Many black men traveled oversees to join the French Army where they learned hand to hand combat and received pilot licenses. Eugene Bullard and Bessie Coleman were the pioneers of black pilots, and the inspiration of the Tuskegee Airfield. On January 11th, 1943 was the first time in history that air power won the surrender of a ground target, and this was due to the strike from the 99th Squadron. At this time in 1943, the black Army pilots still had not earned respect from many of their white counterparts and much of the American nation. By the end of 1945, the 99th, 332nd, and 100th, and 301st, had a total of 423 targets destroyed, and 823 damaged targets making them very successful. They had more individual missions than there white counterparts, whom were sent home after 50 missions, some black pilots flew over 60. The airmen became known as the "Red Wings" because they painted their wings and nose the color bright red. This was to distinguish themselves from other American fighter units. They began to become escorts for bomber planes, and were considered "angels" by the bomber pilots. Not once did they loose a bomber plane during the time they escorted them. Once the war ended, after the surrender of Germany and Japan, the 99th, 100th, and 301st Squadrons returned home. .
Many of the white officers that returned home were greeted in the street with cheers, hugs, and kisses from beautiful women. The scene was different when the black pilots and crewmen returned to the home front; America still did not recognize them as "sufficient" combat pilots. Although many of the pilots received purple hearts, legion of merit, silver star, solider metal, flying cross, bronze star, and air metal and clusters. By the end of the war there were 992 pilots that graduated from Tuskegee. The Tuskegee airmen not only opened the doors for black Americans, but they also told the nation that "blacks aren"t going to be looked down on any more.