October 27, 2007
Clarence Dart

The museum again honored, and learned from, an African-American serving with the U.S. armed forces during WWII, when Clarence Dart spoke about his wartime experiences on October 27, 2007. 

Dart, a resident of nearby Saratoga Springs, N.Y., had been a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, whose superb performance during the war was a major reason behind President Truman's desegregation of the armed services soon after the war's end.  The Tuskegee Airmen, named for the location of their training field in Alabama, were the first African-Americans to fly as fighter-pilots in the United States armed forces.  Tasked with protecting American bombing plans, the Tuskegee Airmen did not lose a single escorted bomber to the Germans. 

As a child, Dart was fascinated with flight and made many airplane models. He was drafted, and with tenacity got himself sent to Tuskegee, where he was taught to fly by both black and white trainers.

He acknowledged the role of Mrs. Roosevelt in persuading her husband to have blacks trained as pilots.  "Someone in the War Department," said Dart, "believed that the cranial capacity of blacks wouldn't let them fly. We proved them wrong!" 

He spoke of his fascinating and dangerous exploits.  "It wasn't anything glorious and glamorous," he said modestly, to a disbelieving audience. But his listeners cringed when Dart mentioned that the Germans would ask black POWs why they fought for a country that treated them so badly. Altogether, it was a rich educational experience for those who heard Clarence Dart in the museum on October 27.

Tuskegee Airman Clarence Dart is seen after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal on Thursday, March 29, 2007 on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Tuskegee Airmen were presented with the Congressional Gold Medal the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. (Lauren Victoria Burke for
The Times Union)