Red Tails Escorting the B17s

Red Tails Escorting the B17s

Original Watercolor by Kay Smith, Artist Laureate of Illinois.

"Red Tails Escorting the B17s," (2013) is based on artist Kay Smith's research and interviews with three Tuskegee Airmen, Flight Officer Julius Echols, Judge John Rogers, Sr. and Dr. Quentin Smith, as well as B17 navigator Don Casey. She conducted the interviews to ensure an accurate representation of arial combat in the second world war.

“I was a teenager during World War II, but I never heard about the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Smith. “Coleman Holt and I were friends and he never talked about it. I learned about them 75 years later with the commission to do this painting about Red Tails for the Pritzker Military Library.”

With esquisite attention to detail, this painting shows the famed Red Tails of the US Army Air Corps' 332nd Fighter Group escorting B17 Flying Fortress bombers over occupied Europe. African-American fighter pilots flew over 1,500 such missions during WWII, but were only a portion of the more than 15,000 Tuskegee Airman, a group that included bomber pilots, navigators, bombadiers transport pilots, and more. 

The painting was commissioned by the Library with the help of Colette Holt, Holt's daughter to hang in the Colman T. Holt Oral History Room at the Museum & Library, a space for veterans of all branches of service, from times of peace and of war, both at home and abroad, to tell their stories and have them preserved for posterity.