Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence” Award

Presented by Hand Construction

This prestigious award has been given out annually at the Independence Bowl after the Sports Foundation directors decided to recognize an outstanding American citizen with the “Spirit of Independence Award”. The first recipient was General Omar N. Bradley, the only living five-star general in the United States at that time. The following year, and until his death, General Bradley presented the “Spirit of Independence Award” to his fellow recipients. After his death, the General’s name was added to the award.

Since the award’s inception, this honor has been bestowed upon outstanding American citizens, or organizations, which symbolize the spirit of freedom and independence on which our country was founded.

Following are the recipients of the Spirit of Independence Award, by year:

  • 1977 General Omar N. Bradley
  • 1978 John Wayne
  • 1979 Bob Hope
  • 1980 Paul Harvey
  • 1981 President Ronald Reagan
  • 1982 Art Linkletter
  • 1983 Danny Thomas
  • 1984 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, Demonstration Squadron
  • 1985 Vietnam Veterans
  • 1986 National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • 1987 Brigadier General (USAF Retired) Charles E. Yeager
  • 1988 Coach Eddie Robinson
  • 1989 Harlem Globetrotters
  • 1990 Boy Scouts of America
  • 1991 Barksdale Air Force Base
  • 1992 Shriner’s Hospital for Children
  • 1993 Sandra Day O’Connor
  • 1994 YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Assoc.)
  • 1995 American Red Cross
  • 1996 Veterans of Foreign Wars
  • 1997 Fallen Law Enforcement Officers
  • 1998 Firefighters of America
  • 1999 World War II Veterans
  • 2000 General Gabriel P. Disosway
  • 2001 Heroes of New York City
  • 2002 Congressional Medal of Honor Society
  • 2003 Hal Sutton, PGA Tour Player and 2004 Ryder Cup Captain
  • 2004 General Tommy Franks
  • 2005 General Russel Honore
  • 2006 General Harold Moore
  • 2007 Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal
  • 2008 Team Hoyt
  • 2009 National Football Foundation
  • 2010 St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  • 2011 General Charles C. “Hondo” Campbell
  • 2012 Wounded Warrior Project®
  • 2013 Doolittle Raiders
  • 2014 Tuskegee Airmen
  • 2015 Berlin Airlift Veterans
  • 2016 Veterans of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir

1978: John Wayne made one of his last public appearances at the 1978 Independence Bowl. Of the award, he said: “You may find many a man more worthy to honor, but you’ll never find one so grateful.”

1979: In selecting Bob Hope, the committee noted: “Mr. Hope is legendary. What he has done for America’s service men and women in the last five decades is incredible. He has given himself unselfishly to entertain and maintain the morale of our fighting men and women during our many conflicts.”

1980: News commentator Paul Harvey, after attending the 1980 game to receive his award, again expressed his appreciation and recognized the Independence Bowl over his thrice-daily nationally-broadcast radio news program.

1981: President Ronald Reagan accepted his bust of General Bradley via video tape after the alleged threat of a Libyan attack required the Secret Service to limit his travel.

1982: Braving plunging temperatures and gusty winds, Art Linkletter donned warm weather gear to accept his award on the playing field during halftime at the 1982 Independence Bowl.

1983: Danny Thomas, in expressing gratitude for his Bradley award, recalled his personal friendship with the General, dating back to the entertainer’s USO tour days of World War II.

1984: The Thunderbirds, as “Ambassadors in Blue for all Americans”, were singled out for being the epitome of the nation’s Air Force community and representing the best of what can be accomplished through teamwork. They received the award following their triumphant 1984 international tour, the first overseas appearance by the Thunderbirds in 13 years.

1985: All Veterans of the Vietnam War were honored for their patriotism, sacrifices and dedication to the principles of American freedom, 10 years after the war in Asia came to a conclusion.

1986: In 1986, it was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for its contributions in science to the betterment of all mankind.

