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Dana Point’s Mitch Higginbotham, 91, recalls his time with the Army Air Corps’ all-African American squad of World War II pilots, depicted in a movie opening today.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

DANA POINT -(CA)- It was after 1 a.m. when Mitch Higginbotham got back to his Dana Point home Thursday, but the 91-year-old was wide awake. He had just attended the world premiere of the new George Lucas-produced film “Red Tails,” which opens Friday and depicts the World War II service of Higginbotham’s comrades in the Army Air Corps’ all-African American 332nd Fighter Group, more commonly known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

The fliers, trained at an Army air base in Tuskegee, Ala., were tasked with escorting bombers over Germany near the end of the war. They came to be known as the “Red Tails” because of the color they painted on the tails of their planes.

Article Tab: flight-tuskegee-become-re
Dana Point resident Mitch Higginbotham, 91, joined the Army Air Corps as a cadet, training to become a flight instructor with the Tuskegee Airmen. He remembers the “Red Tail” pilots and helping to train them on the ground as they prepared to enter World War II.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Higginbotham remembers meeting Lucas more than 20 years ago and talking to him about the Tuskegee Airmen, and now he’s happy to see a movie about them.

“We just wanted to fight and do our part,” Higginbotham said.

SEE PHOTOS OF SOME OF HIGGINBOTHAM’S MEMORABILIA HERE.

Higginbotham, originally from Sewickley, Pa., joined the Army Air Corps as a cadet, training to become a multiengine-aircraft flight instructor. He remembers the Red Tail pilots and helping to train them on the ground as they prepared to enter the war.

Higginbotham never made it overseas and finished the war being brought up on military charges in the then-segregated Army after he and more than 100 other African American servicemen attempted to be served in the white officer’s club at his base. Higginbotham’s record was expunged in 1995.

After the war, he hoped to become an airline pilot but soon found that pilot jobs were scarce for African Americans, he said. So he decided to finish college.

“I would work a year in the steel mills and then go to college for a year,” he said.

Before becoming an air cadet, Higginbotham said, his studies were more in line with physical science. But after his experience in the Army, he concentrated on sociology and race relations, getting a degree from the University of Colorado.

He eventually became a probation officer for Los Angeles County.

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