By Bradley J. Fikes
Bright sun and enthusiastic crowds welcomed Wings Over Gillespie, an airshow that ran May 3-5, with a theme of “A Salute to American Airpower.”
The Commemorative Air Force, Air Group One, located at Gillespie Field, sponsors the annual airshow.
The airshow included a diverse selection of World War II themes. The Collings Foundation showed its flying B-17 “Flying Fortress” and B-24 “Liberator” combo. The nonprofit foundation flies the planes, which played critical roles in the American air effort, around the country.
Other events included interviews with flying aces, exhibits about the Navajo code talkers, and a discussion of the Tuskegee Airmen, whose success as fighter escorts in protecting bombers is legendary.
The Army Air Force regarded the Tuskegee Airmen as an experiment. Controversial for its time, the plan to make blacks military airmen would not have been attempted were it not for the desperate pressures of war. The experiment was an unqualified success. Shortly thereafter, President Truman desegregated the U.S. Armed Forces.
Danny Allen, president of the San Diego chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, said he joined the group both because he admired its World War II exploits and because of his family history.
“I’ve been interested in aviation all my life,” Allen said. “I had the good fortune that my grandfather along with another gentleman were the first blacks to fly from L.A. to New York in 1932. I saw the HBO movie in 1995, and found out there was a chapter in San Diego, and joined.”
The San Diego chapter has 35 members, and membership is open to anyone, Allen said.
“Our focus is to tell the story, keep it alive for future generations,” Allen said. “Since we’re a nonprofit organization, we raise money for scholarships and business programs for high school kids who want to go into aviation.”
Vendor Christina Black said business was brisk at her kiosk, where aviation related T-shirts, caps and other items were sold.