Tuskegee Airmen to meet Chinese Canadian counterparts in historic summit

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Red Tails and Dragon Tales Summit

PHOENIX -- This weekend in Vancouver , Canada a historic meeting will happen between a group of Chinese Canadian veterans and the Tuskegee Airmen.

The two groups -- the Dragon Tales and the Red Tails -- will share how they overcame racial prejudice to serve their countries.

"Both groups’ military contributions were instrumental to helping the Allies win the war and also to changing societal attitudes in their home countries," according to the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society, one of the organizations behind this first-of-its-kind summit.

Although most of their ranks have passed away, the remaining veterans, now mostly in their late 80s and 90s, will meet to celebrate the eternal, universal legacy of patriotism that still lives on.

The Chinese Immigration Act of 1923, often referred to as the "Chinese Exclusion Act," effectively closed off Chinese immigration to Canada. This official governmental action essentially banned Chinese immigration to Canada and precluded the citizenship of Chinese descendants born in Canada.

Despite this discrimination, when the World War II broke out, Chinese men and women volunteered by the hundreds to fight for Canada. They enlisted in every branch of the armed forces and participated in every theater of war.

After WW II, Canada signed the United Nations Charter of Human Rights. The Canadian government  repealed  the Chinese Exclusion Act on May 14, 1947, finally granting Chinese men and women the right to vote in federal elections.

It would be another 20 years before Canada adopted a process that allowed the Chinese to be admitted under the same criteria as any other applicants.
Many of the Tuskegee airmen can  relate to that story.

Prior to WW II, African Americans faced similar racial barriers. In 1925, a highly biased "Official Report" of the U. S. War Department declared that "Blacks were inferior to their white counterparts in every discipline; they lacked intestinal fortitude for battle; were unreliable under fire; and were incapable of possessing the necessary skills to operate and master the complex military equipment employed in combat."

Despite that prejudice and segregation, 15,000 men and women volunteered for the "Tuskegee Experience" that included aviators, navigators, bombardiers, gunnery crews, mechanics, and support personnel. Approximately 1,000 were trained as pilots, and 450 flew combat in Europe during WW II.

While stationed in Italy, the famous legend of the "Red Tails" was born when the tails of P-51s flown by the Tuskegee Airmen were painted the distinctive red color for unit recognition. The Tuskegee Airmen became one of the most highly respected fighter groups in the war. 

The historic Canadian event is the brainchild of Mr. Donald Chapman, executor of the Dr. Lloyd and Kay Chapman Charitable Foundation. Chapman is a dual Canadian-American citizen and an active member of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. He is also the key advocate for the "Lost Canadians." That group is comprised of those individuals who believe they are Canadian citizens or entitled to citizenship but who have not been officially considered citizens due to particular aspects or interpretations of the citizenship law.

The Tuskegee Airmen left Thursday and will be in Vancouver until Tuesday. While there, they will attend the grand opening of the Canadian War Museum's "One War, Two Victories" exhibit that pays tribute to their Chinese-Canadian "brothers and sisters."

"The exhibition presents fascinating wartime stories of unforgettable men and women, and their remarkable contributions to Canada and to the Chinese Canadian community in war and in peace," reads the Canadian War Museum's website.