On January 12, 1939, President Roosevelt asked Congress to pass legislation to authorize a permanent Civil Pilot Training Program. The Civil Pilot Training Program Act of 1939 was passed on June 27, 1939 and funds were appropriated for it in August 1939. The legislation included a provision inserted by Representative Everett Dirksen which called for the program not to exclude anyone on the basis of race. Most of the colleges and universities that participated in the permanent Civil Pilot Training (CPT) program beginning in 1939 were white or predominantly white, but six black colleges also participated. A handful of black CPT program student attended predominantly white universities in the Northeast and Midwest.
In 1940, Congress passed the Selective Service and Training Act, signed in to law on September 16, 1940 by President Roosevelt. This act, also known as the Burke-Wadsworth Bill, was the first peace-time draft in U.S. history. That same year, the War Department announced that the Civil Aeronautics Authority, in cooperation with the U.S. Army, would begin development of colored personnel for the aviation service. This paved the way for blacks to train as pilots and vital support personnel.
The first aviation class of 13 cadets began July 19, 1941, with ground school training covering subjects such as meteorology, navigation, and instruments. Successful cadets then transferred to the segregated Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) to complete the Army Air Corps pilot training. In March 1942, five of the 13 cadets in the first class completed the Army Air Corps pilot training program, earning the silver wings and becoming the nation’s first black military pilots. They were Second Lieutenants Lenmuel R. Curtis, Charles DeBow, Mac Ross, George Spencer Roberts, and Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., a West Point Academy graduate.
From 1941 to 1946, approximately 1,000 pilots graduated from Tuskegee Army air Field (TAAF), receiving their commissions and pilot wings. The Tuskegee Airmen included men and women who were involved in the Tuskegee Military Experiment from 1941 to 1946. The experiment is now referred to as the Tuskegee Experience, by Tuskegee Airmen. Inc. The Tuskegee Airmen Experience extends up to 1949 and includes all individuals , men and women, blacks and whites who supported aircraft in the air and on the ground as bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and other designated units or locations until inactivation of the 332nd Fighter Wing at Lockbourne Army Air Base (later designated Lockbourne Air Force Base).