The Black Eagles
by Stanley Weisleder
Category: Fiction / Historical
301 pages; ISBN: 0595212492
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Norman Goldman
World War II has been the backdrop for many fiction as well as non-fiction books over the past fifty years.
However, unfortunately, there has not been a great deal of literature devoted to the humiliating experiences suffered by African Americans at the hands of their white comrades.
It is difficult to comprehend, even in time of war, how a nation can tolerate racism within their arm forces.
We may ask innocently were not Whites and African Americans all on the same side fighting a common enemy?
How do you rationalize the non-accessibility of African American officers to the officer club, the base swimming pool and the movie theatre?
It was no wonder that this brought on race riots.
Moreover, it is mind-boggling that only up to recently was there any kind of concerted effort to recognize the important contributions of African Americans to the war efforts of World War II.
One such contribution was that of the Tuskegee Airmen who were called The Black Eagles or as the Germans referred to them as the Der Schvartze Adler.
These African Americans were young men who volunteered to become America’s first black military airmen.
It took author Stanley Weisleder ten years to diligently research and seven years to write his superb novel The Black Eagles that tells the story of these brave African American pilots who gave it all in order to defend democracy and perhaps a better life at home.
More particularly, it is a story that centres on the military experiences of Lee A. “Buddy” Archer Jr., who remains the only confirmed ace of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black pilots, who never lost an allied bomber to enemy action in 200 escort missions.
It was experiences filled with near death episodes while defending America and at the same time being subjected to cruel and racist behaviour on the part of his white comrades at arms.
Furthermore, there was the added indignity emanating from the premise proffered by the Army Air Corp bureaucracy that “Negroes were decidedly inferior, lacking in courage, superstitious and dominated by moral and character weakness.”
However, hard-eyed and independent, Buddy Bowman was not prepared to accept this official policy and he was successful in “bucking” the system and refuting these shameful assumptions.
What is commendable about Weisleder’s writing and something he referred to in his “Acknowledgements” was the effective use of dialogue. As he indicates, it is important “to put flesh on the dialogue and shape it into a readable story.”
Weisleder definitely practices what he preaches and no doubt he is a writer to watch.
As a postscript, it is interesting to note that the American Armed Forces was totally segregated until 1949 when President Truman signed an Executive Order mandating integration. The Air Force had been the first to comply followed by the Army in 1956 and the Navy and Marine Corp in 1962.
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