Georgetown County honoring original Tuskegee Airmen

History buffs and those wanting to learn more about a pivotal portion of World War II are encouraged to come to the Georgetown County Airport Saturday for an event honoring the original Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African-American military pilots in the U.S. Air Force.

Johnny Thompson, historian for the Hiram E. Mann Chapter of Walterboro, S.C., said this is the first time an event profiling the Tuskegee Airmen is coming to Georgetown County. Right now, around six of the original members are expected to attend.

“It’s just a lot of interest now,” Thompson said.

He credits a lot of that interest to this year’s release of the movie “Red Tails.” Produced by “Star Wars” mastermind George Lucas, the film takes a look at the hardships these pilots endured before joining the fight in Europe.

Thompson added it’s important to celebrate the Tuskegee Airmen’s contribution to the war effort, which stayed in anonymity until 1972, because so many of the original members are getting into their 90s.

“Most of them are passing on, so the interest is all over the world right now,” Thompson said.

Ray Funnye, Georgetown County’s director of public services, said Saturday’s event at the airport is being preceded Friday night by a 7 p.m. showing of “Red Tails” at Howard Auditorium, located at 110 Hawkins St. in Georgetown.

Saturday’s events at the airport kick off at 9 a.m. There will be vintage aircraft displays, including a P-51 airplane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen during the war, Funnye said.

He expects between 500 to 700 attendees on Saturday. The event, he added, is not only an opportunity to promote the county’s airport, but more importantly, a good educational opportunity for young people to learn more about this particular moment in history.

In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were collectively awarded a Gold Medal by Congress.

“It’s just a piece of history that’s long past due,” Thompson said.