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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Red Tails" recognizes heroes like Saratoga Springs' own Clarence Dart

I am so excited about Friday afternoon’s debut of the George Lucas movie “Red Tails,” starring Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. I hope it will sear into the public memory the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American World War II fighter pilots who served bravely and with dignity in the face of racial indignities.

My special interest is because one of those men is a member of our community who is dear to my heart, Clarence Dart.

Clarence and his wife Millie raised their family in a cozy Saratoga Springs home that I was lucky enough to move next door to some 30 years ago. It was several years before I realized this modest man flew 95 missions — and was shot down twice — as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

I wasn’t the only one slow to recognize a hero in our midst. It wasn’t until 2007 that the Tuskegee Airmen were honored with a Congressional Gold Medal. Fortunately, Clarence Dart and family members were among those present for the long-overdue recognition. Various local ceremonies honoring Clarence Dart have since followed.

I tweeted Wednesday about the upcoming movie and, an admitted Twitter novice, I was astonished at the endless string of tweets with the #redtails hashtag. I am in good company, nationwide.

“It’s important to have a movie like this,” said Clarence Dart’s son, Warren, a Maple Avenue Middle School teacher, in an interview with Saratogian reporter Paul Post. “I wouldn’t know this history if my father wasn’t a Tuskegee Airman. They didn’t teach it when I was in school. It wasn’t talked about.” You can read Paul Post’s story and see a trailer of the movie on The Saratogian website at http://saratogian.com/articles/2012/01/19/news/doc4f17934bcf713697231442.txt

The plan for Friday afternoon is for Clarence, 91, to be accompanied to “Red Tails” by his 10-year-old grandson, Gregor. A film about black fighter pilots is called “Red Tails” because the segregated pilots set apart their planes by painting the tails red. I hope the debut will be a red letter day.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Dan said...

Great Post Barbara. I am hoping to see this movie also to see Hollywood honor these American heroes.

January 21, 2012 at 10:33 AM 

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