Black History: Special Delivery!!
Esteban Hotesse (1919 – 1946) is the only known Latinx member of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen was a black military unit that saw combat during World War II. Hotesse was born in Moca, Dominican Republic and immigrated to the U.S. with his mother and younger sister in 1923. The family settled in Manhattan. Hotesse enlisted into the Army Air Corp in 1942. He was first assigned to the 619th Bombadier Squadron, which later merged with the 477th Bomdadier Group M in 1944. The 477th was one of the Tuskegee Airmen squadrons that remained stationed in the U.S. and did not see combat overseas. The 477th did, however have to combat racism and discrimination on U.S. soil. The 477th and 619th merged after the military leaders began receiving pressure to provide more opportunities for black soldiers to fill key positions in the air corp.
Due to the building racial tensions the group was transferred to Kentucky and then Indiana (Freeman Field) in 1945. At Freeman Airfield and other bases Hotesse and other officers were barred from attending the white officers club on base; which was a violation of Army regulations. On April 5, 1945, nineteen black officers attempted to enter the white officers club at Freeman Field in violation of a senior commander’s orders not to do so. Seventeen more black officers then joined the first group. All 36 officers were arrested. Another group of 21 black officers attempted to enter the club the following day. They also were arrested.
This incident became known as the Freeman Field Mutiny. Hotesse, a 2nd Lieutenant, was involved in planning the Freeman Field Mutiny along with other black officers. Most of the officers were released following an investigation. Three officers were court-martialed for pushing a senior white officer during the incident. Only one officer (Lieutenant Roger C. Terry) was convicted and fined $150. Terry’s conviction was set aside in 1995. The Freeman Field Mutiny is recognized as a landmark event to help end segregation in the military.
Just a few months later, on July 8, 1945, Hotesse and the rest of his five-member crew embarked on a training exercise, taking off from Godman airstrip. After completing their training exercise, the co-pilot took control and was directed to decrease the altitude of the plane to 100 feet as it traveled above the Ohio River. The aircraft descended too low and crashed killing, Hotesse, the pilot, and the co-pilot. Hotesse was just 26 years old when he died. He had a wife and two young daughters. Hotesse’s service with the Tuskegee Airmen was discovered by scholars researching the contributions of Dominicans to U.S. History. Edward De Jesus, a research associate at the Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY, is credited with discovering the contributions of Hotesse.