Decades after WWII, two American fighter pilots, one, Herb Heilbrun, a white B-17 pilot, and the other, John Leahr, a black Red-Tail Tuskegee Airman, found one another 50 years post war. Heilbrun and Leahr discovered that not only did Leahr serve as a Tuskegee escort pilot for Heilbrun during WWII, the two men had attended grade school together as children. Leahr’s Tuskegee unit was one that was hailed for returning their Bombers home safely.

After further research, John Leahr was identified as the only black child in Heilbrun’s 3rd grade elementary class in Avondale, Ohio. They would later, unknowingly, reunite in the air as dual fighter pilots against Nazi Germany.

Once Heilbrun learned that the 332nd Squadron of Tuskegee Airmen were a crucial part of his squadron’s survival 50 years ago, he began his search for the valiant pilots. Heilbrun attended one of the Airmen’s annual meetings and found John Leahr.

The two men now speak publicly about the segregation that kept them apart to countless people throughout the country. They were both honored in a special screening ceremony for the film “Red Tails” in Cincinnati this past January.  In 2003, the men were honored guests of The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.

Their story of camaraderie and friendship is told in the 2007 book “Black and White Airmen: Their True History” by John Fleischman. They have also been featured on NBC and The History Channel.


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