1987: Brigadier General Charles E. (Chuck) Yeager (USAF, Ret.) was the 1987 honoree for his accomplishments in aviation history, most notably becoming the first man to break the sound barrier.

1988: Grambling State University Head Football Coach Eddie Robinson was the 1988 Bradley award recipient. Named because of his immense contributions to college football, Robinson became the winningest coach in college football history, surpassing both Paul “Bear” Bryant and Pop Warner.

1989: In 1989, the Harlem Globetrotters were honored for the joy and excitement they bring to people of all ages as American ambassadors all over the world.

1990: The Boy Scouts of America had 7,000 in attendance at the 1990 game to receive the award. With Congress’ designation of 1990 as the year of the Eagle Scout, and the Boy Scout program’s emphasis on good citizenship and community service, the committee felt they were a group of young people trying to make this a better country.

1991: In 1991 Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City was honored. This honor precluded, by about three weeks, a nighttime bombing run by Barksdale B-52s, which began the successful Persian Gulf War. Barksdale has been a thriving mainstay in the Shreveport-Bossier City area since 1933.

1992: In 1992 the Shriner’s Hospitals were honored. Shreveport serves as the home of the original Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children, opened in 1922. There are currently 22 Shriner’s Hospitals throughout the United States, three of which are burn hospitals, while the other 19 are orthopedic units. Children are treated for ailments such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida and scoleosis among many others. The local Shriner’s Hospital treats as many as 7,500 children each year, coming from the United States, Mexico and Central America. This institute is now called the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.

1993: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner became the first female recipient of the prestigious Omar Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award.” Her confidence and determination to overcome gender bias and barriers has been a great inspiration for many Americans.

1994: The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was recognized during its 150th anniversary as a worldwide movement. The YMCA is the largest non-profit community service organization in America. It works to meet the health and social service needs of 13.5 million people.

1995: For more than 75 years, the Northwest Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross has provided emergency aid such as food, shelter, clothing and medical assistance to victims of natural and man-made disasters, and in 1995 this organization became the 18th Omar Bradley Award recipient. The Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.

1996: The Veterans of Foreign Wars, with over 2 million members, was honored as the 1996 recipient of the Omar Bradley award. What a fitting tribute to those who have served their country abroad, in an effort to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy and often take for granted.

1997: Each day 700,000 sworn law enforcement officers put on their respective uniforms and put their lives on the line as they take on the responsibility of serving and protecting citizens throughout the United States. That is why the Fallen Law Enforcement Officers became the 1997 recipient of the Omar Bradley Award. Dating back to 1794, when Marshal Robert Forsyth became the first known officer ever to die in the line of duty, men and women have taken on the task of law enforcement with the knowledge that each day could be their last. But still they proudly wear their uniforms and do their jobs, even when many don’t get the respect they deserve as law enforcement officers.

1998: Every year in the United States about 100 American Firefighters are killed in the line of duty and another 87,000 are injured. A career that once had a mission statement of saving lives and protecting property has now taken on a much broader meaning. In 1998 the Sanford Independence Bowl honored the nation’s Firefighters for their dedication and protection.

1999: Whether it was the men who stormed Normandy on D-Day or the women who flew transport missions, the Veterans of World War II were part of what has been described as the most defining event of the 20th century in American history. World War II brought out the ultimate spirit, sacrifice and commitment of the American people to the common defense of the nation and to the broader causes of peace and freedom from tyranny throughout the world.

2000: Before retiring in 1968, General Gabriel P. Disosway finished a distinguished military career by serving as commander of the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Command, which is charged with maintaining peak combat efficiency in the tactical missions of fighter, reconnaissance and assault airlift. It further trains air and ground crews as required for the overseas commands of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Pacific Air Forces. A native of Pomona, Calif., General Disosway graduated from Wichita Falls High School, Wichita Falls, Texas in 1927 and then attended the University of Oklahoma. He entered the U.S. Military Academy in July 1929, graduated and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Field Artillery in June 1933. He achieved the rank of General (4-star) in 1963.

