Korean War Legacy Project

Beverly Lawrence Dunjill

Bio

Beverly Lawrence Dunjil was passionate about planes from an early age and joined the United States Army Air Corp in 1945. He became one of the youngest Tuskegee Airmen. Although his training was cut short when World War II ended, he rejoined the military in 1949 and served in the Air Force. During the Korean War, he bravely served as a fighter jet pilot, flying high above enemy territory and engaging in aerial combat. He recounts his experiences during combat missions, including his one-hundredth and final mission in Korea. He is proud of his contributions to the Tuskegee Airmen and the changes he and other pioneers brought to the United States.

Video Clips

Training at Tuskegee

Beverly Lawrence Dunjil discusses the advanced aviation training he received at Tuskegee. He fondly remembers his training and the excitement of flying a more powerful aircraft than he had previously experienced. He recollects how, as the training progressed, pilots were given the opportunity to fly combat planes such as the P-40 and the B-25.

Tags: Basic training,Home front,Pride,Weapons

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Reenlistment and Training

Beverly Lawrence Dunjil discusses his experience rejoining the military after integration in 1949. He explains the details of his advanced flight training at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. He describes how he received training in T-33 jets before moving on to flying solo in the F-80.

Tags: Basic training,Home front,Pride,Weapons

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A Typical Combat Mission in Korea

Beverly Lawrence Dunjill recounts a typical day on a combat mission in Korea. He offers an overview of a pilot's morning routine. He illustrates how the flight leader is responsible for guiding and coordinating the flight while the wingman supports and protects the leader. He emphasizes the importance of communication and teamwork in ensuring the success of the mission and the safety of all team members.

Tags: Front lines,Living conditions,Pride,Weapons

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Witnessing a MIG Shot Down in Korea

Beverly Lawrence Dunjill shares he witnessed the shooting down of his first MIG while flying over the northern region of the Yalu River. He recounts how the pattern on the nose of the MIG indicated the skill level of the pilot. He recalls that the first plane he saw being shot down was a "Blue Nose," which referred to a less experienced enemy pilot.

Tags: Aprokgang (Yalu River),Yellow Sea,Front lines,Physical destruction,Pride,Weapons

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One Hundredth Combat Mission in Korea

Beverly Lawrence Dunjill discusses his one hundredth combat mission in Korea. He explains how, during the mission, he worked as a radio relay operator between planes flying in North Korea and the bases in the South. He explains his primary objective was to fly over Choto Island. He remembers how, at the end of the mission, he found an enemy truck and fired at it. He recalls how he narrowly missed parts of the exploding truck.

Tags: Front lines,North Koreans,Physical destruction,Pride,Weapons

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Tuskegee Airmen Receiving the Congressional Gold Medal

Beverly Lawrence Dunjill expresses his pride in seeing the Tuskegee Airmen receive the Congressional Gold Medal despite the passing of sixty years. He highlights the pivotal role he and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen played in breaking down barriers for integration in the military and desegregation in the United States. He shares his thoughts on the country's progress over the years.

Tags: Message to Students,Personal Loss,POW,Pride

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]

 

I:  I’m Shannah Trailor,

 

0:0:30

and this is Mr. Beverly Dunjill.  It is April 13, 2007.  We are at his home.  And just for the record, which branch of the military were you in?

B:        The U.S. Air Force.

I:          Okay.  And you served in World War II and the Korean War?
B:        Correct.  Yes.

I:          Okay.  And years of service.  Tell me about that.  How many years of service?
B:        Off and on, active and inactive duty, 12 years.

I:          Okay.  From 1945 to 1957?

 

0:01:00
B:        Correct, yes.

I:          Okay.  And what is your birthday?
B:        April 20, 1927.

I:          Okay.  Where were you born?
B:        I was born here in Chicago, born and brought up here in Chicago.  Went to school her.  So, completely Chicago.

I:          Completely Chicago.

B:        Right.  A Chicagoan, yes.

I:          Okay.  What is your mother’s name?

B:        Ada.

I:          And where was she born?
B:        She was born in Jefferson,

 

0:01:30

What was that town?  It was in Missouri.  But I’m just trying to think of the town that she was born.  She was brought up really in St. Joseph, Missouri.
I:          Okay.  And your father, where was he born, and what’s his name?
B:        South Haven, Michigan, Harry Dunjill.

I:          Okay.  Do you know how they met?

B:        Not really.

I:          No.  Do you know what brought them to Chicago?

B:        Well, my dad moved from Michigan when they were married.

 

0:02:00
They were married in Missouri.

