US Coins

Tuskegee quarter dollar design has right aircraft

The fighter planes depicted in the proposed design for the 2021 Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site quarter dollar were selected intentionally, despite concerns from some that the wrong aircraft are illustrated.

The proposed design, featuring an airman adjusting his headgear while two planes fly overhead, is favored by the Commission of Fine Arts, Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and officials from the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee, Alabama.

The North American Mustang P-51 fighter planes that the pilots initially flew in aerial missions during World War II were of the B model, having a framed canopy over the cockpit. However, the two planes featured on the proposed coin design are identified as the modified later model P-51D, showing that model’s superior bubble canopy, which offered the pilots a more unobstructed view of the skies during aerial combat, along with other improvements.

Thomas V. Johnson, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Corporation Communications, told Coin World by email July 11 that the Mint’s design management team spoke with the historic site’s liaison for the quarter dollar to address the coin design concerns.

“The Airmen began receiving P-51 Mustangs in the Fall of 1944 after a nearly two-year stint with the P-47 Thunderbolt,” Johnson said in the statement. “During 1945 the P-51 was gradually upgraded and the Airmen, therefore, flew several versions of the aircraft, progressing to the P-51C and eventually the P-51D.

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“At the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site the P-51 Mustang D model is on display because it was the final version of this iconic aircraft provided to the 332nd fighter group in 1945 before returning home from the war. Since the P-51D is on site at the museum it is the version of the aircraft they preferred to have depicted in the designs.”

Tuskegee Airmen is the popular term for the African-American military fighter and bomber pilots who fought in World War II. They eventually formed the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces.

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All black military pilots who trained in the United States during World War II trained at Moton Field, the Tuskegee Army Air Field, located near Tuskegee, Alabama.

The 2021 Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site quarter dollar will be the 56th and final coin to be issued under the America the Beautiful Quarters Program introduced in 2010. 

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