions and only dropped his tanks 20 or 25 times. Brown also went on about 20 strafing missions. Brown flew from August 1944 through the end of the war in May [Annotator's Note: May 1945]. During that time, the Germans would not put fighters up during every mission but on some missions they would. Brown flew a number of ground support missions. The purpose of the ground support or strafing mission was to interdict trains, to blow up airplanes on the ground and to attacks tanks and troops. On some missions their target may be an airbase. Brown flew a mission in October 1944 to eliminate the Athens Air Base on the Aegean Sea. When they came down the mountain, the Germans raised several steel poles with wires connected to them. A couple of the pilots hit the wires and crashed into the ground. Two days later, they sent them back to the same air base. This time they knew about the wire. Brown led his squadron under the wires and successfully attacked the base. At the end of the runway they would break right out over the Aegean Sea and get as low as they could. They did a good job on those missions. Another part of their job was to escort the photo reconnaissance planes, which were usually P-38s equipped with a camera. The bombing missions were usually flown in the morning and after the mission, one or two P-38s would fly over the target area to photograph the damage done. When a P-38 went out on a reconnaissance flight, four P-51s would escort them. The P-51s and P-38s were fast and they thought that they could out run anybody. Those were interesting missions. Towards the end of the war, the Germans started putting up jets. The first jets Brown saw was when he was flying photo reconnaissance missions.


To Dr. Roscoe Brown, strafing missions were more dangerous than bomber escort missions because they [Annotator's Note: the North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] had a liquid cooled mission. With a liquid cooled engine, if they took a hit and lost their coolant the plane would seize up and catch fire. In some ways they were more exciting because they were flying right down on the ground and could see what they were shooting at. The bomber escort missions required a lot of discipline and were usually longer but strafing missions were more high tension. In Europe, they had the Stars and Stripes newspaper which would print stories about the all Negro 332nd Fighter Group. Usually the stories were praise worthy and they felt good about that. The bomber escort missions gave them their reputation and earned them the name of "Red Tailed Angels." They stayed closer to the bombers than other groups because some of the other pilots would take off after enemy fighter planes and leave the bombers unprotected. Many of the bomber crews they were escorting had no idea that they were African-American. Brown and some of the other pilots met some of the bomber crews in Foggia and in Naples at the USO [Annotator's Note: United Service Organizations] club. Every group had its own rest camp and theirs was a villa right outside of Naples. The rest camps were segregated. The USO clubs were not officially segregated but were segregated because they did not want them there. Some guys got into fights about that. When they went to town they could usually size people up. Sometimes guys would see their flight jackets and thank them for missions they flew. There was not a lot of camaraderie but there was some respect. There was a black life and a white life. Even after the war. It was very insulting and dehumanizing but it gave energy to the civil rights movement. Young people today have no conception of the ways things were. World War 2 helped make progress for African-Americans. The 761st Tank Battalion, the USS Mason (DE-529), the triple nickel paratroopers [Annotator's Note: 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion], the Montford Point Marines, the 369th [Annotator's Note: 369th Infantry Regiment], and the 93rd Division were all black units with outstanding combat records. Some of their commanders did not want to admit it out of fear that if they advocated too much for the black troops they would not be promoted. Brown recently learned that when they did finally integrate after Truman's [Annotator's Note: President Harry S. Truman] order in 1948, black officers transferred to white units had their name, rank, and serial number listed followed by the letter N in parenthesis; for whites the letter W. That is something that is inconceivable today but prejudice is not logical, it is emotional. Fortunately, sometimes facts help to change emotions. As Tuskegee Airmen, they helped change the perception that many people had of African-Americans. They were very good. Now they have the reputation of being the best fighter group even though they did not shoot down as many planes. They did shoot down the first three jet planes over Berlin.


