Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Black and White Airmen: Their True Story

Black and White Airmen: Their True Story

John Fleischman
For ages 12 and up
Houghton Mifflin, 2007   ISBN: 978-0618562978

Herbert Heilbrun and John Leahr had grown up in the same city, lived in the same neighborhood, gone to the same school, and even been in the same class. Later, as adults, both young men became pilots fighting against the German Reich. But, because Herbert was white and John was black the two men did not become friends until after the war, when the racial barrier finally began to come done.

In 1944 the Army Air Force "grudgingly" allowed a few select young African American to get pilot training at a special facility in Tuskegee, Alabama. The African American pilots were kept separated from their white counterparts at all times, except for in the air. They had to battle with their superiors to get assigned to combat duty and they had to battle for resources and fair treatment. In spite of the discrimination, the squadrons the Tuskegee pilots formed had extraordinary records. They brought their bombers home, they shot down large numbers of German planes, and they proved to the world that African Americans could indeed fly planes.

Because the white and black pilots were kept separate, it was only many years after the war that Herb and John met in person and realized that they had been fighting the same fight. John had been flying one of the Redtail P-51 fighters which had escorted bombers like Herb's to and from missions. John, in all likelihood. had saved Herb's plane and his crew on several of those perilous flights.

This singular book not only tells the story of two World War II pilots, but it also tells the story of racism in America, and it tells the story of two men who formed a very special relationship when they met again, on the ground, fifty years later. Together Herbert and John took on the job of educating the public about race relations and the need for understanding between white and African Americans.

This book is an excellent tribute to the all the white and the African American pilots who served in World War II. It is also a fitting tribute to these two men who still do their best to serve their country and their people by advocating peace and mutual cooperation.