‘Red Tails’ movie recalls memories for Tuskegee airman

For a couple of hours Tuesday night, Ralph L. Turner sat in a cushy, red recliner at the Palms’ Brenden Theatres and thought he was back in the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang in a dogfight with Nazi fighter planes.

Turner, of Las Vegas, with 160 friends and invited guests watched the first local showing of the World War II action film "Red Tails," an adventure movie about the challenges the famed Tuskegee Airmen faced at home and in Europe as the nation’s first black fighter pilots. The movie opens Friday.

An 87-year-old retired major, Turner was one of the youngest captains of the Tuskegee Airmen, who escorted bomber groups when they attacked Berlin in 1945.

The movie jarred his memories of the March 24, 1945, flight of nearly 60 P-51s with their signature red tails that escorted U.S. bombers on a raid to destroy a tank production facility in Berlin.

It was one of 52 combat missions Turner flew with the Red Tails and one he will never forget because they were attacked by Messerschmitt-262s, the world’s first jet fighters.

Turner was in the cockpit of a single-propeller P-51 Mustang, dubbed "Tinsel," that he had taken over for a previous pilot in the 302nd Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, the select group of black pilots who demonstrated their flying skills at Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama.

One of the new German jets appeared out of nowhere.

"I didn’t see the guy," Turner recalled. "He flew by me so fast. I was at the highest altitude the P-51 could fly. He came zooming in behind me and went straight up.

"I couldn’t get any higher, and he kept going. If he shot at me, he didn’t hit me," he said after watching the movie.

Turner didn’t score any kills from the air but did take out an enemy train on one sortie into Germany to find targets of opportunity.

One of his fellow pilots, Roscoe Brown, however, knocked out a Messerschmitt-262, one of three downed by the Red Tails out of eight total shot down in the war.

In all, the Tuskegee airmen shot down 111 enemy fighters and had the best record for keeping U.S. bombers safe during missions over Europe.

Turner, who sat stoically next to his wife during the preview, described the movie as "excellent" and "pretty close to the real thing," right down to the runway made of prefabricated steel landing mats instead of concrete.

One scene in which the pilots were talking on their radios as they departed for a mission wasn’t real, Turner said, because they were always under strict orders for radio silence.

"They didn’t talk that much," he said. "There was yakkin’ in the cockpit during attacks, but most of the time there was radio silence."

A part in the movie about a Tuskegee airman who was shot down, captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp hit close to home for Turner. The character portrayed as Junior in the movie was a pilot he came to know, Lt. Harold H. Brown, after Brown escaped from Stalag 7A and rejoined the 332nd Fighter Group in Italy. In the movie, the POW camp is Stalag 18.

In all, 33 Tuskegee Airmen were POWs, and 66 were killed in action.

Asked how he managed to dodge all those bullets, Turner said, "I wish I knew."

Turner was born April 25, 1924, in San Antonio and grew up in Los Angeles.

As a kid he built "lots of model airplanes" and wanted to learn how to fly.

After high school, he was selected for the Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet program after first being rejected because he was underweight. Once, he was told the program "was not for his color," according to a 2008 Air Force story about him.

Turner graduated from pilot training at Tuskegee Airfield in April 1944 and was sent to Italy late that year having trained on P-40s and P-47s.

When he arrived at Ramitelli Airfield, Italy, he was assigned to a P-51 Mustang. He flew his first combat mission in it with only five hours of flight time under his belt.

For people who watch "Red Tails," Turner hopes they will gain one insight from the movie: "If you do your job, do your work, segregation will take care of itself."

The movie has scenes in which black fighter pilots at first weren’t welcome in the officers club until after an escort mission during which they succeeded in warding off attacks from German warplanes.

Turner, who moved to Las Vegas last year from Massachusetts, said segregation and discrimination, for him, weren’t pressing problems compared with the task of fighting the war.

"We didn’t see much of it unless you went to the club, and I didn’t go to the club," he said.

After watching the movie, his wife, Veronica, said she thought it was "fabulous."

Said Turner: "I’m going to go see it again."

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece
Frontier jet safely returns to Las Vegas after losing engine piece. (@FlightAlerts_)
Park Service plans ahead for lower lake levels
National Park Service releases new plans to maintain access to the water as Lake Mead continues to shrink.
Women claim abuse at Florence McClure Women's Correctional Facility
Current and ex-inmates, including Merry West, are suing Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Facility, claiming abuse and inadequate medical care. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Butte County Sheriff's Office Body Cam Footage
Bodycam video from Butte County (Calif.) Sheriff's Office Deputy Aaron Parmley, who was in Paradise November 8 helping with evacuations. (Butte County Sheriff's Office)
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 106
NDOT construction blasting along State Route 160, near Mt. Potosi Road, in Clark County as part of a $59 million, 6-mile-long highway widening project that began this summer. (Nevada Department of Transportation)
Car crashes into Papa Murphy's Pizza shop
A driver crashed a car into a western Las Vegas Valley pizza shop on Tuesday morning, police said. (Joe Stanhibel/Special to Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Low-lake-level pumping station nears completion
Barnard Construction and the Southern Nevada Water Authority give one last tour before the new low-lake-level pumping station is activated.
Trailer: Valley of Fires
Sultan’s Playroom from Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada
Make-A-Wish Southern Nevada’s Scott Rosenzweig talks about granting Sultan Bouras Souissi’s wish, and what went into building it. (John Hornberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jim Marsh brings historic replica of rural church to Amargosa Valley
Jim Marsh talks during the opening of the Chapel at Longstreet, a replica of an 1874 Catholic church built in the mining town of Belmont, Nev., at Marsh's Longstreet Casino in Amargosa Valley, Nev. Chase Stevens/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Livestock recycling Strip food waste
Las Vegas Livestock collects and recycles food from many Las Vegas Strip companies. (Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like