2001: On September 11, 2001 the lives of all Americans, and especially New Yorkers, changed forever. The destruction of the twin towers and other buildings in the World Trade Center changed not only the skyline of Manhattan, but also the entire free world. The staggering list of those missing and presumed dead at the World Trade Center exceeds 3,000, including some 350 New York City Firefighters, 40 New York City Police Officers and at least 30 members of the Port Authority. Despite the extreme horror of that day’s event, we saw the extraordinary valor of firefighters, police officers, emergency service workers, parks enforcement patrol officers, medical personnel, construction workers, ordinary citizens and many others who ran to the disaster scene to help. Many of these people ran into the collapsing towers to pull people out. The entire City of New York refused to give in to the chaos caused by a few madmen.

2002: The Congressional Medal Of Honor Society of the United States of America is perhaps the ‘most exclusive organization’ in our country it is certainly one of the most unique. Its small membership includes men of all races, social classes and economic levels. They range in stature from 5’2″ to 6’5″, in age from 48 to 90, and they live in all areas of our Country. Among them are scholars and ordinary men, successful entrepreneurs and struggling laborers, ministers and misfits, very rich to very poor. No amount of money, power or influence can buy one’s rite of passage to this exclusive circle, and unlike almost any other organization, this group’s members hope that there will be NO MORE INDUCTEES. Beyond this attitude towards recruitment, about all they have in common is a passionate love for the United States of America and the distinct honor of wearing our Nation’s highest award for military valor, The Medal of Honor.

2003: Shreveport’s own Hal Sutton was chosen as the 2003 recipient of the Omar N. Bradley ‘Spirit of Independence Award,’ for being named the 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team captain, as well as his stellar play and leadership throughout his career in internationl competition. Sutton has been a member of four Ryder Cup Teams, in 1985, 1987, 1999, and 2001, and has compiled a record of 7 wins, 5 losses and 4 halves. He was named PGA Player-of-the-Year in 1983, only his second season on tour, and won the 1980 U.S. Amateur Championship. Along with his Ryder Cup participation, Sutton was also named to the 1988 and 2000 Presidents Cup teams; the 1979 and 1981 Walker Cup Teams; and the 1986 Nissan Cup Team. He formed the Hal Sutton Foundation in an effort to give back to the Shreveport community, which has supported him throughout his career. The Foundation has evolved into an organization that will financially support improving children’s healthcare, in particular the building of a children’s hospital in Shreveport, LA.

2004: Independence Bowl officials were thrilled to announce retired four-star General Tommy Franks as the 2004 recipient of the Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award.” Since its inception in 1978, this honor has been bestowed upon outstanding American citizens who symbolize the spirit of freedom and independence. Referred to as the “soldier’s soldier,” Franks ended his 38-year military career on August 1, 2003. During that span he served in four wars, was awarded three purple hearts and four Legion of Merit medals, earned an undergraduate degree in business administration and a Master’s in public administration and most recently spearheaded military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan after the September 11th attacks, as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command. He was named Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire this past May and is currently on tour promoting his memoirs, American Soldier, released in ’04.

2005: General Russel Honore, a native of Lakeland, La., is one of the country’s most decorated and experienced military figures. Most recently, General Honore served as Commander, Standing Joint Force Headquarters- Homeland Security, U.S. Northern Command. General Honore took charge and lead countless volunteers in the Hurricane Katrina and Rita recovery operation in the late summer and fall of 2005. Under Honore’s direction, thousands of stranded citizens were provided for and rescued from the Gulf Coast region following arguably the most devastating and destructive natural disaster in our nation’s history. Honore has served in a variety of command and staff positions throughout his distinguished career. His overseas assignments include tours in both Korea and Germany. He served as Commanding General, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea; Vice Director for Operations, J-3, The Joint Staff, Washington D.C.; Deputy Commanding General and Assistant Commandant, United States Army Infantry center and School, Fort Benning, Georgia; and Assistant Division Commander, Maneuver/Support 1st Calvary Division, Fort Hood, Texas. General Honore’s awards and distinctions include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters.

