The War: Nebraska Stories
6 of 12

Minority Experiences:
African Americans

Hastings Ammo Depot cafeteria
African American ammunition depot workers in the mess hall at the Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot, circa 1944.
Courtesy National Archives & Records Administration, 283488
"It was something different to see minority people. . . . their presence was a little uncomfortable for some residents in the community."
—Elaine Hatten,
Hastings, NE

Building Bombs
"Negro Enlisted Men at Work on the Load Line, U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot", Hastings, Nebraska, 1944(?).
Courtesy National Archives & Records Administration, 283499
Willie Tripp
Willie Tripp, Yeoman, U.S. Navy, Acting Lieutenant in Hastings, NE, circa early 1940s.
Courtesy NET Television’s series, Next Exit


Racism was a serious problem in World War II. The defense factories needed more workers than small towns in Nebraska could provide. When hundreds of diverse people arrived to help out, they were not always treated with respect. Willie Tripp wasn’t born in Nebraska, but moved to Hastings to work at the Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot.

Hastings Ammunition Depot: Rick Wallace interviews Willie Trip about his experiences at the Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot during World War II.
An NET Television’s THE WAR: NEBRASKA STORIES interstitial,
excerpted from NET Television’s series, Next Exit.
Courtesy 2007 NET Foundation for Television

Read the April 28, 1944 issue of The Powder Keg,
the Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot newsletter.
The Powder Keg magazine
In contrast to the Navy having no record of Willie’s accident,
this issue reports streets being named for those killed.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, 623.4.P87

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Lane, Jr.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Lane, Jr., Tuskegee Airman, 99th Fighter Squadron, U.S. Air Force, and his plane, Meatball.
Courtesy Charles Lane Jr. & NET Foundation for Television, 2007
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Adams
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Adams, Tuskegee Airman, 302nd Fighter Squadron, in the cockpit of his P40 plane.
Courtesy Paul Adams & NET Foundation for Television, 2007
Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. But in 1941, an Army Air Forces (formerly Army Air Corps) program was started in Tuskegee, Alabama to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft.

Tuskegee: Radical Experiment: Paul Adams and Charles Lane recall the racism they encountered on the ground in contrast to the freedom they felt in the sky.
An NET Television’s THE WAR: NEBRASKA STORIES interstitial.
Courtesy 2007 NET Foundation for Television

By the end of the war, the Tuskegee Airmen had destroyed 261 enemy aircraft. The "Redtails", as they were known, flew 200 bomber escort missions against some of the most heavily defended targets in Axis territory and lost a very small number of friendly bombers to the enemy. Tuskegee mission briefing during WWII
Tuskegee mission briefing during WWII.
Courtesy Charles Lane, Jr. & NET Foundation for Television, 2007

Heroes Not Welcome: Sadly, after the war, America wasn’t waiting for the Tuskegee heroes with open arms.
An NET Television’s THE WAR: NEBRASKA STORIES interstitial.
Courtesy 2007 NET Foundation for Television

For More Information within Nebraska Studies:
Arsenal for Democracy: Hastings Grows
Arsenal for Democracy: Rent — The Sky’s the Limit
Arsenal for Democracy: Native Americans Help Build the Plant
Arsenal for Democracy: African Americans Face Discrimination

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