WATCH: Tuskegee Airmen Remembered at PIT

By Bob Kerlik and Julie Bercik

Published September 25, 2023

Read Time: 2 mins


It’s been 10 years since Pittsburgh International Airport and a local Tuskegee Airmen group dedicated a memorial exhibit in Concourse A.

Last week, airport and military officials joined the group again in celebrating the anniversary with a new plaque for the exhibit.

Dr. Kimberly Slater-Wood, the daughter of Tuskegee Airman Harold Slater and president of the Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Greater Pittsburgh organization, used the occasion to commemorate the airmen like her father, who have since passed on.

“This is why we celebrate today—the flight instructors, the pilots, the bombardiers, the navigators, the aircraft mechanics and the other technically skilled flight support personnel—because of their bravery, because of their courage and because of their fearlessness in perseverance,” Slater-Wood said.

She said her father never spoke of his service until local historian Rege Bobonis Sr. interviewed him in 2012.

“My dad shared how the Nazi prisoners had recreational activity—swimming, tennis and soccer—and would mock the Black soldiers. I asked my dad, ‘How did that make you feel?” Slater-Wood said. “And his response was, ‘I was just proud to serve my country.’”

The new plaque honoring the occasion was installed after the ceremony remarks, which included comments from Col. Troy Wing, of the 171st Air Refueling Wing at PIT, and Jeff Immel, Senior Vice President for Legal Affairs and airport general counsel, who served as a Navy fighter pilot.

“I encourage all of you to take a few moments to reflect on the magnitude of the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen and how their sacrifices and contributions not only helped us win a war but how it helped us move forward as a nation,” Wing said.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aviators and military support soldiers in what was then still a racially segregated U.S. armed forces. According to Bobonis’ research, the Pittsburgh region sent the largest contingent of Black airmen trained at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, including the only female mechanic.

“Western Pennsylvania was home to more than 100 brave men and one trailblazing woman who helped defeat our enemies during World War II and challenged segregation and Jim Crow laws upon their return to the United States,” Immel said.

“Unfortunately, nearly all of them have since passed on. That’s why it’s even more important to continue to tell their story and keep their memory alive for future generations.”

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