There is no way around the fact that black Americans have had it tough. No way around segregation, discrimination, and the overall boot of oppression suffered before the days of the Civil Rights movement. There's no sugar coating it. But this group of extraordinary and determined men showed the promise of a nation by demanding to fight for her. And fight they did—doing so from the bottom up just to get an opportunity to train. Prior to the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen, no black American had become a U.S. military pilot or member of an air crew.
Of the hundreds of escort missions flown, The Tuskegee fighter pilots lost only 25* bombers to enemy fire, earning high praise and a reputation as fierce aces. In deed, crews soon requested the Red Tails as escorts, realizing that the only color that mattered on a hairy mission was Red. It is their legacy that helped end segregation in the US military, which also paved the way for desegregation in civilian America.
Therefore, submitted for your approval...
1. Determine the most appropriate brand-positioning attribute.
Although many of the Tuskegee Airmen were highly educated and many had flown as civilians prior to military service, they had to work harder to prove themselves to their own air corps. That type of determination, to triumph over adversity, made these men formidable opponents for the arrogant Luftwaffe pilots.
Triumph over adversity
2. Devise a distinctive way to articulate the brand position.
To triumph, the Tuskegee Airmen rose above prejudice from their own country, above hardships and obstacles thrown at them by their command, and above any doubts in themselves that they may have had.
3. Develop a focused brand personality that customers can use to recommend or introduce your company to others.
Immediately on deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, the Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves in combat. They excelled at bomber escort duty and quickly became personified, not as black airmen, but as superior fighter pilots identified by the Red on the tails of their aircraft.
The Red Tails
4. Establish graphic standards.
RED Tails: Red is not an uncommon color on many aircraft. And while there is no official story about why the Tuskegee Airmen chose red, maybe they took a cue from the Red Baron. It was slightly audacious in order to get noticed, from the ground and from the air, and nothing does that quite like bright red.
Part Two: P-51 Mustang: Not unlike the Red Baron who actually flew various aircraft but was best known for a bright red version of a triplane in WWI, the Tuskegee Airmen also flew several kinds of airplanes, but became identified with the P51 Mustang.
5. Consistently and uniquely execute the branding program.
There were six tenants to the Rise Above slogan of the Red Tails:
- Aim High
- Believe in yourself
- Use your brain
- Never quit
- Be ready to go
- Expect to win
If the proof is in the pudding, then the Red Tails absolutely lived their brand...
Approximately 445 Tuskegee Airmen were deployed overseas, and 150 Airmen lost their lives. The blood cost included sixty-six pilots killed in action or accidents, and thirty-two fallen into captivity as prisoners of war.
- 15,533 combat sorties, 1578 missions
- One hundred and twelve German aircraft destroyed in the air, another 150 on the ground
- Nine hundred and fifty rail cars, trucks and other motor vehicles destroyed
- One destroyer sunk by P-47 machine gun fire
- A good record of protecting U.S. bombers,losing only 25 on hundreds of missions.
Awards and decorations awarded for valor and performance included:
* NOTE: It was once said that no bomber escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen had ever been lost to enemy fire. This statement was repeated for many years, and not challenged because of the esteem of the Tuskegee Airmen, however, Air Force records and eyewitness accounts later showed that at least 25 bombers were lost to enemy fire. So what. Other squadrons lost 25 bombers on single missions. The final takeaway is that whether 0 or 25, the Tuskegee Airmen gave up fewer bombers in their care than any other protecting squadron of fighters. And that's over hundreds of missions.
- Three Distinguished Unit Citations
- 99th Pursuit Squadron: 30 May–11 June 1943 for the capture of Pantelleria, Italy
- 99th Fighter Squadron: 12–14 May 1944: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy
- 332d Fighter Group: 24 March 1945: for the longest bomber escort mission of World War II
- At least one Silver Star
- An estimated one hundred and fifty Distinguished Flying Crosses
- Fourteen Bronze Stars
- Seven hundred and forty-four Air Medals
- Eight Purple Hearts