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99th Squadron


Illinois has a rich history of African-Americans in Aviation.

Chanute Air Base was one of the first training centers for the "all negro" sqadrons of World War II. In terms of individual african-american aviator recognition, we have 2 Illinois Military Aviation Hall of Fame Members and 3 civilians important to Illinois aviation history.

All illustrate a passion for the skies which guided them past the financial and racial restrictions of the times. Let these pages inspire the pursuit of one's ambitions in any field.


It Started Here: The 99th Pursuit Squadron at Chanute Field

In early 1941 the U.S. War Department authorized the formation of several black Army Air Corps squadrons. On March 19, 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron was activated at Chanute Field. Over 250 enlisted men were trained at Chanute in aircraft ground support trades. This small number of enlisted men was to become the core of other black squadrons forming at Tuskegee and Maxwell Fields in Alabama -- the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

"Formation of a negro pursuit squadron, the first such unit in army history, was announced yesterday by Undersecretary Robert P. Patterson of the War Department." - AP News Report, January 17, 1941.





The Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum, a non-profit institution dedicated to the preservation of Chanute Field's legacy and the history of aviation, is proud to have developed the 99th Pursuit Squadron exhibit.

The objective was to preserve and interpret the story of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, from its beginnings at Chanute Field through its service in World War II Italy and beyond.

The 99th Pursuit Squadron is an important part of our history, and we hope this exhibit  will help illuminate the struggles and triumphs of these men.

In the beginning...There were only six their country did not want.

At the end of World War II...
There were more than 10,000 like them their country may not have survived without.

Their sacrifice, courage, and triumph over
adversity are a timeless legacy for all Americans.

An important part of the mission at Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum is the telling of the story of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and its role in the famed accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen.

The 99th Pursuit Squadron was activated on March 19, 1941, at Chanute Field on the east central Illinois prairie. There, the core officers of the 99th began their technical training, and embarked on an odyssey which would forge a timeless legacy for all Americans.

The Objective...
The project's objective is to preserve and interpret the story of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the core of the first Tuskegee Airmen, from its beginnings at Chanute Field through its service in World War II Italy and beyond in the context of the cultural crucible of segregation, race relations, and the experiences of William R. Thompson and his fellow ground crewmen.

The Exhibit...
Over 1,000 square feet of exhibit space engages visitors with artifacts, photographs, and an inviting design. The exhibit includes two model dioramas and integrated artwork.