February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month and the U.S. Air Force Academy men’s lacrosse team got things started by unveiling their 2021 “Red Tail” helmets. Air Force’s helmets feature decals that pay homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American military pilots and airmen nicknamed the “Red Tails,” who fought in World War II.
For those unfamiliar, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces and were a part of the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC), a precursor of the U.S. Air Force. By the end of World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen were responsible for destroying or damaging 36 German planes in the air and 237 on the ground, as well as nearly 1,000 rail cars and transport vehicles.
Despite playing a pivotal role in the war, when the Tuskegee Airmen returned to the U.S., they continued to face racism and prejudice. During World War II, African-Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to Jim Crow laws and the American military was still racially segregated. However, their role in the U.S. Armed Forces laid the groundwork for the racial integration of the military, which was fully desegregated on July 26, 1948 thanks to Executive Order 9981 issued by President Harry Truman.
The helmets resonated with many, including Lacrosse Playground founders Harry Alford and Thomas Alford, whose grandfather Charles DeBow commanded the 301st Fighter Squadron.
In addition to being a great tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, these Cascade S helmets look great with the red decals complimenting the silver shell and chrome blue facemask. Military academies have a long history of sporting different military insignias across their sports programs and the 2021 Air Force men’s lacrosse team’s tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen is yet another fine example.
What are your thoughts on the helmets that Air Force men’s lacrosse will be wearing throughout Black History Month? Let us know in the comments or on social media.