I:          Um hm.
B:        And they went back to Michigan which was my father’s hometown.  And then uh, he moved to Chicago because the employment situation was better here in Chicago.

I:          Okay.

B:        That was after the, during the Depression, the employment situation was better here in Chicago.

I:          Okay.  Do you have any siblings?
B:        I have one brother.

I:          One brother, okay.

 

0:02:30

Um, do you have any children?
B:        Not of my own, no.

I:          Okay.  Alright.  What is the earliest sight, smell or taste that you remember?
B:        Oh wow.  Smell, taste or sight.  I don’t recall.  I don’t know.  I’ve always wanted to fly, and I’ve always wanted to be a pilot.

 

0:03:00

I remember back as far as when I was three years old.

I:          Um hm.

B:        As far as sights or smells or sounds are concerned, I just, uh, I don’t recall.

I:          Okay.  What’s your favorite season and why?
B:        Spring.  It’s not too hot.  It’s not too cold.  The temperature is far more conducive to doing the things that you might want to do.

I:          In Chicago.

B:        Yes, in Chicago.

 

0:03:30

I:          Okay.  What types of things happen in Spring that you look forward to?
B:        I think, uh, Springtime is a good time to fly.  That’s the best thing.
I:          Okay.  What do you remember the most about your childhood?

B:        Wow.  That’s

 

0:04:00

a, it’s pretty far back.  To me, that’s a very generalized question.

I:          Okay.
B:        Uh, what do I remember best about my childhood.  I remember of course my parents, how loving they were.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Uh, the good times we had when I was a kid.  Growin gup in the Woodlawn area, going to school,

 

0:04:30

playing after school.

I:          What was a normal day for you as a child from start to finish?  You woke up, and you did what?
B:        Well, as a youngster, I would go to school and come home generally play and do my homework, go to bed and watch, listen to the radio cause we listened to the radio quite a bit.

I:          Okay.  And what did you listen to on the radio?

B:        Oh, regular uh, programs.

 

0:05:00

Uh.  Oh, they had what we called, what they called serials like uh, Tom Nix.  You had Jack Armstong, the All-American Boy, uh, the Lone Ranger.

I:          Um hm.

B:        These were all radio programs.  Particularly on the weekends, we would uh, listen to uh,

 

0:05:30

the First Nighter.

I:          Okay.

B:        Uh, which was put on by Lux Soap.

I:          Okay.

B:        Uh.  There were very many programs, uh, in the classical vein which we watched.  We enjoyed them, and particularly musical uh, classical music.

I:          What was one of your favorite stories you heard on the radio?

B:        Oh wow.

I:          During that time?

B:        I really don’t, I don’t recall.

 

0:06:00

A really favorite story per se.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Uh, I don’t know.  I just enjoyed the radio in general.  As far as programs were concerned, and of course, that was a general uh, how do you call it, uh, generalized type of program which repeated or was uh,

 

0:06:30

something like a serial where you listened to the program and of course, it would end.  And then the next uh, session would begin where you left off at.

I:          Okay.  You said that you liked to play as a child.  What games did you play?
B:        Roller, I liked to roller skate.

I:          Roller skating?
B:        Um hm.

I:          Okay.
B:        And uh, I made several uh, we called them skate boxes.  This is where you had

 

0:07:00

a 2 x4, and get a milk crate, nail the milk crate to the 2×4 and take the little skate, and you separate the front and back and put the two wheels on the front and back.

I:          Um hm.
B:        And put uh, various types of lights or whatever you want on them, batteries.  And uh, go play that way.

I:          That’s like an engineer.

B:        Sure.

I:          From the beginning.

 

0:07:30

B:        I used to take a lot of things apart.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And put them back together. I always also built model airplanes.

I:          Um hm.
B:        And that was something that was, uh, something I did very well.  And that which I enjoyed because I always wanted to fly, and I did everything that pertained to flying to the field of aviation.

I:          Um hm.  Your wife said what about Jackie?

 

0:08:00

B:        Jackie was a uh, he was a good friend of mine.  We were in the military together.  And his serial number was one number higher than mine as an Aviation Cadet.

I:          Okay.

B:        And uh, he was very brilliant.  And we enjoyed each other’s company all the way up to uh, adult life.

 

0:08:30

From the time we were about four or five years old.
I:          Do you remember any other friends that you had when you were young?
B:        Oh, sure.  The fellow next door to me, and his name was Ted Allen.  We used to fight just about every week.

I:          Okay.

B:        He’d beat me one week.  I’d beat him the next week and kept alternating.  But we’d still play together.

