In the early 1940s, shortly after U.S. entry into World War II, Irma “Pete’’ Dryden of New York City was inspired when she heard of the young black men training as military pilots.
Dryden became a nurse for that unit in Alabama, which became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
“We would see to it that they got the best possible care,’’ Dryden, 92, said Thursday at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Dryden was among the honorees at a Tuskegee Airmen event hosted by the Morehouse School of Medicine and Grady staff.
They heard a lecture about the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency from Dr. L. Ray Matthews, a Morehouse and Grady physician, who has been researching that deficiency and its association with chronic medical conditions.
Dr. Kenneth Wilson, assistant professor of clinical surgery and the director of trauma at Morehouse School of Medicine, talked of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen and the racism they endured.
Wilson cited studies at the time that asserted blacks possessed brains significantly smaller than those or whites and that blacks were naturally lacking in courage.
The Tuskegee Airmen’s experience helped refute those myths. The all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps trained at a segregated Tuskegee airfield, and the airmen eventually flew more than 1,500 combat missions. The squadron saw action in North Africa, Sicily and the mainland of Italy.
(From left): Hillard Pouncy, Bernice Berthoud, Irma Dryden, John Haupert and Edgar Lewis.