West Covina Rose Parade float honors Tuskegee Airmen

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Mary Claire Roman

Seventeen Tuskegee Airmen will ride the West Covina float honoring the over 16,000 who served during World War II.

Rose Parade watchers won’t be able to miss the float from West Covina. It features a giant bald eagle led by two P-51 Mustangs. The float honors the Tuskegee Airmen, African American pilots who flew those planes during World War II.

The Tuskegee Airmen escorted bombers through dangerous airspace. Frank Scalfaro of the West Covina Rose Float Foundation says the tails of the planes on the float are the same color they were during the war: red.

"That’s how they were identified and the white pilots got to know’em real well by that," said Scalfaro. "In fact, the stories that I’ve heard, they even asked for the Red Tail airmen.

An HBO film has told the Tuskegee Airmen's story, and the roughly 300 surviving airmen were invited as guests of honor to attend President Obama’s inauguration. Tuskegee Airman Levi Thornhill of Los Angeles says the Rose Parade float is another important tribute.

"This is our country, too," says Thornhill. "We felt that if you get in and do something that you really like to do and feel capable of doing, you can do a better job at it, and I think we did a pretty fair job."

Sixteen of Thornhill’s fellow airmen will ride on the float. They’ll represent the 16,000 who served during World War II.

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