2006: General Harold Moore, a native of Bardstown, Ky., retired as a 3-star General from the Army in 1977 after over 32 years of active service. Moore was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry in 1945 and proceeded to serve and command at all levels from Platoon through Division. Moore researched and wrote a book, “We Were Soldiers Once and Young” in 1992. The book focused on the first major battle of the Vietnam War, the ‘Battle of la Drang’ from Nov. 14-16, 1965 in Vietnam. The book, which spent 17 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list after its release, was made into a movie in 2002, with Mel Gibson playing the character of Gen. Moore. Galloway and Moore each participated in the ‘Battle of la Drang’, with Moore serving as Battalion Commander on the ground and Galloway as a UPI correspondent. Moore attended George Washington University for two years and then received his military appointment in 1942 and graduated from West Point in 1945. Moore was the first of his class (1945) to be promoted to brigadier general, major general, and lieutenant general. Moore served in the Korean War as a Company Commander and Regimental S3 (7th Division), and served in Vietnam as a Battalion and Brigade Commander (1st Cav.). Moore was also Commanding General of the 7th Infantry Division in Korea and Commander of Ft. Ord, Calif. He also served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Department of the Army. Moore was the recipient of the ‘2003 USO Patriot Award’, two Combat Infantryman Badges, and the Distinguished Service Cross (United States).

2007: PetroSun Independence Bowl officials are pleased to announce Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal as the 2007 recipient of the Omar N. Bradley ‘Spirit of Independence Award’. Since its founding 13 years ago, Community Renewal has touched the lives of more than 1,700 at-risk youth. The organization connects caring partners who turn their neighborhoods into safe havens of friendship and support. More than 25,000 people have joined the ‘We Care’ team and over 850 have been trained to serve as Haven House leaders who help renew the city one neighbor and one city block at a time. Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal believes that communities are revitalized through three strategies: The Renewal Team, which connects individuals, businesses, churches and others to create a more caring community; Haven House, which enlists residents to reach out to neighbors on the street where they live; and Friendship House, which brings hope to long-neglected neighborhoods struggling with crime, drugs, and unemployment. Other cities, such as Austin and Abilene, Texas, are now copying the model and bringing renewal to their communities. The National Center for Community Renewal is in development and will be based in a downtown Shreveport building that was donated to the organization. For more information about Community Renewal and how you can support this outreach and help it grow, go to www.SBCR.us. Thank you to David Westerfield, Director of Communications, Mack McCarter, and the organization’s web site, www.SBCR.us for providing the majority of the information used in this release.

2008: ‘Team Hoyt’ is the 2008 recipient of the Omar N. Bradley ‘Spirit of Independence Award.’ ‘Team Hoyt’ is a father-son combination of Dick and Rick Hoyt from Massachusetts that travels the world to compete in marathons and triathlons including the ‘Ironman’- that daunting, almost superhuman, combination of 26.2 miles of running, 112 miles of bicycling, and 2.4 miles of swimming. Together they have climbed mountains, and once trekked 3,735 miles across America.Rick, with the help of his dad, has competed in the Boston Marathon 26 times, and in Ironman Triathlons six times. The Hoyts have competed in over 965 athletic events in the last 28 years. The goal of ‘Team Hoyt’ is to integrate the physically challenged into everyday life. One way to accomplish this is to educate the able-bodied, making them more aware of the issues that the disabled face every day. Another is by actively helping the disabled to participate in activities that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. Team Hoyt targets both of these areas. For the past 28 years Dick, who is 68 and a retired lieutenant colonel in the military for over 37 years, has pushed and pulled his son across the country and over hundreds of finish lines. When Dick runs, Rick is in a wheelchair that Dick is pushing. When Dick cycles, Rick is in a seat-pod attached to the front of the bike. When Dick swims, Rick is in a small but heavy, firmly stabilized boat being pulled by Dick.At Rick’s birth in 1962 the umbilical cord coiled around his neck and cut off oxygen to his brain. Dick and his wife at the time, Judy, were told that there would be no hope for their child’s development. At age 46 Rick is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in Special Education. The Hoyts have appeared on HBO’s ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,’ where their segment recently won a Sports Emmy Award for Best Long feature. Team Hoyt also travels the world speaking out about people with disabilities and promoting the Team Hoyt motto, ‘Yes You Can.’

