- 0:00:43 Epigraph
- 1925 U.S. Army War College Study: "Blacks are mentally inferior, by nature subservient, and cowards in the face of danger. They are therefore unfit for combat."
- 0:01:09 Opening Scene
- Fighter Pilot: Germans. Let's get ‘em!
Bomb Squadron Officer: Where are the damn fighter's going?
Bomb Squadron Flight Commander: They've gone chasing scouts, leaving us unprotected again.
Bomb Squadron Officer: Damn it, those glory grabbing bastards . . . bandits, 100s of ‘em. 6 o'clock!
- 0:06:15 Italy 1944
- Joker: Just my luck I get stuck with the flying wreck
Lightning: Another B-40 from Uncle Sam's Junk Yard
- 0:07:28 Red Tails Train Fight
- Lightning: No, it's military! Its camouflage.
Joker: It could just be cows. You don't wanna shoot up no cows if you don't have to unless y'all planning on having a barbeque.
Lightning: I'm telling you, Easy, that's a munitions train, and I bet it's armed to the teeth.
Junior: You grown ups better think fast, it's headed for that tunnel.
Easy: Alright, only one way to find out, let's go get it.
Lightning: Easy, we gotta take it head on low, so they guns can't hit us.
Easy: It's my decision, Lightning, stay in formation.
Junior: These cows are armed.
- 0:13:41 Chapel
- Deacon: How'd it go up there, Ray?
Junior: I'm telling you, Deacon, Lightning almost got himself killed again up there today. He's one craazy pilot. (Sigh) I'ma pray for him if we ever get to see any real combat.
Deacon: Well, hey, I see you here after every mission, I'm sure your prayers are helping. Junior: Thanks, Deke.
Deacon exits the chapel
Deacon: Black Jesus, we thank you for bringing red squadron back home to us.
- 0:14:50 Red Tails Squadron Meeting
- Film watching
Winky: Does it really matter, Sir?
Major Emanuelle Stance: Light's up! What was your question?
Winky: What we do, how well we do it, does it matter? Strafing runs and coastal patrols, they got us out here using planes to mop floors, fellas, and I don't normally go in for loose talk, but we won't even be doing that for long. Ain't that why Colonel Bullard went state side?
Major Emanuelle Stance: Colonel's business state side is above your grade.
Winky: All due respect, sir, but are they back there deciding if they should shut us down.
Easy: Just a rumor, Winky.
Paper gets passed to Easy
Neon: Read it, Easy, out loud.
Easy: The use of Negroes in the army air corps may yet be halted. Reporters been forward calling the performance of negro pilots, unsatisfactory. Plans to assign the Negroes to routine convoy cover may be all that remains for those who seem to have neither the intelligence, nor the proper reflexes for such a complicated task in spite of suit. The Great Tuskegee Exp --
Winky: The Great Tuskegee Experiment to allow the Negro type to fly air planes has failed.
Major Emanuelle Stance: And you all thought what? You'd sign up, get shiny boots and a uniform, and that be the end of 100 years of bigotry. You're colored men in the white man's army. It's a miracle you're flying fighters in Italy and not mopping latrines in Milwaukee. You want it straight? Yes, the old man state side fighting the good fight, and when he comes through for us we better be damned sure ready to do the same for him. Any of you feel otherwise, any of you wanna wash yourselves out, Oh Negro, please do so, and I'll have you on the next thing smoking back home to make room for the men that wanna fight! Get your head up, son. You're fighter pilots. Watch the rest of the film. Learn Something.
- 0:18:39 The Pentagon
- Lieutenant General Luntz: We have enough race troubles as it is without these sons-a-bitches from the press throwing fuel on the fire.
Colonel Tomlinson: How an unofficial assessment of the Tuskegee project made its way to newspapers, magazines, may be worthy of its own hearing, Sir.
Colonel William Mortamus: Colonel Tomlinson you've been supporting this experiment from the beginning, but I'm afraid you're just gonna have to suffer its failure.
