This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
March 19 is the 78th day of the year (79th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 287 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, is activated.
The Tuskegee Airmen is the popular name of a group of African American pilots who fought in World War II. Formally, they were the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, African Americans in many U.S. states still were subject to racist Jim Crow laws. The American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subject to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. Despite these adversities, they trained and flew with distinction. Although the 477th Bombardment Group “worked up” on North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, they never served in combat; the Tuskegee 332nd Fighter Group was the only operational unit, first sent overseas as part of Operation Torch, then in action in Sicily and Italy, before being deployed as bomber escorts in Europe where they were particularly successful in their missions.
The Tuskegee Airmen initially were equipped with Curtiss P-40 Warhawks fighter-bomber aircraft, briefly with Bell P-39 Airacobras (March 1944), later with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts (June-July 1944), and finally the fighter group acquired the aircraft with which they became most commonly associated, the North American P-51 Mustang (July 1944). When the pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group painted the tails of their P-47’s red, the nickname “Red Tails” was coined. Bomber crews applied a more effusive “Red-Tail Angels” sobriquet.
Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African American had become a U.S. military pilot. In 1917, African-American men had tried to become aerial observers, but were rejected, however, African American Eugene Bullard served as one of the members of the Franco-American Lafayette Escadrille. Nonetheless, he was denied the opportunity to transfer to American military units as a pilot when the other American pilots in the unit were offered the chance. Instead, Bullard returned to infantry duty with the French.
The racially motivated rejections of World War I African-American recruits sparked over two decades of advocacy by African-Americans who wished to enlist and train as military aviators. The effort was led by such prominent civil rights leaders as Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, labor union leader A. Philip Randolph, and Judge William H. Hastie. Finally, on 3 April 1939, Appropriations Bill Public Law 18 was passed by Congress containing an amendment designating funds for training African-American pilots. The War Department managed to deflect the monies into funding civilian flight schools willing to train black Americans.
War Department tradition and policy mandated the segregation of African-Americans into separate military units staffed by white officers, as had been done previously with the 9th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry, 24th Infantry Regiment and 25th Infantry Regiment. When the appropriation of funds for aviation training created opportunities for pilot cadets, their numbers diminished the rosters of these older units. A further series of legislative moves by the United States Congress in 1941 forced the Army Air Corps to form an all-black combat unit, despite the War Department’s reluctance.
Due to the restrictive nature of selection policies, the situation did not seem promising for African-Americans since, in 1940, the U.S. Census Bureau reported only 124 African-American pilots in the nation. The exclusionary policies failed dramatically when the Air Corps received an abundance of applications from men who qualified, even under the restrictive requirements. Many of the applicants already had participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, in which the historically black Tuskegee Institute had participated since 1939.
1279 – A Mongolian victory in the Battle of Yamen ends the Song Dynasty in China.
1687 – Explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle, searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, is murdered by his own men.
1853 – The Taiping reform movement occupies and makes Nanjing its capital until 1864.
1861 – The First Taranaki War ends in New Zealand.
1863 – The SS Georgiana, said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, is destroyed on her maiden voyage with a cargo of munitions, medicines and merchandise then valued at over $1,000,000.
1865 – American Civil War: The Battle of Bentonville begins. By the end of the battle two days later, Confederate forces had retreated from Four Oaks, North Carolina.
1885 – Louis Riel declares a Provisional Government in Saskatchewan, beginning the North-West Rebellion.
1915 – Pluto is photographed for the first time but is not recognized as a planet.
1916 – Eight American planes take off in pursuit of Pancho Villa, the first United States air-combat mission in history.
1918 – The U.S. Congress establishes time zones and approves daylight saving time.
1920 – The United States Senate rejects the Treaty of Versailles for the second time (the first time was on November 19, 1919).
1921 – Irish War of Independence: One of the biggest engagements of the war takes place at Crossbarry, County Cork. About 100 Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers escape an attempt by over 1,300 British forces to encircle them.
1921 – Italian Fascists shoot from the Parenzana train at a group of children in Strunjan (Slovenia): two children are killed, two mangled and three wounded.
1931 – Gambling is legalized in Nevada.
1932 – The Sydney Harbour Bridge is opened.
1941 – World War II: The 99th Pursuit Squadron also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, is activated.
1943 – Frank Nitti, the Chicago Outfit Boss after Al Capone, commits suicide at the Chicago Central Railyard.
1944 – World War II: Nazi forces occupy Hungary.
1945 – World War II: Off the coast of Japan, a dive bomber hits the aircraft carrier USS Franklin, killing 724 of her crew. Badly damaged, the ship is able to return to the U.S. under her own power.
1945 – World War II: Adolf Hitler issues his “Nero Decree” ordering all industries, military installations, shops, transportation facilities and communications facilities in Germany to be destroyed.
1946 – French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion become overseas départements of France.
1954 – Joey Giardello knocks out Willie Tory in round seven at Madison Square Garden in the first televised prize boxing fight shown in colour.
1954 – Willie Mosconi sets a world record by running 526 consecutive balls without a miss during a straight pool exhibition at East High Billiard Club in Springfield, Ohio. The record still stands today.
1958 – The Monarch Underwear Company fire leaves 24 dead and 15 injured.
1962 – Algerian War of Independence: A ceasefire takes effect.
1965 – The wreck of the SS Georgiana, valued at over $50,000,000 and said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, is discovered by then teenage diver and pioneer underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence, exactly 102 years after its destruction.
1966 – Texas Western becomes the first college basketball team to win the Final Four with an all-black starting lineup.
1969 – The 385 metres (1,263 ft) tall TV-mast at Emley Moor, United Kingdom, collapses due to ice build-up.
1979 – The United States House of Representatives begins broadcasting its day-to-day business via the cable television network C-SPAN.
1982 – Falklands War: Argentinian forces land on South Georgia Island, precipitating war with the United Kingdom.
1987 – Televangelist Jim Bakker resigns as head of the PTL Club due to a brewing sex scandal; he hands over control to Jerry Falwell.
1989 – The Egyptian Flag is raised on Taba, Egypt announcing the end of the Israeli occupation after the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the peace negotiations in 1979.
2002 – Zimbabwe is suspended from the Commonwealth on charges of human rights abuses and of electoral fraud, following a turbulent presidential election.
2003 – United States President George W. Bush orders the start of war against Iraq.
2004 – A Swedish DC-3 shot down by a Russian MiG-15 in 1952 over the Baltic Sea is finally recovered after years of work. The remains of the three crewmen are left in place, pending further investigations.
2008 – GRB 080319B: A cosmic burst that is the farthest object visible to the naked eye is briefly observed.
2011 – Libyan civil war: After the failure of Muammar Gaddafi’s forces to take Benghazi, French Air Force launches Opération Harmattan, beginning Foreign Military Intervention in Libya.
* Christian Feast Day:
o Joseph of Nazareth (Western Christianity)
* Earliest day on which Maundy Thursday can fall, while April 22 is the latest; celebrated on Thursday before Easter. (Christianity)
* Mojoday (Discordianism)
* Saint Joseph’s Day (Roman Catholicism and Church of England) related observances:
o Father’s Day (Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Honduras, and Bolivia)
o Las Fallas, celebrated on the week leading to March 19. (Valencia)
* The Kashubians’ Unity Day.