POLK CITY, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2010) - One of the only attractions in the country to bring together legendary World War II heroes to share their firsthand accounts, Fantasy of Flight is now expanding the first of its increasingly popular three-part Living History Series Symposiums by adding a luncheon with the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen symposium, called "They Dared to Fly," takes place Thursday, Feb. 18 through Saturday, Feb. 20 and features several open-forum/question-and-answer sessions with three distinguished Airmen - Dr. Roscoe Brown, Lt. Col. Leo Gray and Lt. Col. Hiram Mann - as they share their recollections of wartime military service during segregated America.
New this year, on Friday, February 19, from noon to 1:30 p.m., Fantasy of Flight will host a special, reservations-only luncheon with limited seating in honor of three of the original aviation veterans, the first African Americans to be trained as WWII military pilots.
The luncheon will be held at the Orlampa Conference Center at Fantasy of Flight. Tickets are $65 plus tax per person and reservations are required. For tickets, visit www.fantasyofflight.com/livinghistory or call 863-984-3500, ext. 220. Corporate tables and individual tickets are available.
Now in its second year, the Tuskegee Airmen portion of the Living History Series takes place annually each February in honor of National Black History Month. A fourth member of the Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Lee Archer, was also scheduled to appear, but recently passed away.
"We are extremely saddened by the loss of Lt. Col. Lee Archer and we offer our most sincere condolences to his immediate family and his family of Airmen," said Kermit Weeks, Fantasy of Flight founder and creator. "His passing makes us all the more aware of how precious these first-hand accounts from our World War II veterans truly are."
Throughout the three-day event, guests can enjoy breathtaking flight demonstrations featuring one of the fully restored aircraft on display at Fantasy of Flight. Fantasy of Flight's permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit, which also includes previously recorded interviews with several of the pioneering Airmen, provides the perfect backdrop for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the brave men who fought America's enemies abroad while enduring racism at home.
Prior to the Tuskegee Airmen, no U.S. military pilots had been African American. In an effort to undermine Congress' 1941 decision to form an all-black combat unit, the War Department created requirements so stringent they thought the posts could not be filled. The effort backfired, however, when thousands of qualified applicants came forward, many of whom had already participated in civilian pilot training at the historically black Tuskegee Institute. Of the original group of nearly 1,000 trained pilots and 15,000 ground personnel that made up the Tuskegee Airmen, roughly 100 pilots and 200 ground crew are alive today.
The second event in the three-part Living History Series takes place March 25-27. In honor of National Women's History Month, "A Passionate Pursuit" will feature the WASP - Women Airforce Service Pilots - a spirited squadron of pilots who left their homes and jobs at the height of World War II to serve their country as the first American women to fly for the U.S. Military. The event will bring to life the experiences of some of America's most courageous aviators through permanent and semi-permanent exhibits, real aircraft, and most importantly, personal stories from real WASP pilots.
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