Colonel Bullard: We're given hand-me-down planes. Ordered to attack targets that have already been bypassed, fly patrols where the enemy hasn't been seen for months. Now we've down every low down dirty job that you've handed us, hoping that we would just limp along and go away. We will not go away. We have a right to fight for our country, the same as every other American. So you shut us down, or you let us fly.
- 0:19:56 Red Squadron Bunks
- Easy: I love you like a brother, Joe. You disobey my orders again I might have to write you up.
Lightning: For what, being right? I told you those guns were there, you almost got yourself killed.
Easy: No, I followed protocol, you went for the glory, there's a difference. Now you may not need me to get you through this thing alive, but Joker, Junior, the rest of the squad? Just might.
Lightning: Ok, ok, You're right, I'm wrong, I'm sorry.
Easy: What you in such a hurry for anyway.
Lightning: I saw a girl, the most beautiful I have ever seen
Easy: Just can't let ‘em alone can you?
Lightning: No more than you can let that bottle alone
Easy: You got your way of getting through the war, I got mine.
- 0:23:12 I’m Joe
- Lightning: Umm I'm sorry to bother you. I have flew around your house this morning.
Sophia: Oh, mi dispiace, io non parlano inglese.
Lightning sounds and acts out a plane flying
Sophia recognizes him and says something in Italian
Lightning: I'm Joe.
Sophia: Joe. Sophia.
They shake hands and Sophia invites him into the house to meet her mother
. . .
Lightning: I gotta jeep, do you wanna come for a drive?
Sophia agrees to go, but with her mother
Lightning: This is gonna be harder than I thought.
- 0:25:51 Red Squadron Base
- Maurice: I wanna learn about combat fighting, dog fights, and tricks for switching it up on those Jerries, ya know?
Smokey: What the hell you think it is we know about dog fights?
Joker: Yea, the white boys the only ones get to tangling up with the Jerries around here, but they don't talk to us much, so ahh--Winky: Experience is a cruel teacher. Gives the exam first, then the lesson.
- 0:27:33 Scared of Dying
- Winky: Hey look, don't be in a hurry to get to the killing part, Maurice. Tell me something. You scared of dying?
Maurice: I don't know
Winky: I am. Every time I close the lid on that canopy I feel like I'm shutting the lid on my own coffin. I'll tell ya something else. The pilot that tells you otherwise is either a liar or too foolish to know any better.
- 0:28:19 The Pentagon: Operation Shingle
- Colonel Bullard: Politics is the art of postponing a decision until it is no longer relevant.
Colonel Tomlinson: Colonel Mortamus stumbled badly, if he hadn't embarrassed the brass by leaking that report to the press, they probably would've let you wither and die. His politicking brought you time.
Colonel Bullard: For what?
Colonel Tomlinson: Operation Shingle. Air cover for a beach landing. Your chance to go up against German fighters.
Colonel Bullard: I'll say this, Jack, even when your hope is false, it sure is grand.
Colonel Tomlinson: I'm serious, AJ, I can get that for you.
Colonel Bullard: If you stick your neck out, how far? I don't want you to put your career on the line for me, Jack.
Colonel Tomlinson: A little less tin on my uniform is the least of it. If I get you the mission, your men have got to put something on the board, they come through, or Mortamus and the brass will have all they need to shut the whole thing down.
Colonel Bullard: You get us that mission, we will light up the board.
- 0:36:46 Air Fight
- Lightning: There's the squad leader, Gonna take ‘em out.
Easy: Careful, he's good . . . you're letting him get away, Lightning.
Lightning: I'm just toying with him. This is for you, Pretty Boy, with your bright yellow nose. Come on boy, light it up one shot!
. . . .
Lightning: Holy crap! How did he do that! Get him off of me!
Easy: I'm on ‘em . . . get out of the way, Lightning, open your throttle.
Lightning: Come on man, get him off of me!
