Hiram Mann

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Hiram Mann (May 23, 1921[1] – May 17, 2014) was an American aviator, Retired Lt. Colonel in the United States Air Force, and member of the Tuskegee Airmen's 332nd Fighter Group, an elite squadron of African-American airmen during World War II. Mann flew forty-eight missions over Europe as a member of the 332nd Fighter Group during the war.[1] Mann was a member of the "Red Tails," as the Tuskegee Airmen were called at the time, so-called because the tails of the P-51D Mustangs flown by the African-American pilots in combat missions were painted crimson red.[1][2][3][4] (The term "Tuskegee Airmen" did not come into use until the creation of a veteran's organization in 1972).[2] Mann nicknamed his own fighter plane "The Iron Lady" after his wife.[1][4]


Early life

Hiram Mann was born in New York on May 23, 1921.[1][2] His parents had moved north from Alabama to New York in search of better opportunities.[2] The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, when Mann was still a toddler, where he attended integrated schools.[2] As a child, Mann dreamed of becoming a pilot, often building model aircraft.[2][4] By his own admission Mann thought he had little chance of piloting actual aircraft, telling a Florida newspaper in 2008, "We made model airplanes. I used to save my pennies to go to the hobby shop and buy balsa wood to make airplanes...I never thought I would have a chance to actually fly an airplane."[2]

Mann found work as a bellhop at the Hotel Cleveland after graduating from high school.[4] He told the hotel that he was 21 years old instead of his actual age, which was 18 at the time.[4] He left the hotel for a job at a steel-and-wire manufacturer when he learned that employment related to the defense industry would help delay mandatory military service.[2] However, the work at the factory proved exhausting and he soon left the position.[2] Mann also attended college in Arkansas, where he met and married his wife, Kathadaza "Kitty" Mann, in 1940.[2][4] The couple returned to Cleveland after approximately one year, where Mann resumed his former job as a bellman at the Hotel Cleveland.[4]

Red Tails and World War II

Hiram Mann, while still working as a bellman, hoped to fly for the United States as a pilot during World War II.[1][2] He faced a number of obstacles: his race, his marital status and his level of education.[1] His first application was rejected because of his race. Mann wrote a letter to the U.S. War Department, but was rejected, "The first letter of rejection I received said — in no uncertain terms — there were no facilities to train Negroes to fly in any branch of the American military service. That ticked me off."[1] Mann applied for a second time and received a second rejection because he was married and had completed only one year of college (The military wanted single men and required two years of college).[1][2] Mann recalled, "There I was with three strikes against me — [only] one year of college, married and black."[1][4]

Meanwhile, the U.S. government had begun training African-American aviators at Sharpe Field in Alabama in 1941.[2] Mann applied for third time.[4] Mann received a reply letter on December 7, 1942, saying that his application was on file and that he would be contacted when an opening becomes available.[4] He was finally accepted into the military pilot training program in 1943 on his third attempt, based on a series mental and physical examinations.[1][4] His wife, Kathadaza, moved back with her parents in Chicago and finished college when he husband entered flight training program.[2] She worked as a high school teacher during the war.[2]

Mann completed his flight training and received his silver wings in June 1944 and became a "Red Tail," later known as the Tuskegee Airmen.[1][2][4] Mann flew forty-eight combat missions over Europe during the war.[1][2] Mann flew just two P-51D Mustang planes: He lost the first plane when it "was shot out from under me." He nicknamed both P-51Ds "Boss Lady"[2] and "The Iron Lady,"[1] which were affectionately named for his wife.[2] His flights included a number of strafing missions. He recalled the mission in 2008, "I could see silver streaks coming out from my plane. Then, I could see silver streaks flying past me. I thought, 'Gee, I'm flying faster than my bullets.' But in reality, it was the enemy's bullets coming back past me."[2]

Post-war life and career

Mann pursued a career in the U.S. Air Force after the war and then entered the civil service.[2] He retired from the military as a Lieutenant colonel in 1972.[1] He completed his bachelor's degree utilizing the G.I. Bill and later obtained a master's degree as well.[2]

Hiram and Kitty Mann retired to Titusville, Florida, in 1974.[2] Mann spoke extensively on his experience as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.[1] He often spoke at college campuses and school advocating for education and perseverance.[1] In 2005, he attended the unveiling of a bust of Charles P. Bailey, a fellow Tuskegee Airman, which was placed on display at the DeLand Naval Air Station Museum in Deland, Florida.[2] In 2013, he was one of four Tuskegee veterans who rode in a Model A Ford in Orlando, Florida's, Veterans Day Parade.[1][5]

Mann was one of just six Tuskegee Airmen to attend the dedication of the Tuskegee Airmen monument at the Orlando Science Center in 2013.[1] The Orlando monument is the first in the nation dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen.[1] An inscription on the plaque reads, "Their example inspires future generations to reach to the skies and to realize that all things are possible."

Hiram Mann died at a hospice in Titusville, Florida, on May 17, 2014, at the age of 92.[1] His wife of 71 and a half years, Kathadaza "Kitty" Mann, died March 2, 2012.[1][4] He was survived by his son, Gene Mann, and three grandchildren.[1]


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