I:          Um hm.  When was your first experience of racism?

 

0:09:00

B:        That was uh, I think in dealing with the right people generally on 63rd Street, uh and perhaps even downtown where sometimes they did not want to serve you in the restaurants that we went to.

 

0:09:30

And uh, my mother, of course, was very sensitive to it, to that.

I:          Um hm.
B:        And uh, she would argue and fuss and fight.

I:          Okay.
B:        With the people, argue, not fight, but argue.

I:          Um hm.

B:        I remember once, uh, I was on a streetcar, 63rd Street streetcar.  And uh, this guy was

 

0:10:00

I would say he was a racist, and I’m a youngster.  And my mother sat down on the long seat toward the front of the streetcar, and I sat next to my mother, and this guy sat across from me.  And there was a lady that was standing.  She had just got on the streetcar,

I:          Um hm.
B:        And he kicked my foot

 

0:10:30

with his foot and hollered at me to stand up to let this white lady sit down.  And he was an elder, so I’m, and you know, in respecting your elders, I was gonna do what he told me.

I:          Um hm.

B:        My mother saw it completely different.

I:          Okay.

B:        And uh, she said no, you stay there, and you don’t, you don’t give, get up, don’t give your seat for anybody.

I:          Um hm.

B:        But she, uh,

 

0:11:00

made me continue to sit down.  And that has always, I’ve always thought about that because this was something that uh, and I didn’t realize the circumstances until later when I was much older later.

I:          Um hm.

B:        I didn’t realize the circumstances involved.  She did, of course.

I:          Right.  Is there anything else that you remember about her

 

0:11:30

that stuck out to you that maybe you understood later?
B:        Oh, I’m certain there are many things, yes.

I:          Um hm.

B:        You know, to itemize them, I just can’t recall them individually, individual circumstances at all.

I:          What do you remember the most about her?

B:        What I remember most about my mother?
I:          Yes.

B:        She was a very active person.  And uh,

 

0:12:00

I admired her very much because uh, she, she was very active in, in the uh, Urban League and the NAACP.  And she and uh, oh, I can’t remember her name now.  Very well involved in the University in Florida was named after her.

 

0:12:30

I can’t remember now.

I:          {INAUDIBLE} Dixon College?
B:        Yes.

I:          Um hm.

B:        They were very good friends.  My mother and Miss uh,

I:          Kristen.

B:        Kristen, yes.

I:          Um hm.  Um, did you ask her any questions about you not giving up your seat or any of those things that were going on?
B:        No, not until much later on which when I was able to realize what was going on.

I:          Um hm.

 

0:13:00
B:        At that point, as I said, uh, he was a grown man and I’m respecting my elders by doing what he told me to do.  I would have.

I:          Right.
B:        My mother saw it entirely different.  And she assessed the situation correctly, and uh, refused to comply.

I:          Did you ask anyone questions about racism?

B:        Not really.

I:          No.

 

0:13:30

B:        This is something that you would experience as kids.  And uh, later on we saw the difference and heard about the differences in the South versus the North.  But we didn’t experience it until actually when I went down there, went down into the Southern states to, to Alabama.

I:          Okay.  What was a normal day for you like in high school?

 

0:14:00

B:        Wow.  Right when I was in school, uh, again, all of my classes were geared toward the field of Aviation.
I:          Okay.
B:        I took Aircraft Engines in high school.  I was attending Tilden Tech High School.  And that was, uh, an all-boys school at the time,

 

0:14:30

and I had to take an examination to get into Tilden.  They would not accept any freshman. They only accepted sophomores and not.

I:          Okay.

B:        So uh, when I transferred from Englewood

I:          Okay.
B:        And I went to Tilden for my sophomore year, sophomore, junior and senior years and graduated from Tilden.  And I took the courses that were necessary, anything that was necessary

 

0:15:00

to get into the field of Aviation, this class of aircraft engines.  And uh, and that was, and I took it and completed it.

I:          Did you play any sports?
B:        No.
I:          Did you join any clubs?
B:        I was in the, I was in the ROTC in, in high school.

I:          Okay.  ROTC.  What was your favorite class, something to do with aviation probably?

 

0:15:30

Oh yes.  Uh, well, there were, the various technical courses that led up to the field of aviation always interested me.

