|Sign at entrance of Luke Air Force Base (photo by Briana Tyson, April 2011)|
|Planes from World War II on display at Luke Air Force Base (photo by Briana Tyson, April 2011)|
|Apartments on the base: These are people who would be affected if the base closes (photo by Briana Tyson, April 2011)|
Luke Air Force Base is a major Air Force base located 30 miles North West of Central Phoenix near Glendale and Litchfield Park Arizona. Luke Air Force Base’s original name was Litchfield Park Air Base. They used the name Litchfield Park Air Base because Luke Air Force was being used in Pearl Harbor (Whitaker, 71). When Pearl Harbor changed their name to Naval Base commander, Lt. Col. Ennis C. Whitehead requested that Litchfield Park Air Base change their name to Luke Air Force Base after the first Aviator to receive the Medal of Honor, Lt. Frank Luke Jr.
During World War II Luke Air Force Base was the largest fighter training base in the Armed forces by graduating more than 12,000 pilots. Among some of these men were Tuskegee Airmen who were trained in Alabama. These men face and overcame prejudice and because of them the Air Force was able to be integrated. One Tuskegee Airmen, Lincoln Ragsdale, mentioned he had a white roommate and when his roommate saw him he could not believe and said “who are you staying with nigger” (Whitaker, 78). He mentioned that his roommate refused to stay in the room that night and complained to his superiors that he should not have to be with a black roommate. They did not know they were part of the Truman integration experiment. This is similar to the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957 where Little Rock was forced to integrate their high school. The integration of the high school came with massive resistance in which troops had to escort the nine African American students just for their protection (Liberto, 240). This is similar to what we discuss in class about segregation in which white people and African Americans do not mingle in the same space. This is because whites were seen as superior and African Americans inferior in every way. This same experience was happening with the Tuskegee Airmen at Luke Air Force Base because they had to endure humiliation and retaliation for integrating the military dorms.
However the base was deactivated in 1946 because the number of pilots graduating dropped to 299. When the base was deactivated many white troops found Phoenix to be “the desert’s greatest oasis” (Whitaker, 72). Black officers on the other hand did not have the same experience because “they had a hard time finding jobs because people would not hire black people (Whitaker, 72). Phoenix was so bad for African Americans that they called it the Mississippi of the West (Whitaker, 78).When combat developed in Korean War in 1951, Luke Air Force base was reactivated as training for the U.S. Air Force.
In August 2006, Luke Air Force Base honored the Tuskegee Airmen by dedicating an Air park after them. The 944th Fighter Wing, a reserve unit at the base, hosted the ceremony and showed off a mounted F-16 fighter-bomber it commissioned that is painted in the Tuskegee colors of yellow-stripe detailing and a red tail. There were 6 of the original Tuskegee airmen, who live in Arizona, who attended this ceremony to receive the medal. One of the men mentioned that it was “a great honor to finally be recognized after all of these years, but was just sorry that one of them (Lincoln Ragsdale) could not be there to see the medal” (Kelly, 2006). Lincoln Ragsdale was the first black pilot in the Phoenix area and was a major Civil Rights Activist in Arizona (Whitaker, 200).
Today Luke Air Force Base is the largest and only active duty training Ground for F-16’s. Although it is one of the largest training grounds for pilots, it has been threatened to be closed down due to Maricopa supervisors failing to observe the law that restricts residential development in high noise and dangerous areas. There are currently 96 permits to build in these noisy dangerous areas and this could pose health risks. Also, residents would be really close to noise level zones as well as accident potential zones such as bombs and ammunition. The closing of Luke Air Force Base could cause much trouble because Luke Air Force Base is currently serving 9,200 active duty members and civilian employees as well as 800 military students and 6,600 retirees. If Luke were to close today this would cause a big problem for these people most of which are depending on the military for survival.
- Briana Tyson, Brian Simpson, and Lysandra Whitlow
7, Feb. "Factsheets : Luke Air Force Base History." Luke Air Force Base - Home. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.luke.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=5049>.
7, Feb. "Welcome to Luke Air Force Base." Military Newcomers. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.militarynewcomers.com/LUKE/resources/07_history.html>.
"The Issue Housing Around Luke Air Force Base." Arizona Republic [Phoenix] 17 Aug. 2008: V.4. Print.
Kelly, Charles. "Gold Standard: Tuskegee Airmen." Arizona Republic [Phoenix] 31 Mar. 2007: 16. Print.
"Welcome to Luke Air Force Base." Military Newcomers. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.militarynewcomers.com/LUKE/resources/15_local.html>.
Whitaker, M.C. 2000. The rise of black Phoenix: African American migration, settlement and Community development in Maricopa County, Arizona 1868-1930. Journal of Negro History. 85: 197-209.
Liberato, Ana S. Q., Dana Fennell, and William L. Jeffries. "I Still Remember America: Senior African Americans Talk About Segregation." Journal of African American Studies 12.3 (2008): 229-42. Print.Whitaker, Matthew C. Race Work: the Rise of Civil Rights in the Urban West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2005. Print.