[Annotator's Note: Dr. Roscoe Brown served in the USAAF as a fighter pilot in the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, 15th Air Force. He flew 68 combat missions, including a bomber escort mission to Berlin during which he shot down one of the first German Me-262 jet fighters to be downed over that city. By the end of the war Brown was the commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron.] The Berlin mission on 24 March 1945 was the longest mission of the 15th Air Force. The mission was 1,600 miles round trip. The 15th Air Force was going to hit the Daimler Benz tank factory. Brown's group [Annotator's Note: the 332nd Fighter Group] got the word the night before that they would be escorting the first leg of the bombers then they would be relieved by the 52nd Fighter Group which would take the bombers over the target. On the return they would be picked up by the 325th Fighter Group. The 75 gallon wing tanks they had at the time were not big enough to get them where they had to go. They needed 110 gallon tanks which they picked up at Bari. The ground crew worked all night and got the tanks installed and all 54 planes ready for the mission. The group commander, Colonel Davis [Annotator's Note: then Colonel, later USAF General, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.], led the mission. When they made the rendezvous with the bombers and were about 200 miles from Berlin, the plane Davis was flying developed engine trouble and he had to go back to base. The commander of the 301st Fighter Squadron took over. Brown was leading the 100th Fighter Squadron. Instead of being at the front of the flight, Brown was at the back of the squadron because he did not anticipate any enemy attacks. They found out that the 52nd Fighter Group did not show up so they decided that they would stay with the bombers for as long as they could. When they were over Berlin, Brown saw streaks that he recognized as being jets [Annotator's Note: German Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighter aircraft]. The jets were coming up to attack the bombers so Brown called for his pilots to drop their tanks and follow him. He dropped down under the bombers and started heading away from the jet so the jet pilot did not see him. He then turned into the German pilot's blind spot, lined him up in his electronic gun sight, opened fire, and blew the enemy jet up. This was the first jet shot down over Berlin. Two of Brown's wingmen chased other jets down to the deck. One of the jets flew into the ground and they shot the other one down. Those were the first three jets shot down over Berlin. Two other jets were damaged, including a Me-163 [Annotator's Note: German Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet jet fighter aircraft]. Two American pilots were lost, one of which may have been shot down by a jet. Later on, the 31st Fighter Group shot down a couple more jets. Brown also tangled with a captured P-51 [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft]. The Germans would use captured P-51s to try to lead the American pilots off or shoot them down. Brown had lost contact with his wingman during the dogfight with the jet. When he saw the silhouette of a P-51 he decided to join it. As he pulled up to join him he noticed that it had German markings on it. Brown tried to shoot the enemy plane down but was low on fuel and decided to break contact and return to base. He flew 700 miles to an alternate base in northern Italy to refuel. After refueling he flew back to Ramitelli [Annotator's Note: Ramitelli, Italy, where the 332nd Fighetr Group was based]. The group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for their part in the mission on 24 March 1945. The presentation of the award was written about in the Stars and Stripes and other papers from the black press. During that mission, Brown believes that the 332nd Fighter Group was escorting the 483rd Bomb Group. After returning to Ramitelli, the pilots went to the officers club for a couple of drinks. Brown had been in the air for six hours and was tired. Then the following day the press wanted them. Brown was flown to Rome for a press conference. The 15th Air Force wanted to brag about this. He did a series of interviews then was back in the air flying missions. The biggest day for the Tuskegee Airmen was 31 March when they shot down 13 planes on a fighter sweep. Brown thinks it was unfair because by that time the Germans were putting unskilled pilots in the air. The following day they shot down 12 more planes. The biggest months for the Tuskegee Airmen were July and October 1944 and May and April 1945.


