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Tuskegee Airman says to be aware of 'The Eye Test'

Tuskegee Airman Calvin Moret Speaks at 41st Annual Diversity Dinner on Campus

Amanda Dyslin, Mankato Free Press (3-27-2012)

Calvin Moret speaking to Diversity Dinner audience with photo of Tuskagee airmen on screen behind.Tuskegee Airman Calvin Moret never saw combat in World War II. He didn’t even make it overseas, as fighting in Europe had ended four days before his group was scheduled to embark.

But, even then, Moret under­stood the historical importance of the group of men he was a part of, a group that had been considered an “experiment” when being devel­oped by the military, he said.

Before the early 1940s, no black man had ever been a U.S. pilot. The Tuskegee Airmen, the name given to a group of African American pilots (as well as five Haitians), were the first.

As the keynote speaker of the 41st-annual Diversity Dinner at Minnesota State University, Mankato Monday night, Moret explained to the crowd why that was. Years before, it had been determined that a black man’s brain wasn’t large enough to make “computations” or quick decisions in combat. When under fire, they said a black pilot would likely fly away in fear, Moret said, unable to deal with the pres­sure.

To demonstrate the ignorance of that idea, Moret asked the crowd in the Student Union Ballroom to look into the eyes of one of their neigh­bors.

“What can you tell about them?” he said, listing age, skin color and height as obvious answers. “But what can you really tell about (their character)?”

Moret — the last surviving New Orleans Tuskegee Airman — won­ders sometimes what caused the reverse of this thinking when World War II broke out. Either way, he knows the success of the Tuskegee Airmen “experiment” was a sur­prise to many.

“Those people who thought it was doomed to fail were surprised,” he said.

Just a teenager during the draft, Moret had a choice to make. He could wait to be drafted and sent to fight somewhere on land, or, having studied aviation since he was a child, he could sign up to train at the Tuskegee Institute.

Moret served in the Army Air Corps 99th Fighter Squadron and trained to fly P-40s and later in P-47s, but he never flew overseas.

After the war in Europe ended, he was commissioned as a flight offi­cer in November 1944.

In 2007, he and the other Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their service.

A life lesson Moret took from his experience in the Airmen — which he still to this day believes people need to learn — is that erroneous information is so easily spread, like a “contagion of ignorance.”

“It’s worse than a disease,” he said, adding that we all lose when we look at an individual and decide what that person’s limits are. In that way, he said, “the war is not over yet.”

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