CLEVELAND — In the shadow of the modern Cleveland skyline, you’ll find a piece of history this weekend. The Cleveland National Air Show is debuting a T-6G trainer aircraft, used during World War II to train some of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
“I was kind of overcome for a minute [when I saw it],” said Eldora Levert, a retired Major from the U.S. Army Nurses Corps. “It’s like I could just feel the spirit of the men and the women and everything they went through to accomplish what they did.”
The historic aircraft, acquired by the Army Air Forces in 1943, was assigned to AAF Base Unit in Tuskegee, Alabama during the final years of the war. The site trained the country’s first African American military aviators, who overcame segregation and racism to eventually fly more than 1,500 missions and defeat more than 260 enemy aircraft.
“The airmen wanted to be in the war, they fought to get into the war and when they got into the war, they were absolutely superb at what they did,” said Levert.
The aircraft, which belongs to the Tuskegee Airmen National Museum in Detroit, joins the Air Show’s recurring Tuskegee Airmen exhibit.
“We bring this tent here every year because there’s a group of us who feel it’s absolutely important to spread the history of these men and to share with anyone and everyone who will listen to what they did during WWII,” Levert explained.
She noted barriers were broken, not only by the airmen, but also by support staff at the Tuskegee Airfield, many of whom were African-American women.
“The women, in addition to being nurses, were mechanics, they drove trucks, they dug ditches, they built bridges,” she said. “They did some of everything.”
Lavert said the biggest lesson she hopes visitors take away from the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit is how unity and patriotism can triumph over division.
“We’re all in this together and I think things would work a whole lot better if more people realized - this is about all of us,” she said.
The Cleveland National Air Show is happening from September 3-5. Gates open each day at 9 a.m. There’s no entry after 3 p.m. Find more detailsby clicking here.
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