The first plane Dr. Roscoe Brown shot down was a Me-262 [Annotator's Note: German Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighter aircraft] jet fighter during a bomber escort mission [Annotator's Note: to Berlin, Germany on 24 March 1945]. On a fighter sweep, he spotted some aircraft and led his squadron in an attack. He shot down an Fw-190 [Annotator's Note: German Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighter aircraft]. Brown was the operations officer at the time of the fighter sweep. He did not become squadron commander until later on. Brown was responsible for setting the batting order. He would assign who would fly with whom. He always tried to match an experienced pilot with a new pilot. About two days after a mission the gun camera footage would be developed and shown in the base theater. Guys who made claims that turned out to be false got booed and those whose claims were affirmed were cheered. The K14 electronic gunsight worked great. The gun camera footage of Brown shooting down the jet was lost in a fire. Brown feels that the success of the Tuskegee Airmen was owed to two people, Colonel Noel Parrish [Annotator's Note: USAF Brigadier General Noel Parrish] at the Tuskegee Army Air Base and their commander, Ben Davis [Annotator's Note: USAF General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.]. Davis was the first black officer to graduate from West Point in the 20th Century when he graduated in 1936. During the time Davis was at West Point he was isolated by his classmates. He lived by himself, ate by himself and did not talk to any of the other cadets, but still came out in the top ten percent of his class. Davis's father had been the first black general in the Army. Davis was a great commander. Davis insisted that they be disciplined because he knew that this was an opportunity for them to prove themselves. Davis insisted that they stay with the bombers. Davis was not a great combat pilot but he was a competent pilot and did a great job. Davis led them in combat and would punish and fine the men when they did things they were not supposed to. One incident Brown was fined for was when a visiting general was standing on the roof of the villa watching Brown and the other pilots coming in to land. Brown flew in under the wires and was so low that he blew the generals hat off. Brown left the service when he was 23 and started graduate school at 23 or 24. To put it into perspective, today's 31 is yesterday's 21. Back then, life expectancy was 65 and its now about 80. World War 2 was about young people fighting for their country. Back then they had selective service and everybody had to serve. Brown feels that there should be national service today in the military, Peace Corps or hospital corps to get that feeling of service. When Brown first shipped overseas he would fly planes that were assigned to other pilots, mainly P-51-C [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] models. Around December [Annotator's Note: December 1944], they started getting new P-51-Ds. When Brown got his plane he named it after his daughter Dorris whose nickname was Bunny. In bubble letters on the left side of the plane the name Bunny is painted in red. Brown let his crew chief name the other side of the plane. The crew chief's girlfriend had been the football queen at Kentucky State so on the right side of the plane is painted Miss Kentucky State. The P-51 is the sports car of airplanes. An African-American aeronautical engineer helped design part of the P-51.


Dr. Roscoe Brown’s crew chief was Marcellus Smith whose nickname was Chow Hound. He was a very dedicated crew chief. Brown would sometimes help Smith work on the plane. They kept the plane looking good. It was part of the pride. The late Lee Archer [Annotators Note: USAF Lieutenant Colonel Lee Andrew Archer, Jr.], who shot down five planes and was their only ace, named his plane Ina the Macon Belle after his wife. Archer and his crew chief, Bevens, did the same thing as Brown and Smith as far as caring for the plane. Archer left before the war was over. He flew a C model. After the war Brown and Archer hooked up and were best friends. They formed the Tuskegee Airmen organization in 1972 when many of the pilots who stayed in the military after the war were forced to retire because they had reached their 28 or 30 years. Tuskegee Airmen, Incorporated has met every year since. They have a scholarship program, the Youth in Aviation program, and a heritage program. Also, with the movies about them, the Tuskegee Airmen movie in 1995 and The Red Tails, most of the world knows about them. Having movies made about them is very rewarding and exciting. They did not expect it to happen. They did as best they could and when the war was over they knew they had done well. They faced challenges in this country like racism and segregation, raising their families, economic development, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the civil rights revolution, and the wars in the Persian Gulf. The Tuskegee Airmen represented a group who did their job against the stereotypes. Their record itself told a story. Ira Eaker [Annotators Note: US Army Air Forces General Ira C. Eaker] recognized their accomplishments. Harry Truman [Annotators Note: 33rd President of the United States Harry S. Truman] integrated the military in 1948 but it took years. School integration was legally passed in 1954 but actually did not get implemented until 1970. They reflect on how much they accomplished and they reflect on the challenges to young people to make more positive things happen. The gap between the very rich and the average citizen is so great that we should be embarrassed. Everybody should have the chance to do the best they can. The people of Brown’s generation have recognized that they maybe did not do everything right but they did make changes and most of those changes were positive. When people think of the Tuskegee Airmen, Brown wants them to think about excellence, pride, and accomplishments.


