The Tuskegee Airmen

1995 television film directed by Robert Markowitz

The Tuskegee Airmen is a 1995 HBO television movie based on the exploits of an actual groundbreaking unit, the first African American combat pilots in the United States Army Air Force, that fought in World War II.

Directed by Robert Markowitz. Written by Paris Qualles, Trey Ellis, Ron Hutchinson, Robert Wayland Williams, and T. S. Cook.
The right spirit. The right attitude. The wrong color.taglines

Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis

  • Every colored pilot in the the 99th went through his own private hell to wear those wings. Each of those men carry not only the dream of becoming American Military Aviators but the hopes of an entire people as well. Am I the only one here that understands what that means? I was brought up to believe that beneath it all Americans are a decent people with an abiding sense of integrity and fair play. The cheers I heard across this country when Joe Louis and Jesse Owens humiliated Hitler's "Master Race" didn't just come from proud colored folks. They came from everyone. How are we to interpret that? As a United States Army Officer who gladly puts his life on the line everyday there's no greater conflict within me. How do I feel about my country? And how does my country feel about me? Are we only to be Americans when the mood suits you?

2nd Lt. Glenn

  • Friends die in our business, and for a lot of reasons. And the only protection you have against losing one is not to have any.
  • [Cadet Johns has just died in a crash] Cadet Lewis Johns just taught you the most important lesson you'll learn here at Tuskegee. If you don't believe in God, you'd better find a damn good substitute.

Major Sherman Joy

  • The four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. Of these, I call your attention to two: air and fire. Though it is your privilege to live in the air, you will die by fire.
  • You, people. Don't you know how bad we treat you, people? Serving your country? This ain't your country. Your country is full of apes and gorillas, malaria, missionaries...


Eleanor Roosevelt: How would you gauge the progress of your colored flyers?
Col. Rogers: I'd say their progress is commensurate with the standards of the training command, ma'am.
Eleanor Roosevelt: Plain English, Colonel. Does that mean you are or aren't satisfied?
Col. Rogers: I'm very satisfied, ma'am.
Eleanor Roosevelt: Good. Then I want a ride in one of your airplanes.
Col. Rogers: Major, take the First Lady up in that Stearman over there. Take a couple of loops around the field.
Eleanor Roosevelt: No. I want to ride with him. [Pointing at one of the darker skinned pilots] Is that a problem, gentlemen? I thought you said these men were trained. Surely, the addition of an old lady in the rear seat won't unravel that confidence.
Col. Rogers: No, ma'am.
Eleanor Roosevelt: Good. And when I'm finished you can also tell me why these pilots are still here... and not overseas fighting for their country like the rest of our boys.

Major Sherman Joy: Mrs. Roosevelt, Lieutenant Lee.
Eleanor Roosevelt: Good afternoon, young man.
Hannibal 'Iowa' Lee Jr.: Good afternoon, ma'am.
Eleanor Roosevelt: It's turned into a beautiful day for an airplane ride.
Hannibal 'Iowa' Lee Jr.: Yes, ma'am.
Billy 'A-Train' Roberts: That isn't who I think it is, is it?
Lt. Glenn: Lieutenant Lee's about to make all your dreams come true.
Leroy Cappy: What do you mean?
Lt. Glenn: Take a good look around you, gentlemen. I suspect Alabama will soon become a fond memory.

Benjamin O. Davis: At ease. You're up awfully early today.
Hannibal Lee: I haven't gotten much sleep, sir.
Benjamin O. Davis: We're all gonna miss him, Hannibal. The really sad thing is, he's going to miss this. [Hands over a medal] Distinguished flying cross for taking out the destroyer. General Crow will be here next week to officially present it to you. There's something else. [Hands over a pair of captain rank bars] Congratulations, Captain Lee.
Hannibal Lee: Thank you, Sir.
Benjamin O. Davis: The word's in about our next mission. Berlin. And we weren't assigned, we were requested.

Hannibal Lee: Straighten up...
Billy Roberts: right.
  • The catchphrase was derived from the 1944 top-40 hit record, "Straighten Up and Fly Right" by The King Cole Trio led by Nat King Cole.


  • The right spirit. The right attitude. The wrong color.
  • They Were Our Country's Best Defense ... And Its Greatest Glory.


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