Easy: Can't get a clear shot, drop to your right . . . Alright got ‘em.
Lightning: And there I was thinkin' you didn't love me anymore
Easy: He's headed home to mama.
Lightning: You thinkin what I'm thinkin'?
Easy: If you thinkin' I should finish him off so we can get back to the beach head, yes.
Lightning: Or, we could follow him, and we could go after their air drome.
Easy: I don't know, Lightning, we got orders, you know that.
Lightning: C'mon, Easy! I'm talking about a Jerry airbase, dozens of planes, you're saying no?
Easy: Alright, I'll trust the instincts this time. We're running low on fuel, we're gonna follow for five minutes. Five minutes you got that?
Airbase Attack . . .
Easy: Good Job, Lightning. The Washington brass won't be able to ignore this!
Pretty Boy (German Squad Leader): God! These pilots are African.
- 0:44:49 The Pentagon: After Operation Shingle
- Commanding General Westlake: Your boys chalked 8 kills in the air, 63 aircraft destroyed on the ground, no losses in their first wave. Outstanding. Pass along my congratulations.
Colonel Bullard: Thank You, Sir.
Commanding General Westlake: Actual Reports and Assessments by 1500.
Colonel William Mortamus: Colonel, 8 german fighters or 80 german fighters, it still doesn't change what I think of you and your boys.
Colonel Bullard: We don't care.
Colonel William Mortamus: Respect the uniform.
Colonel Bullard: Believe me, sir, that is all I have respect for.
- 0:45:43 Base Hospital
- Junior: Legs good, eyes fine, week's time I'll be able to see fine out of one eye, and mostly out of the other.
Easy Junior: Mostly? That what you want me to tell Stanz? So Ray Gun has one and a half eyes worth of ability?
Junior: Look, come on, I landed a plane half blind. Lightning?
Lightning: Hey, don' t get me into this
Easy: If the flight sergeant won't clean bill you, what do you expect me to do?
Junior: Just talk to him, he listens to you. You got the same respect on this base as the old man, so . . . I rather be dead than on the ground. Easy, you're the best friend I got. Please don't do this to me.
- 0:47:23 Cutting Loss
- Lieutenant General Luntz: I can't afford to count a loss as my bombers been suffering.
Colonel Bullard: Do you have film of the air cover your bombers are getting now, Sir?
Lieutenant General Luntz: We need to change the way we fight. I need pilots that will fly close and tight to the heavies all the way. Not put my men in harm's way by chasing rabbits.
Colonel Bullard: So you're asking me to tell my men not to shoot down Jerry fighters?
Lieutenant General Luntz: I'm asking ‘em to put the bombers ahead of themselves. I don't care if they never splash another Jerry fighter. I need to get my heavies to the target and back.
Colonel Bullard: The losses for men in the air, I believe my men can get that down, Sir.
Lieutenant General Luntz: And you can bring back one or two more of my planes every mission.
Colonel Bullard: Sir, I believe we can cut your losses by seventy or eighty percent!
Lieutenant General Luntz: Colonel, the word is you're arrogant.
Colonel Bullard: If arrogant is the only word people use to describe me now, I would say I think I'm making progress.
Lieutenant General Luntz: Can you help us, I am asking you man to man, can you help save lives?
Colonel Bullard: We need new planes. No more hand-me-downs. If you get us new planes, we can help your boys.
- 0:50:38 Love
- Lightning: Man you are so beautiful. Of course you have no idea what I'm saying.
Sophia: Sei molto bello. (More Italian)
They giggle and kiss
Sophia: I love you.
Lightning: Oh uhh . . . wow that's a . . . uhh
They kiss once more
- 0:52:00 Officer’s Club
- Officer 1: What are you doing here? This is an officer's club.
Lightning: I am an officer.
Officer 1: This is a whites-only officer's club. You're off the reservation, pal. Try the Italian Dance Hall near the main plaza.
