Tuskegee Airmen recognized with Top Gun honor 73 years after winning

Tuskegee Airmen recognized for first Top Gun win

Members of the Tuskegee Airmen are some of the most highly decorated military pilots in U.S. history. But there was one honor that was overlooked for more than 70 years — until now. 

In 1949, a team from the famed all-Black Tuskegee Airmen won the first Top Gun contest, a gunnery competition among pilots from across the Air Force. But the record book listed the winner as "unknown." 

"They knew who won, but they just didn't want to recognize us," said Retired Lieutenant Colonel James Harvey, a 98-year-old former fighter pilot who was part of that winning team. 

Harvey said the trophy "mysteriously got lost" — until 2005, when a historian found it in storage at an Air Force museum. 

"She says, 'Why isn't this on display?'  The guy said, 'We can't display everything, but this item will never be on display,'" Harvey said. 

The trophy is now on display, and last week a plaque commemorating the first Top Guns was unveiled at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where the original competition was held. 

Harvey said the recognition "means an awful lot." 

"We proved that we were the best," he said. "Well OK, let's show it." 


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