World War II has been the backdrop for many fiction as well
as non-fiction books over the past fifty years.
However, unfortunately, there has not been a great deal of
literature devoted to the humiliating experiences suffered
by African Americans at the hands of their white comrades.
It is difficult to comprehend, even in time of war, how a
nation can tolerate racism within their arm forces.
We may ask innocently were not Whites and African Americans
all on the same side fighting a common enemy?
How do you rationalize the non-accessibility of African
American officers to the officer club, the base swimming
pool and the movie theatre?
It was no wonder that this brought on race riots.
Moreover, it is mind-boggling that only up to recently was
there any kind of concerted effort to recognize the
important contributions of African Americans to the war
efforts of World War II.
One such contribution was that of the Tuskegee Airmen who
were called The Black Eagles or as the Germans referred to
them as the Der Schvartze Adler.
These African Americans were young men who volunteered to
become America’s first black military airmen.
It took author Stanley Weisleder ten years to diligently research and seven years to write his superb novel The Black Eagles that tells the story of these brave African American pilots who gave it all in order to defend democracy and perhaps a better life at home.
More particularly, it is a story that centres on the
military experiences of Lee A. “Buddy” Archer Jr., who
remains the only confirmed ace of the famed Tuskegee Airmen,
a group of black pilots, who never lost an allied bomber to
enemy action in 200 escort missions.
It was experiences filled with near death episodes while
defending America and at the same time being subjected to
cruel and racist behaviour on the part of his white comrades
Furthermore, there was the added indignity emanating from
the premise proffered by the Army Air Corp bureaucracy that
“Negroes were decidedly inferior, lacking in courage,
superstitious and dominated by moral and character
However, hard-eyed and independent, Buddy Bowman was not
prepared to accept this official policy and he was
successful in “bucking” the system and refuting these
What is commendable about Weisleder’s writing and something
he referred to in his “Acknowledgements” was the effective
use of dialogue. As he indicates, it is important “to put
flesh on the dialogue and shape it into a readable story.”
Weisleder definitely practices what he preaches and no doubt
he is a writer to watch.
As a postscript, it is interesting to note that the American
Armed Forces was totally segregated until 1949 when
President Truman signed an Executive Order mandating
integration. The Air Force had been the first to comply
followed by the Army in 1956 and the Navy and Marine Corp in