World War II Central Illinois Stories

Tuskegee Airman Elmer Jones


Producer Denise La Grassa talks with Tuskegee Airman Col. Elmer Jones, one of six original aviation cadets for the Tuskegee Airmen trained at Chanute Field in Rantoul. Jones, who became ground crew commander, was proud to serve his country in aircraft engineering during World War II, even though he served in an all-black unit. He maintains that being in a segregated unit provided an unexpected opportunity for the Tuskegee Airmen. They were able to prove their abilities at a time when people questioned whether African Americans should be allowed to fly and maintain planes. "They proved they were as good as white fighter pilots," said LaGrassa. "World War II was really the beginning of the civil rights movement."