2009: The National Football Foundation has been named the 2009 recipient of the Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award.” The National Football Foundation’s mission “is to promote and develop the power of amateur football in developing the qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, competitive zeal and the drive for academic excellence in America’s young people.” Founded in 1947 with leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, a non-profit educational organization, runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 121 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., Play It Smart, the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association, the NFF Gridiron Clubs of New York City, Dallas, and Los Angeles, and scholarships of over $1 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. The NFF presents the MacArthur Trophy, the Draddy Trophy, presented by HealthSouth, and releases the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Standings.

2010: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been named the 2010 recipient of the Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award.” The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is “to find cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment.” St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened in February, 1962 in Memphis, Tenn. and was founded by entertainer and 1983 Bradley recipient Danny Thomas. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is one of the world’s premier pediatric cancer research centers and has earned top rankings from Parents magazine, The Scientist, and U.S. News and World Report. In 2010, St. Jude was named No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital by U.S. News and World Repor. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. St. Jude freely shares its discoveries, publishing more research articles than any other pediatric cancer research center in the United States. St. Jude treats more than 5,700 patients annually and is the only pediatric cancer research center that pays for all treatment not covered by insurance. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world. St. Jude is both a pediatric hospital dedicated to the care of children with catastrophic illnesses and a research institution focused on discoveries to further advance the treatment of these diseases. “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is honored to be the 2010 recipient of the Omar N. Bradley Spirit of Independence Award,” said Dr. William E. Evans, St. Jude director and CEO. “The hospital’s founder, Danny Thomas, was given the award in 1983, so it is wonderful that 27 years later the hospital that started as one man’s dream ” an independent institution with a singular mission for children ” be bestowed the same recognition.”

2011: General Charles C. “Hondo” Campbell, a Shreveport native, becomes the 35th recipient of the award. Gen. Campbell retired on Aug. 1, 2010 after 40 years of service in the U.S. Army. He was leader of the U.S. Army Forces Command from Jan. 9, 2007 until his retirement. Gen. Campbell was the 17th Commanding General, United States Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). He previously served as FORSCOM’s Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Staff from April 26, 2006 to Jan. 8, 2007. He earned his commission through ROTC at LSU. His initial assignment was as an instructor at the Infantry Training Command (Provisional), United States Army Training Center Infantry, Fort Ord, Calif. Following Special Forces training, Campbell went on to teach tactics at Forces Armee’ National Khmere Training Command, Army Advisory Group, Phouc Tuy Training Battalion, United States Army, Vietnam. He subsequently served as Special Forces A-Detachment Executive Officer and Commander in Vietnam. His succeeding commands include a Combat Support in the 2d Armored Division, Fort Hood, Texas; a Tank Battalion in the 3d Armored Division, Germany; and an Armored Brigade in the 2d Infantry Division, Republic of Korea. He was also the Commanding General of the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Carlson, Colorado and the Commanding General, Eighth Army, Republic of Korea. Campbell’s military awards and decorations include a Distinguished Medal of Service (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Army Achievement Medal, Special Forces Tab, and Parachutist Badge (United States). Campbell graduated from LSU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and has a Master of Military Art and Science from the United States Army Command and General Staff College. He has attended a wide variety of military schools, culminating with his graduation from the Army War College in 1991.

