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Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English

How the Tuskegee Airmen Broke Racial Barriers

Before World War II, the United States did not let African-Americans serve as pilots in military aircraft. A group known as the Tuskegee Airmen helped to end that policy.

BEVERLY DUNJILL: " Information about the pilots in the news is - was a big secret to - as far as this country was concerned." Stories about the Tuskegee Airmen were a reason why Kenyatta Ruffin decided to become a pilot in the Air Force.

CAPTAIN KENYATTA RUFFIN: "I owe to conduct my life and to strive for excellence in the same manner that they did." After completing a study program at the Air Force Academy, Kenyatta Ruffin became a fighter pilot. He was sent to Iraq, where he got a big surprise.

CAPTAIN KENYATTA RUFFIN: "I landed at Balad Air Base, Iraq. And Balad was the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which is a direct legacy, the same unit as the 332nd Fighter Group of the Tuskegee Airmen." Captain Kenyatta says he has been the only African-American pilot in many places where he served.

CAPTAIN RUFFIN: "In most of the units I've been in I've been the only African-American pilot."