Officer 2: Ay! Go home, nigger.
Lightning: I got what I came for, good night.
Fight ensues and next section opens in jail
Easy: You put a minutes worth of righteousness ahead of a whole war! Same old Joe Little, still getting into the wrong fights for the wrong reasons.
Lightning: Are your reasons any better? You spent your whole life being one big lousy Atlanta compromise, well go sell that somewhere else, I'm not buying it.
- 0:55:21 You’re a Punk
- Colonel Bullard: Lieutenant Little, what am I going to do with you? Everything's a fight, isn't it? It must be so goddamn exhausting being you. You know something, Joe Little? You're a punk. You remind me of one of those kids from the comic strip, walking around, pushing your sleeve up one arm, hand balled in a tight fist, walking looking at the world in a squint, always looking to knock something down just because it's standing. It's right there. It's right there (Points to head). You really wanna knock something down, try using that. Because I will tell you straight, I don't have anything against you. I have the highest expectations for you. Lieutenant Little, I need everyone on this next mission, and you're lucky you're the best pilot we've got! Report to your unit.
- 0:58:58 Colonel Bullard to the Red Squadron
- Colonel Bullard: At all costs, under every circumstance, you protect the heavies.
Lightning: Colonel, we signed up to fight Germans, not to babysit planes.
Colonel Bullard: You signed up to follow orders. One bomber, that's ten men. You getting one jerry so you can put a cross on your plane, that doesn't balance that. We count our victories by the bombers we get to their targets, by the husbands we return to their wives, by the fathers we get back to their children, what has not changed, what will never change, from the last plane , to the last bullet, to the last minute, to the last man, we fight, we fight!
- 1:06:32 Red Squadron Bomber Escort
- Bomber Squad Leader: One fighter group, all Negro pilots? I don't believe it!
Bomber Squad Officer1: What the hell do we do?
Bomber Squad Leader: Tacoma 1 to all planes, everybody's eyes open, I don't think our fighter escorts gonna be much help this trip.
Pretty Boy: Flying fortress! At least a hundred! Decoy squadron, move in and draw off those fighters.
Lightning: Fighters 4 o'clock.
Easy: They're not attacking, let em go.
Lightning: Let ‘em go?
Easy: Our orders are to stay with the bombers.
Lightning: What? What? You're breaking up.
Easy: You Heard Colonel Bullard, Forget the prize, save the lives.
Lightning: God, I hate this war.
Bomber Squad Officer: Look at that, those red tails are staying put. Bomber Squad Leader: Giving up glory to save our asses!
Junior crashes and Nazi officers take him to a prison camp
- 1:23:27 A Delicate Operation
- Captain Miller: Lieutenant, sit-down . . . . So I bet you're wondering why I picked you to bunk with us.
Junior: It's not something I care to think about.
Captain Miller: Well, don't worry it's not so we can hang you or anything. I chose you because I know you can't be a German spy, being colored and all. We're in the middle of a rather delicate operation, and we don't need any new white faces. You'll be treated no differently to any of the men here. Any problems, you tell me.
- 1:26:25 I’m Glad I Found You
- Sophia: Cosa che colpa?
Lightning: My best friend. He a . . . He almost caused the death of one of our pilots. I don't know what to do. I'm so glad I found you.
- 1:29:11 Red Tails invited into Officers Club
- Chester Barnes: You guys, you're the red tails right? You know red tails? Colored boy flyers?
Smokey: Well, I wouldn't necessarily say it like that but uhh . . . who's askin?
Chester Barnes: Chester Barnes, 98th bomb group, you guys, you flew a little top cover for us about a month ago, little run over Ploesti. Was the best goddamn flying I've ever seen gentleman. And we guys, well we feel we owe all you boys a drink. Why don't you come and join us, come on.
Smokey: Come and join us?
Joker: What's he saying?
Chester Barnes: Come on, drinks are on us.
Smokey: Well, I'll be damned.
