Numismatics are used by nations to represent history. They honor important people, significant events, and celebrate the principles that guide a nation to a successful history. Those of us who collect legal tender items have seen this in the coinage and currency that marks United States history. One area of this celebration that goes under reported and under appreciated are medals.
Like everything else the US Mint produces, the Mint produces medals as they are legislated by congress and signed by the President. As part of the Mint’s medal programs, they produce medals copies of the official medal for each president as well as the Secretaries of the Treasury and Directors of the US Mint. Other medals the Mint is requested to produce are copies of the special medals that are awarded by congress to citizens for their extraordinary service to the nation.
Today, March 29, congress will honor the Tuskegee Airmen with the Congressional Gold Medal. Formed in 1942, the Tuskegee Airmen were African-American fighter pilots who the Army Air Corps considered “not intelligent enough” to be fighter pilots. These brave men went onto fight in successful campaigns against the Axis powers in the skies over Europe. They went on to dispel the racist preconceptions of the military that lead to General Dwight Eisenhower to integrate the armed forces.
Although it has been more than 60 years since their heroism, it is appropriate that these heroes are honored with the country’s highest award. A ceremony will be held today in the Capital Rotunda to award the Tuskegee Airmen with the specially designed medal. President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, a 1991 medal recipient, will deliver speeches at the event.
This award was authorized under Public Law 109-213 (GPO: [text]/[PDF]). It also specifies that a bronze version of the medal be offered for sale to the public. As of noon today, the Mint is offering bronze 3-inch and 1½-inch versions of the medal that will be awarded today. It is a beautiful medal and a wonderful tribute to real heroes.
Image from the US Mint