Even though there was no red carpet or anxious photagraphers in site, the honoring of the original Tuskegee Airmen at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza theater was nothing less than an memorable event.
The elderly men seen in wheelchairs, using canes or leaning on family for support constituted most of the remaining Los Angeles-area members of the original Tuskegee Airmen group, and they were there on Wednesday for a special showing of “Red Tails,” George Lucas’ multimillion-dollar portrayal of the first African-American air corps in the United States.
The sold-out screening packed in about 400 people, all of whom burst into tremendous applause when the World War II veterans stood at their seats. As some audience members snapped photographs, others took a moment to explain to their children “how big of a deal this is!” And throughout the night, the audience punctuated the film with laughter and applause. When the screening ended, the Los Angeles chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. hosted a private reception with a live band, a buffet, a few short speeches and a movie poster signing by the airmen.
Los Angeles resident Levi Thornhill was one of the Tuskegee Airmen who came. He had been part of the original 332nd Fighter Group, who served with distinction as airplane escorts for bomber planes on strategic missions in Europe. After the film, he praised Lucas for his attention to detail and gave “Red Tails” a ringing endorsement.
“I’m wondering where in the world [Lucas] found all those P-51s, the Red Tails,” said the 89-year-old Thornhill. “I think he did a very good job, a very good job. And I’ve seen a lot of movies with airplanes in it!”