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February 7, 2008

“Fly Boys” premiers

Tonight the boys from World War II will fly again. A new documentary on the Tuskegee Airmen Experiment, a military initiative to see if African-American men made capable fighter pilots, will have its public debut on WQED-TV at 8 p.m. “Fly Boys: Western Pennsylvania’s Tuskegee Airmen” takes viewers back to early 1941, during the Jim Crow “separate but equal” days prior to America’s entry into World War II, when the Roosevelt administration established an all-black flight training program at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama. “Fly Boys” is the story of their struggle and ultimate triumph.

Seventy-one men with ties western Pennsylvania — including 26 Pitt alumni, six of whom are living — served as Tuskegee airmen, who distinguished themselves as the best escort plane service in the U.S. military during World War II, ensuring that bombing missions in North Africa and Europe succeeded. “Fly Boys” concludes with the March 2007 ceremony during which President Bush awarded the surviving airmen gold medals on behalf of Congress.

The program is hosted by Chris Moore, WQED Emmy-award winner, who also co-produced the film with Olga George. Pitt contributed major funding to the project. The film debuted Feb. 1 at an invitation-only premiere co-hosted by Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and George L. Miles Jr., WQED Multimedia president and CEO as well as Pitt trustee.

Tonight’s public premiere also will be streamed live at 8 p.m. on WQED Interact, available at

Surviving members of the Tuskegee airmen who attended the premiere of “Fly Boys: Western Pennsylvania’s Tuskegee Airmen” included (standing, from left) Ed Harris, William Hicks, Sam Broadnax, Rafael Lee, former Pitt trustee Wendell Freeland, Robert Higginbotham, Mitchell Higginbotham and (seated) Calvin Smith. Robert Higginbotham is a Pitt School of Medicine alumnus.

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