Earlier this week we shared the heroic history of the well-known Tuskegee Airmen who fought during WW2 and how their stories came to be immortalized into box office movies like “Red Tails” in 2012. Rounding out the final week of February and the last day of Black History Month, is a lesser-known story of America’s first black paratroopers known as the “Triple Nickles”. 
The all-black 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion had their day as people and news stations came together in salute to the 79-year legacy of the “Triple Nickles” paratroopers at the American Air Power Museum (AAM), located in Farmingdale, NY. Join us in a short re-cap of the “Triple Nickles” story shared at the AAM’s special Black History Month event held on Saturday, February 24th 2024.
Imagine yourself if you will, in the frosty Georgia winter of 1943.  Soldiers and officer candidates are traveling to and from Fort Benning. You look up to see the sky filled with white parachutes and underneath…  a symbol of hope lands. In a time when the men that filled the skies were assumed to be White, the “Triple Nickles” were Black. These airmen were pioneers blazing new trails for countless Black soldiers to follow. However, It wasn’t so easy. 
Company A, 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was activated at Fort Benning on December 31, 1943 during WW2. ON February 18th, 1944, twenty-three officers and enlisted men were the first black soldiers to graduate from Jump School, long held to be one of the most difficult training centers in the Army. These Soldiers were, in effect, the black test platoon. This paratrooper unit was activated at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, on November 25, 1944, under the command of Captain James Porter, often thought of as the “Father of the 555th”. Porter and his men knew they were under an Army microscope, with observers waiting to criticize every move, every misstep. In the face of this challenge, the troopers performed their duties with efficiency and dignity.
These were exceptional men, they were former university students and professional athletes, top-notch soldiers who also had to face prejudice and break through racial barriers of their time while fighting for their country.  A major element in their success was that they were entirely Black, from commanding officer down to the newest private. The “Triple Nickles” served in more airborne units, in peace and war, than any other parachute group in history. 

The changing tides of WW2 resulted in a different assignment--jumping over the blazing forests of the American Northwest searching for Japanese balloon bombs, a job requiring exact skills and special courage. These men would soon became known as the. . . . . . . “Smoke Jumpers”. Later, in the summer of 1944, the troopers plunged by parachute into some of the most difficult terrain in the Pacific Northwest. They were the Army’s first rough terrain jump specialists.
Jeff Clyman and founder of both Cockpit USA and the American Air Power Museum welcomed friends and families into the exhibit to honor the “Triple Nickles” in a special exhibit last Saturday February 24th 2024. Museum mannequins were outfitted with “smoke jumper” apparel and gear, as the “Tripple Nickle” soldiers were known to wear. The bravery of the “Triple Nickles” and those willing to fight for their country throughout the harshest times while facing prejudice is what we at Cockpit USA find most inspiring! These stories inspire our clothing and our mission to preserve American lifestyles throughout history.
Proudly sponsored by Cockpit USA, the AAM welcomes guests year round to visit the permanent exhibit honoring the Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter Group with a life size plexiglass P-51 replica plane hanging over the exhibit with the iconic “red tail.”. This plane was originally hanging in the Los Angeles Cockpit USA store.