Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Hiram Mann shared his story of being a Tuskegee Airman with Civil Air Patrol cadets Feb. 9 in Blaine.
Mann applied three times before he was accepted as a pilot during World War II.
The War Department told him the first time that they did not have any training facilities for people of color. The second time he was informed he would need to be single and have a college degree. He was married and had only been in college for one year. By the time he completed his second year in college, he heard the War Department had changed its requirements. He was accepted the third time he applied.
“When I finished my pilot’s training I was given my wings, which was a memorable day,” Mann said. “Every pilot knows how important and great it is to be able to fly, and your wings are your passport.”
Mann joined the 332nd Fighter Group, which flew reconnaissance for bombers in Germany. They would escort the bombers to the site and then rejoin them after they dropped their bombs to take them home. The bomber pilots would show their respect when they would meet at a later time for getting them there and back safe.
“All was going well until the German Air Force introduced the jet fighter aircraft,” Mann said. “It was the first time we had seen jet fighter aircraft. They would come zooming by and we did not know what they were. Our training really paid off. Jet or no jet we were still the best and protected our bombers.”
Among the audience were Civil Air Patrol cadets. Mann told the cadets to learn whatever they can because nobody can take that away from them. He said school should come first and they should work hard to achieve their goals.
Mann was accompanied by retired Army Col. Nathan Thomas. Both men live near each other in Florida.
Blaine Mayor Tom Ryan shared his gratitude to both men for their service and taking the time to come to Minnesota.
“It is an honor to have you here to share your stories with the Civil Air Patrol cadets and guests,” Ryan said.