I have followed with interest the debate about whether or not these pilots lost a bomber in their care whilst flying fighter escort. For some reason the claim is being made that they did, the evidence points to the reverse case though the fog of war must be still making its contribution.
I met one such airman many years ago, he was designing car interiors for Vauxall Motors in Luton as I remember. His name was ‘Arc’ and he flew the P51 for the 15th. He gave testimony to the discrimination they received during the war but stood well above it as he described his time with the unit. If they were anything like him I doubt there are many readers who would not have been honored to serve with them.
Here is an article from Avweb that makes things a little clearer for those similarly interested.
“Were bombers shot down by enemy fighters while the Tuskegee airmen were in the sky? The answer is yes. However, the Tuskegee Airmen can also state with accuracy that, while under their protection, no bomber was shot down.
The Tuskegee Airmen were a fighter group stationed with the 15th Air Force in Italy. Most people are not even aware that the 15th AF existed, because so little has been written about it. Virtually all books cover the 8th AF in England. The 15th was much smaller than the 8th. The 15th consisted of five B-17 bomber groups, about 20 B-24 bomber groups, and several P-38 and P-51 fighter groups. My grandfather commanded one of the B-17 groups. The Tuskegee Airmen were one of the P-51 fighter groups.
The 15th AF bombed targets in Germany, Poland, Austria, and Western Europe every day that weather permitted. A given bomber group did not fly a mission every day. There was some rotation. Usually, a group had two or three days off between missions. For maximum-effort periods, though, a bomber group did fly two or three days in a row. The fighter groups flew under the same arrangement. The five B-17 groups usually bombed the same target, while the B-24 groups bombed other targets. The 15th AF was not organized the same as, and did not fly the same formations as, the 8th AF did. Each 15th AF bomb group contributed about 30 bombers to a given mission.
All bombers within a group flew in a tight formation together, but groups did not join up with each other. Rather, the groups flew about five miles apart in a stream along the same flight path, so there was a lot of empty sky between each group. The five B-17 groups, for example, made up a stream about 20-miles long. One fighter group was assigned escort duty to protect the bombers. There was no way, however, that the fighters could protect every group in the 20-mile string all at once. So they hopped from group to group, eventually making their way along the entire 20-mile stream.
The enemy fighter pilots were not stupid. They simply attacked the bomber groups that weren’t currently being escorted. When the escort fighters were up with the lead bomber group, the enemy fighters attacked a bomber group further back, and vise versa.
So while it can be said that bombers were shot down, it can also be said that the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber they were protecting to enemy fighters. They successfully protected the bombers they were with at the moment. It isn’t fair for someone to claim the Tuskegee Airmen (or any fighter group) were responsible for losing a bomber that was five or more miles away from them.”
Ford J. Lauer III