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red tails

  • Celebrating the heroic life of John "Jack" Lyle, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen

    John “Jack” Lyle next to his fighter jet named after his first wife Natalie during WWII.

    “I don’t consider myself a hero because a hero is somebody who does something beyond the call of duty, I never did anything beyond the call of duty, whatever I did I did because I liked it” Fox News Channel May 4th 2018

    On this Black History Month Cockpit USA pays honor to one of the last surviving heroes of the iconic Tuskegee Airmen group of WWII. The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of black soldiers that defied expectations in a segregated military during a time when it was believed African-Americans couldn’t be trained in aviation. Their bravery and contributions helped promote inclusion in the advancement of the United States military.

    Photo of Tuskegee Airmen During WWII

    John “Jack” Lyle died on January 5th, 2019 at 98 years old in his home in the Chicago South Side. Lyle was a child musician, fighter pilot, cop, a sailor, an entrepreneur, and an amateur inventor. His wife Eunice Jackson-Lyle described him as an individual who loved to learn; “his home had a library stocked with encyclopedias and classic novels”. During his last days, Lyle spent his time at the Jackson Park Harbor on Lake Michigan, a perfect location for one of his many passions, sailing.

    “Captain Jack” as he was called by many loved ones was a highly skilled fighter pilot, "We flew 500 feet above the bombers to keep enemy fighters from hitting our guys," he recalled in a 2012 interview with Jet Magazine. "I loved flying, being up in the clouds, the scenery. I flew 26 combat missions, from southern Italy to Austria and southern Germany, over the Austrian Alps." Lyle also mentioned in the interview on how he was fired upon on several times and how he watched at first-hand other bombers being torn apart by the enemy. After the war, Lyle returned to his hometown of Chicago where he enlisted in college to then work as a skyscraper window washer. Lyle found other ventures after window washing; he worked as an insurance salesman to then owning his own fish and chicken restaurant and eventually a tree cutting service company.

    John "Captain Jack" Lyle, at his Chicago home, Friday, Dec. 2, 2011. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

    Lyle’s childhood dream came true in 1957 when he bought his first sailboat. The freedom he felt on the water fulfilled his competitive spirit. His intelligence and pilot experience made him an outstanding sailor, as he was quick to respond to any wind changes upon the horizon. The many years of practice paid off and Lyle eventually became a captain at the Jackson Park Yacht Club. Lyle's focus and love of sailing awarded him the title of  “Yachtsperson of the Year” by the Chicago Yachting Association at the age of 91, becoming the eldest person to receive the honor.


    John Lyle on Lake Michigan 2018

    With all of these recognitions none compare to the Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by then president George W. Bush in 2007, which acknowledge Lyle’s achievements and bravery during WWII. All of these milestones never deterred Lyle’s humbleness as he never considered that what he did was award-worthy.

    U.S. Capitol. Arrival. Greeted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Statuary Hall. Photo opportunity with 300 Tuskegee Airmen prior to Ceremony.

    Today we pay respect an honor the legacy of an American champion. Surviving though his wife and three children, John “Captain Jack” Lyle is part of history. Lyle and many other men during WWII risked their lives to ensure that our freedoms at home were protected during a time of adversity. His service and the service of all Tuskegee Airmen is an important piece of the Civil Rights Movement that influenced unity within the military. Here’s to a man who lived to be free in the skies and on the water, rest in peace John “Captain Jack” Lyle.

  • Behind the Scenes: Red Tails for Ebony Magazine

    Yesterday we showed you photos of the 'Red Tails' movie premiere in New York City. Today we want to give you a behind the scenes view into the exciting day when the American Airpower Museum welcomed the star studded cast of the Tuskegee Airmen film for a memorable, on location photo shoot with Ebony Magazine. Shot by the celebrated visionary and fashion photographer, Marc Baptiste, the Ebony cover captures Terence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, Nate Parker and David Ayelowo in front of an historic AAM plane, dressed in smart pilot threads and as akin to their characters in the movie; the archetypes of proud heroism. Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, Tristan Wilds, Michael B. Jordan, Method Man, and Leslie Odom Jr grace the adjoining portion of the double cover spread.

    Take a look at this Ebony Magazine video for a behind the scenes peak into the making of the sensational cover shot...

  • Red Tails Premiere in NYC

    At the end of last year, the American Airpower Museum played host to the cast of brand new blockbuster, 'Red Tails' for a special Ebony Magazine photo shoot. Written by Hollywood veteran George Lucas and directed by Anthony Hemingway, the movie tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American U.S. pilots unexpectedly called into service after being grounded for most of the war. Last month the movie premiered at New York City's Ziegfeld Theater, drawing out stars of the film, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, James Earl Jones, Ne-Yo, Method Man and Tristan Wilds. Alongside the big names on the red carpet were a group of real Tuskegee Airmen; the true heroes of 'Red Tails'. Original Tuskegee Airman Julius Freeman wore Cockpit USA's A-2 jacket designed in collaboration with the historical crew.

    The movie has gained high acclaim and become one of the only films to be screened privately before its release to former president George Bush and President Barack Obama at the White House. Now in theatres nationwide.

  • Stars of 'Red Tails' Movie descend on AAM

    In celebration of the upcoming WWII movie, ‘Red Tails’, Ebony Magazine and some of the film’s star-studded cast went to the American Airpower Museum for the production of a special edition for Ebony Magazine. Produced by George Lucas and starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrance Howard, Nate Parker and David Ayelowo, ‘Red Tails’ tells the heroic story of the struggles and triumphs of the Black American fighter pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, during WWII. Jeff Clyman, the President and Founder of the Museum, along with AAM Board member Jacky Clyman proudly presented the actors each with a special edition Cockpit USA Tuskegee Airmen A-2 Jacket, designed and produced in collaboration with a group of real, New York based Tuskegee Airmen.

    The action packed and inspirational movie is set to show in movie theatres across the country in January 2012. It is not to be missed!

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