Joker: I guess the dancehall gon' have to wait.
. . . .
White Officer: You know uhh, we say colored, but you, uhh, that's not what you prefer.
Smokey: No no no, the word is Negro! When you get upset, when you get mad you turn red, right, when you get envious or sick you turn green, when you become cowardly you turn yellow, and y'all got the nerve to call us colored.
- 1:33:07 Marriage
- Lightning: Umm, Voy esposame? Will you marry me?
Sophia: Posso avere il tempo di pensarci. Uhh, time to think.
Lightning: Ohh, ok.
- 1:34:05 Pig in a Poultry Shop
- Captain Miller: You've been a great help Ray-Gun, I guess there's a lot more to you coloreds than I thought. We uhh, we want you to travel with us.
Junior: Oh, I can't , I'll stick out like a pig in a poultry shop, I'll draw attention to you guys. Thank you, I'll go alone, but here, take my dog tags, get them back to my unit.
Captain Miller: You're a wily sucker, Ray, at least they won't see you in the dark.
- 1:39:07 Yes
- Sophia: I want you stay in Italia.
Lightning: You want me to stay? Does that mean . . . does that mean you'll marry me?
Sophia: Yes! Marriage!
Lightning: I love you! I can't, I can't believe it!
- 1:40:29 The Best Soldier
- Captain Miller: I'm looking for Captain Julian.
Easy: I'm right here.
Captain Miller: You the one they call Easy?
Easy: Guess some people do. What can I help you with?
Captain Miller: I'm Captain Miller. I was in prison with Lieutenant Gannon. He asked me to give his tags to you. Four of us got out. Deal was if we made it, and he didn't, I'd get his dog tags back to his unit. Ray was a good man. To whomever it matters, you tell ‘em from me. Ray was the best soldier I ever met.
- 1:51:15 Lightning Dies
- Smokey: You say Lightning shot down Pretty Boy? Woo hoo! Give em hell, Lightning.
Joker: You just might be the best pilot that ever lived! Now get yo ass back here and help us with this bomber.
Easy: We're on our way back to you, Joker.
Easy: That was a crazy move. You almost got yourself killed.
Lightning: I think I did get myself killed.
Easy: What are you talkin' about?
Lightning: I, I don't, I don't think I'm gonna make it, Easy.
Easy: What do you mean you're not gonna make it? Don't talk like that.
Lightning: There's a lot, there's a lot of blood in . . . .
Easy: Listen to me just hang in there, I'm gonna get you back, alright? Just stay focused, I'm gonna help you.
Lightning: I, I can't breathe, I can't breathe.
Easy: Come on, we've gotten out of worse places than this.
Lightning: No I screwed up, I screwed up, I screwed up.
Easy: I don't care about that, I'm right here with you, we can do this together, come on.
Lightning: Easy . . . gruesome twosome.
Easy: Lightning? Lightning, talk to me. Lightning, don't you do this to me! Lightning? Lightning look at me!
Lightning: I love you. I'm sorry, Sophia.
- 1:57:07 Honors
- Colonel Bullard: The expectations placed upon you men are high. Lieutenant Little exceeded those expectations. We should not be discouraged by his death, but be all the more encouraged by his life. The acts of bravery by him will make us stronger. It will inspire us to fight harder to make this world free. Because we are on the side of God Almighty! Let us pray.
- 1:58:38 Salute the 332nd
- U.S. General: In the name of the President of the United States, the distinguished unit citation has been conferred upon the all-Negro 332nd fighter group for outstanding performance of duty in conflict with the enemy. By the conspicuous gallantry, professional skill, and determination of the pilots, together with the outstanding technical skill and devotion to duty of the ground personnel, the 332nd has reflected great credit on itself and on the Armed Forces of the United States. We Salute You.
- 1:59:39 The Final Facts
- The highly decorated Red Tails compiled one of the best records of any air fighter group in World War II, including 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses.
66 Tuskegee Airmen were killed in action.