"MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The black airmen whose lives will be the basis of a George Lucas movie know the picture will highlight their record of successfully escorting thousands of U.S. bombers in World War II.
They also feel it should tell of the trials they encountered stateside, like seeing German prisoners of war being treated better and afforded rights that were withheld from black American citizens.
Now that "Red Tails" is in preproduction, some of the airmen say they are excited their story is coming to the big screen but torn over how much it should devote to each of their two historic fights — against Adolf Hitler abroad and Jim Crow at home.
Lt. Col. Eldridge F. Williams, 91, wants the film to recount the discrimination they had to overcome in their own country. Williams, who served in the military from August 1941 to November 1963, said a white doctor's false diagnosis of an eye condition kept him from achieving his dream of being a pilot, though he became a navigator.
"I think the story that has not been told is stories like mine in which the home battle that was waged ... shall we say, helped open the door so that the unit could enter combat and demonstrate its capabilities and be successful," he said.
Col. Herbert Carter, who also was with the airmen in the '40s, said the racism the men encountered should definitely be mentioned but not dwelled upon in the Lucas film.
"So many want the movies to focus in that sense and that's bitter history that has been thoroughly emphasized and publicized," the 88-year-old said in an interview.
He said the real story is how they blew apart the notion that blacks could not fly planes in war."