Dr. Roscoe Brown was attacking a train one time. He was leading the squadron [Annotator's Note: 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, 15th Air Force] and when the bullets started coming at them he dove down some to reduce the exposure to his wingman. When he passed over the train, he felt the plane rock and thought he had been hit by antiaircraft fire. He flew the plane back to base and landed and when he pulled into the revetment, his crew chief reached up into the wing and pulled out a piece of wood with German writing on it. He had actually hit the train when he flew over it. Four feet more and Brown would have been killed. Another close call Brown had was while he was operations officer and was testing planes. He forgot the plane he was flying had wing tanks on it and he stalled out. He got the plane down but it was a rough landing and he was knocked out. The ground crew got him out of the plane just before the fuel ignited and the plane burned up. Things like that happened but they did not let them deter them. They liked the challenge and tried to do the best they could. Brown took some of his wartime tenacity into his professional life. He also took the leadership skills he learned into his professional life. Brown was not in the military long although he had had military training since he was 14 starting with ROTC [Annotator's Note: Reserve Officer Training Corps]. He was discharged with the rank of captain. He had been promoted to captain in April [Annotator's Note: April 1945], right after he shot down the jet fighter. He also became squadron commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron after the commander rotated back home. He was squadron commander for five or six months. When Brown came back, he left the service to attend graduate school. Before that he wanted to fly airlines for a year or so. He applied at Eastern Airlines but was told that they did not hire Negroes. He started graduate school at Columbia then got an offer to teach and coach at West Virginia State College. He went there and taught and coached football, basketball and baseball. He coached the first black player in the NBA, Earl Lloyd. From West Virginia State College Brown went to graduate school at New York University and got his master's degree in 1949 then his Ph.D. in 1951. The project he was working on was funded by the Air Force. His professor at NYU, Leonard Lawson, had been his professor back at Springfield College and he gave Brown the chance to be the head of the laboratory doing the analysis on oxygen depth and lactic acid as indicators of physical fitness. That gave Brown the opportunity to teach while he was still working on his Ph.D. By 1960, Brown was a full professor. From there, Brown headed the African-American Institute at New York University for seven years, then went to the Bronx Community College where he was president for 16 or 17 years, and since then he has been at the Graduate Center working in education policy. The G.I. Bill and federally assisted housing were the best things to come out of the war. Brown would have gotten his degree anyway because he had a fellowship and was a scholarship student. He also worked two jobs. The civil rights movement and student movement began in the 1960s. That was a changing point in society but some people resisted it. All of the Tuskegee Airmen had different roles in the civil rights movement. Brown was a researcher and educator and did some of the research on some of the civil rights issues. He was an expert witness in the Supreme Court case desegregating recreational facilities in Baltimore County. He also worked with the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA to integrate them. As one of the first black professors at NYU, he provided leadership for some of the faculty groups to support programs like the Freedom Rides. The Boys and Girls Club in Louisville, Kentucky did a study in 1954 on delinquency that they requested Brown to do. Brown agreed to do the study but refused to stay at a segregated headquarters. Brown was one of the first to stay in an integrated headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. As the civil rights movement was progressing, Brown helped bring the black clubs and white clubs together. Brown feels that the most important thing for people to take away from this is respect for each other. The gap between the well off and the not so well off is so wide that the people in the lower segments of society have kind of given up. It is the duty of those like Brown who have achieved, to reach out to those who have not. Not necessarily doing formal things, but things like taking a group of kids to a museum or an air show. It is important for people to see something and want to know more about it. The National WWII Museum has done a good job with this because people can hear what it was like right from the horse's mouth.


Dr. Roscoe Brown says that the scene in the film "Red Tails" where the pilots were standing on the air field doing a war chant was just Hollywood. The actors in the film bonded with each other. Lee Archer and Brown were consultants on the film and met the actors. The film was shot in Prague at an old Soviet air base that was made to look just like the base at Ramitelli. Some of the scenes were embellishments but the larger scenes were right. Working on the movie was a very rewarding experience. The HBO movie "Tuskegee Airmen" that was put out in the 1990s was more of a documentary and let people know who the Tuskegee Airmen were. The Red Tails movie was really based on what they did as combat pilots. There was also a very big difference in budgets for the films. The Tuskegee Airmen are very proud of both projects as well as receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. Life on base at Ramitelli when they were not flying consisted of a lot of talking and playing cards. They also played touch football and baseball against the other squadrons. When the weather was good they flew almost every day. They would fly three or four days then get a day off. Most of the time they only had time to write a letter or listen to music because they had to be up early in the morning for their briefings. During the winter there was a long period where they did not fly much because of bad weather. That is when they did a lot of socializing and talking. Every two months they were sent to a rest camp. The enlisted men did not have the physically challenging life that the pilots had but they could not have done what they did without them. The ground crews kept their planes in very good shape. Brown thinks that the museum [Annotator's Note: The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana] is a great idea and is glad to participate in the museum's oral history program. The first time Brown got into a P-51 [Annotator's Note: North American P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft] after the war was in the 1980s when he flew in the back seat of a two-seater. It was great. It was like riding a bicycle. Brown has been back to Tuskegee many times. It is an island of history. George Washington Carver did his research there. When Brown returned to Tuskegee he felt like he was going home. Tuskegee is part of American history.

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You may receive the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only the specific clips that you requested. Please contact the Museum at if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to four weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address.