February News from the Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB Primary Source Banner

Freeman Field's African American History

As part of the Indiana Historical Bureau’s ongoing review of the texts of Indiana State Historical Markers, staff addressed a major omission in the text of the marker for Freeman Field in Jackson County.  Adequate primary sources support the text of the marker.  However, the marker omits mention of the 1945 mutiny of Tuskegee Airmen at Freeman Field, a pivotal event in the desegregation of the United States Air Force.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the United States Armed Forces began recruiting greater numbers of African American men for segregated “Negro units.”  By 1941, the Air Corps formed a fighter squadron of 47 officers and 429 enlistees to train at Tuskegee Field in Alabama.  The 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Starting in 1943, some of these airmen saw action in North Africa and the Mediterranean; the 477th Bombardment Group “fought a more insidious war at home.”[i] 
The Air Force set up a training school for navigators and bombardiers of the 477th, first at Selfridge Field in Michigan and then at Godman Field in Kentucky. In 1943, racial tension over airmen being denied entrance to the officers’ club resulted in the 477th being relocated to Freeman Field in Seymour, Indiana where there were two clubs.[ii]  At Freeman Field, one club was designated for “trainees” and another for “supervisors.”  The division between the clubs became racial when all African American airmen were designated “trainees,” even the “captains, lieutenants and flight officers – several of them overseas veterans and proud wearers of the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart.”[iii]  This racial separation was in violation of Army Regulation 210-10, which outlawed segregated clubs in 1940.  The airmen challenged this unequal treatment by forcibly entering the segregated “supervisors” club on April 5, 1945.  Approximately sixty airmen were arrested, with more arrests April 7 and 8.[iv]  Intense pressure from civil rights advocates, including the NAACP, the media, and the public resulted in “momentous changes.”[v] Most of the airmen were released with only a reprimand. Three of the airmen were court-martialed for having “jostled” the provost guard outside the club; only one airman, Bill Terry, was found guilty and sentenced to a small fine.[vi] 
As a result of the controversy, the War Department revised regulations on segregation and ended segregated officers’ clubs. Since then, the mutiny at Freeman Field has been viewed as a “bellwether for integration of the U.S. military.” In 1995, the Air Force set aside Terry’s conviction.[vii]
[i] James Allison, “Mutiny at Freeman Field: The Life and Art of James Gould Cozzens,” Black History News and Notes 92 (May 2003) 4-8.
[ii] “Negro Flyers to Be Trained at Freeman Field,” The (Valparaiso) Vidette-Messenger, February 20, 1945, 4 (accessed through newspaperarchive.com); “Freeman Field to Be Reactivated,” Tipton Daily Tribune, February 22, 1945, 8 (accessed through newspaperarchive.com); Allison, 6.
[iii] “Arrest 60 Air Officers: 3 Held – Pilots Defy Segregation at Ind. Camp,” Indianapolis Recorder, April 14, 1945, 1.
[iv] Ibid.; Allison, 6.
[v] “Plan Changes to Aid Airmen - Army Officials Chart Future of Bombardiers,” Indianapolis Recorder, April 28, 1945, 1.
[vi] Ibid.; “At Godman Field - Shift of Col. B. O. Davis Causes New Queries,” Indianapolis Recorder, June 30, 1945, 1;  “3 Air Officers Acquitted, in Freeman Field, Ind., Case,” Indianapolis Recorder, July 14, 1945, 1.
[vii] Allison, 6-8.
Indiana's African American Heritage

Shop @ IHB

Learn more about African American History this month with these titles from the IHB Book Shop.

Educators' Corner

Are you commemorating Black History Month in your classroom?  Check out these issues of The Indiana Historian
Issues are available for free as PDF downloads on our website, for schools with digital learning or green initiatives.  Printed magazines are also available in bulk  for $0.30/ea., if you'd like a classroom set!

Spotlight on Indiana's Civil War 150th

Did you know that IHB has an ongoing project to interpret Indiana's participation in the Civil War?  This month, check out "The Politics of Slavery," an essay by Richard Nation.


Why do all of the streets form a grid in Southern Indiana, but not in Kentucky?  ~student researcher
Indiana was part of the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), which uses a grid as its base.  Wikipedia's entry on this topic is very thorough, if you'd like to learn more.
For educators interested in geography lessons and map skills, check out the Newberry Library's Historic Maps in K-12 Classrooms.  Map 6 covers the PLSS, Indian removal, and Indian migration.

Mark Your Calendar!

History-related events around the state:
April 11-13Preserving Historic Places, Indiana’s annual conference on saving and revitalizing vintage buildings and neighborhoods will be held in Whiting, IN.  The IHB Book Shop will be on-site with preservation-related books!
April 21.  Eastern Woodlands Tribes in the War of 1812 - Academic Conference, Portland, IN.
Are you planning a history-related event?  Please let us know!
Find us on Facebook for more Indiana History!