2014 70¢ C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson
Distinguished Americans Series
“Chief” Anderson was Chief Flight Instructor of the Tuskegee Airmen. He’s been called the Father of Black Aviation and has been compared to Charles Lindbergh.
Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson (1907-1996) did not let the barriers of racial prejudice get in the way of his dream of flying. His diligence paid off when he became the first African American to earn a commercial pilot’s license.
As a child in Pennsylvania, Anderson watched airplanes soar across the sky and knew he wanted to be in the cockpit one day. After high school, he could not find anyone willing to rent him a plane or teach him to fly because of the color of his skin.
In 1929, Anderson bought his own plane and received a private pilot’s license. Three years later, he obtained his commercial license in spite of the inspector’s opposition to testing “a colored boy.” In the next two years, Anderson and a friend became the first black pilots to make a round-trip flight across the U.S. They also flew a goodwill tour of the Caribbean.
As World War II raged in Europe, America prepared for combat. In 1940, Anderson was hired to be Chief Flight Instructor at Tuskegee Institute’s new Civilian Pilot Training Program. By the time peace was restored, the “Chief” had trained nearly 1,000 African-American pilots, who became the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
Anderson blazed a path to the sky for others to follow and earned the title “Father of Black Aviation.”
Artist Sterling Hundley used acrylic paint, watercolor, and oil to produce the artwork for the stamp. The portrait is based on a photo found in the Tuskegee Institute’s flight training school yearbook. Hundley added the goggles and helmet, which are like those used by World War II pilots.
70¢ C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson, issued to pay the rate mail weighing up to two ounces.
Issue Date: March 13, 2014
City: Bryn Mawr, PA, Anderson’s hometown
Printed By: Ashton Potter USA Ltd.
Printing Method: Lithographed in sheets of 160 with 8 panes of 20 per sheet
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut 10 ¾ X 11
Formation Of Tuskegee Airmen
On March 19, 1941, the War Department ordered the creation of the the 99th Pursuit Squadron, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Normal School (later Tuskegee Institute) was founded on July 4, 1881. Its founders were Lewis Adams, a former slave, and George W. Campbell, a former slaveholder, who both believed African American education was of the utmost importance. They selected 25-year-old Booker T. Washington to serve as their first president. Under Washington’s leadership, the school went from using a rundown church to an institute spanning 2,300 acres by the early 20th century.
In 1940, there were only 124 African-American pilots in the U.S. Many had participated in the Civilian Pilot Training Program through the Tuskegee Institute, taught by Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson. But none of them were allowed to fly for the military. The War Department didn’t want to accept African American pilots, so it set a high bar of flight experience and education that it didn’t expect any could meet. But they were wrong, and the U.S. Army Air Corps received a large number of applications from African American men who met their strict requirements.
Ultimately the War Department changed their mind and, on March 19, 1941, ordered the creation of America’s first black military pilot squadron. A few days later, the 99th Flying Squadron was established. The first graduates never saw combat, but as the war progressed later trainees served as escorts for heavy bombers and on bombing raids. In June 1941, they became the 99th Fighter Squadron, complete with ground crew.
By 1942, over 3,000 personnel were training at Tuskegee under the command of Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. In April 1943, the squadron shipped out for its first assignment in North Africa. The 99th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for their part in the assault.
The next year, there were enough graduates to form the all-black 332nd Fighter Group, made up of four squadrons. They escorted bombing raids and dive-bombed and strafed enemy targets.
By the end of the war, 992 pilots had trained at Tuskegee. Of those, 355 were deployed overseas and 84 lost their lives. These men flew 1,578 combat missions, 179 bomber escort missions, and destroyed over 1,300 enemy aircraft, rail cars, trucks, and other vehicles. They were awarded several Silver Stars, 150 Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars, and 744 Air Medals.
The Tuskegee Airmen proved to be some of the best pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After the war, segregation ended in the military and many joined the newly formed Air Force. In 2007, the group was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for the part they played in the war and overcoming prejudice.