About KEEP YOUR AIRSPEED UP Story
Many Americans know little of the Tuskegee Airmen, the small group of black pilots and support staff who fought for the right to fly in World War II and whose success played a significant role in the integration of the military. Brown was one of the 992 original Tuskegee pilots. He is likely the last of his group to record his story.
The story is broken into three parts: The Early Years, The Wars Years, and The Post War Years.
In Part I, Brown describes his family heritage and the journey his parents made North in what became known as the Great Migration. He also shares family stories that helped to shape the young Harold Brown and his brother Lawrence. It provides a picture of life in Minneapolis in the 1920s and 30s, where blacks were few, where segregation was minimal, and where Harold’s “love affair” with a plane was nurtured.
In Part II, Brown describes those “three little years” during the war that came to define his life. He takes the reader South with himself as an eighteen year old who experiences overt racism for the first time, attends Tuskegee Institute, and finishes flight training in May of 1944. The reader travels overseas with the newly minted 2nd Lieutenant and sees the war through the eyes of a combat fighter pilot. The young Harold Brown survives several near death experiences, lives through his time as a prisoner of war, and returns home at age twenty before he is able to legally vote or buy a beer.
In Part III, Brown describes the next twenty years of his military service, including his time in Japan during the Korean War and his role in the Strategic Air Command; his career shift and rise in the two-year college system in Ohio; and concludes with the fame the Airmen achieved after the 1995 release of the HBO movie, The Tuskegee Airmen, which included receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.
One of the most remarkable facts about the Tuskegee Airmen was that they achieved what they did even before the military was desegregated. President Truman ordered desegregation of the military in 1948; the order was implemented in 1949. The integration of the US armed forces was the first step in laying the groundwork for the civil rights movement that would ultimately result in equal opportunity, by law, for all Americans regardless of race.
Finally, this book is a story of an African American–who through dedication to his goals and vision—rose through a blanket of racial segregation to great heights of accomplishment, not only as a military aviator but as an educator and human being.