2012: Wounded Warrior Project® began when several veterans and friends, moved by stories of the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq, took action to help others in need. What started as a program to provide comfort items to wounded service members has grown into a complete rehabilitative effort to assist them as they recover and transition back to civilian life. Tens of thousands of Wounded Warriors and family members receive support each year through 18 WWP programs designed to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement. The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.

2013: Doolittle Raiders: After the Empire of Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle led a group of 79 other volunteers on a secret and dangerous retaliatory mission against the Japanese. The men did not know the details of their mission until they were aboard the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The mission of the Doolittle Raiders, also known as the Tokyo Raiders, involved flying 16 U.S. Army B-25B Mitchell bombers off of the USS Hornet in a bombing run aimed at the Japanese mainland. Because it would be impossible to land the bombers on the aircraft, after the crews dropped their bombs, they were to land in China. However, still 650 nautical miles from Japan, the USS Nashville sunk a Japanese patrol boat, sending warning to Japan that an attack was coming. Doolittle decided to launch the attack 10 hours and 170 miles ahead of schedule. The Raiders hit their targets in Japan, but lacked the fuel to reach the safe airfields in China. Fifteen of the 16 crews crash-landed or bailed out; one landed in the Soviet Union. Three men drowned crashing into the ocean, while eight were taken captive by the Japanese. Three of the captives were executed, and the other five were imprisoned. Four men survived the imprisonment, but one did not make it through the deplorable conditions. Despite the fact that the raid did not cause the amount of damage as was hoped, it was still viewed as a success because it proved that the Japanese were not as impervious to attack as once believed. It also boosted the morale of United States’ soldiers and citizens alike. After the attack on Japan, many of the Doolittle Raiders continued to fight in the war. Twelve of the surviving Raiders were killed in combat. For their bravery and valor, all 80 Raiders received the Distinguished Flying Cross. The men who were imprisoned were awarded the Purple Heart, two men received the Silver Star and Doolittle earned the Medal of Honor. Accepting the “Spirit of Independence Award” on behalf the Doolittle Raiders will be Lieutenant Colonel Richard E. Cole. Cole, 98, was the co-pilot with Doolittle in the first plane to take off from the USS Hornet. After the raid, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India Theater flying combat and transport missions for more than a year. He remained on active duty with the Army until January of 1947. In July of that year, he returned to active duty with the U.S. Air Force, occupying numerous posts across the globe until he retired from the military in 1966.

2014: The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the United States armed forces, making up the 332nd Fighter Group and 447th Bombardment Group of the U.S. Army. Because the military was still segregated, the black pilots trained at Moton Field and Tuskegee Army Air Field, both in Tuskegee, Ala. The 99th Fighter Squadron was the first to be comprised of men from the Tuskegee flight training program. As more pilots graduated from the program, they would form the 100th, 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons. These four squadrons made up the 332nd Fighter Group. The 99th Fighter Squadron was the first to see combat, initially being sent to North Africa. They then moved to support the Allied campaign in Italy and then Germany, joining the rest of the 332nd Fighter Group in Europe. The 332nd received its nickname, Red Tails, because of the distinctive paint job used to identify the unit. They were also referred to as the Red-Tail Angels by the bomber crews they protected during escort missions. In addition to pilots, participants in the Tuskegee Experience of World War II included men and women who were bombardiers, navigators, aircraft maintenance, ground crew, flight instructors and support personnel. More information about the Tuskegee Experience can be found on the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. website at http://www.tuskegeeairmen.org. Through their courage, valor and exemplary record in combat, the Tuskegee Airmen helped to pave the way for racial integration in the U.S. armed forces.

