"It's late payment, but it's nice," Lee Archer, a Tuskegee fighter pilot told the San Diego Union Tribune. "Congress speaks for the American people, and this is their way of saying, 'OK, we didn't recognize it back then, but we do now.'"
About 300 of the airmen are expected to attend Thursday's U.S. Capitol ceremony.
Fighter pilot Alfonso Harris said it took Congress too long to recognize the airmen. "It's very, very late for Congress to get around to thinking of who we are," Harris told the Union Tribune. "HBO was ahead of Congress," he said, referring to a 1995 movie starring Laurence Fishburne.
But radio expert George Mitchell said he hopes the medal brings more widespread knowledge about the Tuskegee airmen.
"For so many years, no one ever heard of the Tuskegee airmen. That's changing, and maybe the medal will make even more people aware," he told the Union Tribune.