The pilots, who numbered about 1,000 during the war, 130 of which are known to be still living, will be given the awards next year, CBS News reported Tuesday. The airmen flew more than 16,000 times during the war, earning more than 900 medals, CBS said. The group never lost a bomber they were protecting.
"Our philosophy was that the antidote to racism and separatism was excellence in performance," said Lt. Col. Herbert Carter, an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The charge to award the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by Congress, was led by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
"The sad part of the story is when they came home, they were just black men who served their country and were subjected to the same discrimination that existed before their heroic acts," said Rangel.