2015: The Berlin Airlift, known officially as “Operation Vittles,” is the largest humanitarian airlift in history. The Berlin Airlift Veterans were responsible for supplying the citizens of Berlin with much-needed food and supplies following World War II. At the conclusion of the War, the Allied nations of the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain held peace conferences in Yalta and Potsdam in order to determine how post-war Germany would be divided among the nations. The Soviet Union received a portion in eastern Germany, while the U.S. and Great Britain received territories in Western Germany. The U.S. and Great Britain also split parts of their territories to give to the French. The capital city of Berlin was also divided among the nations, but the city itself was located well inside the Soviet’s territory. Soviet soldiers were notorious for acts of violence and thievery against Berliners. The Soviets wanted complete control of Berlin, so they shut down all of the highways, railroads and canals into the city, blockading it from the Western nations. With the citizens of Berlin lacking food, fuel and other necessary supplies, the leaders of the Western nations devised a plan to get those items into Berlin. None of the nations wanted to return to war, so military force was out of the question. At the peace conferences, air corridors into Berlin were created and agreed upon by the Allies. These air corridors would be used to ferry in supplies via C-47s, and eventually, the larger C-54s. Early on during the airlift, 1,000-2,000 tons were flown in daily. It was determined that to feed 2 1/2 million West Berliners, it was necessary to deliver 5,000 tons daily, which was quickly accomplished. The planes would land in three-minute intervals all throughout the day. The pilots would work in shifts, and put great trust into the ground control approach operators who helped guide them onto the ground through all forms of inclement weather. All told, the pilots and ground crews of the Berlin Airlift were responsible for delivering 2.3 millions tons of cargo over the course of the blockade, which lasted for just under a year. Supplies were flown in even after the blockade was lifted in case the soviets tried the tactic again. The round-the-clock efforts of the Berlin Airlift Veterans ensured the Soviets did not seize total control of the capital city. “The West Berliners were starving and freezing to death,” said Chuck Childs, a pilot on the Berlin Airlift and president of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Assoc. “They had electricity only for two hours at night when the women would cook anything they could find for the next day. The West Berliners were determined to not be under communist rule and did everything they could to help us on the lift. The loading and unloading crews were Germans and the first time I landed in Templehof with my load, a big German man came up to me with tears in his eyes and said ‘Danke Schon.’ I then knew why I was flying supplies in.”

2016: The Camping World Independence Bowl has selected Veterans of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir as the recipients of the 2016 Omar N. Bradley “Spirit of Independence Award.” The Battle of Chosin Reservoir took place in late November and early December of 1950 during the Korean War, as the Chinese launched an offensive against United Nations forces, mainly the 1st Marine Division of the U.S. X Corps. The X Corps, consisting of the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division, as well as other US Army units, under the command of Major General Ned Almond, marched 55 miles to the Chosin Reservoir – a man-made lake located in the mountainous region northeast of the Korean Peninsula – on the orders of General Douglas MacArthur, commander of all allied forces in the United Nations Command. The X Corps not only had to battle the Chinese, but also the terrain and bitterly cold temperatures, as North Korea experienced the coldest winter in 100 years. China dispatched the Ninth Army Group to eliminate the 1st Marine Division at various strongholds surrounding the Chosin Reservoir. Outnumbered 8-to-1 and enduring the elements, the X Corps held its positions during days and nights of intense fighting. Almond and MacArthur met in Tokyo and made the decision to have the X Corps retreat to the nearest port to preserve the unit’s fighting strength. The units began to fight their way south to the coast after airlifting out the most critically wounded. The Marines set off on a 78-mile journey to the Sea of Japan to reunite with American forces. During the 13-day trek, the Marines fought through 10 Chinese infantry divisions. Though the Chinese were able to fight the X Corps out of the Chosin Reservoir, they took estimated losses between 40,000 and 80,000. The 1st Marine Division lost 4,385 men to combat and 7,338 to the weather conditions, while the rest of the X Corps lost an estimated 6,000 men. The X Corps, however, maintained much of its fighting strength and later rejoined the war effort in Korea. The men of the 1st Marine Division received a Presidential Unit Citation, and all of the UN troops who fought would later earn the nickname, “The Chosin Few.”