I:          Um hm.
B:        Uh, I took uh, Forge Shop.  I took, uh, Aircraft um, modeling.  I took the, what was called Aero shop.  That was where we actually carved a propeller according to specifications,

 

0:16:00

built a section of a wing, um.  I was involved with the construction of an, of a wing which um, where uh anything that pertained to the technical

 

0:15:30

aspect of aviation, I was interested in.  And I took a great interest in it.  So, all the courses that uh, were necessary, this, this is something that I built on, Machine Shop.  That was very interesting.  We worked on machines that actually uh, worked on a lathe of a machine shop which was uh, huge, as big as this, amount of this room in.

I:          Um hm.

 

0:17:00

B:        And uh, that was a fantastic, uh, experience.  But I was working on the lathe, on that large lathe and shaping a unit, and with metal, working with metal and, and welding shop.  That was something that we had to take, how to fuse metals together and weld it.  That was all a part of it.

I:          Um hm.  They don’t have many classes like that in high schools now.

 

0:17:30

B:        Perhaps not.  But this uh, Tilden, again was, was a highly technical school.  So yes.

I:          What were the current events during that time that you remember during high school?  What was on the news, the current events?

B:        Well, the War.  President Roosevelt was the President, and the War, of course, was going on.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Uh, when I was in Englewood, the War started.  That was in 1941.

 

0:18:00

And I remember when uh, the War, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  When we got the information, I was, at that nighttime, as I recall it was a Saturday.  And uh, I don’t remember now whether it was Saturday or what.  But uh, I had just come out of the shower.  And then I was listening to the radio, and they broke in the radio

 

0:18:30

Program that uh, Pearl Harbor was bombed.  And I was wondering where in the heck was Pearl Harbor.  And then I found out that that was in Hawaii.  And uh, they went on to give the lengthy circumstances of the bombs that were dropped and the damage that was done.

I:          Okay.

 

0:19:00

B:        And uh, then later on, um, when I went to class to Englewood, they, in the assembly hall, they had an assembly hall, and that was when they connected uh, the President Roosevelt speech where he actually declared war against Japan.  And a few days later, uh, the Germans declared war on the United States.  So, we were at war.

I:          What was the discussion at school after you heard that on the radio?

 

0:19:30

B:        Uh, well, I don’t think there was too much of a discussion per se other than the fact that this was something that happened, uh, and the older people, 18 years of age and older were joining the military like crazy.

 

0:20:00

Everybody wanted to protect this country and take action against the Japanese because what they did to us.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And uh, that was the beginning of the, if you will, the mass hysteria of warfare of one other country that was girding for war.  Uh, when they began to get the

 

0:20:30

various companies, corporations uh, for producing for the War effort.  The factories were beginning to build airplanes, tanks and uh, guns, ammunition.  And they began to uh, collect fat and uh, the grease from

 

0:21:00

the kitchens for the warfare for explosives, all these type of things.  And ultimately, they had what was called a rationing program where sugar was rationed.  Meat was rationed.  Gasoline was rationed.  And you had booklets for just, so you could get just so much of these rationed products, uh.

 

0:21:30

And uh, everyone had the cooperation and wanted to uh, to win the War.  And as a kid, you wanted to join the military as well because people were joining the military to fight, fight for this country.

I:          Can you describe what you were like before you joined the military?

B:        What I was like?  Well,

 

0:22:00

again, all my interest was uh, geared towards aviation.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And uh, of course building model airplanes and taking aviation products or classes in school.  My entire focus was toward aviation.  I lived it, ate it, slept with it.

I:          So, you joined the military.  You weren’t drafted.

B:        Yes.  I volunteered, yes.

I:          Okay.  How did your family feel about your joining?

 

0:22:30

B:        Well, I took the examination to be an Aviation Cadet while I was still in high school.  And then Jack [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Okay.
B:        And uh, we ultimately went to uh, Chanute Army Airfield which is down in Rantoul, Illinois, took our physical examinations.  And then we passed everything.

 

0:23:00

We were then, uh, given notices to go in the Air Force, Air Corp then.

I:          Um hm.

B:        It was the United States Army Air Corp then.  Uh, I went there, went to Tuskegee a little before Jack did.  And uh, the first place that I was sent was to go to Fort

 

0:23:30

just North of here.  I forget the name of the Fort.   Anyway, it was just north of Chicago.  And then from there, we went to Keesler Field, Mississippi for the physical, psychomotor and psychological examinations for the Air Corp.  And uh,

 

0:24:00

have you ever had a physical examination that lasted three days?

I:          What was the purpose of a three-day examination?
B:        Everything that they could possibly find to wash you out, uh.  I don’t know how many of us went down to Keesler Field.  But uh, there were about 75 of us that uh, passed and went to Tuskegee on the train.

 

0:24:30

I:          Um hm.

B:        And that was where I found out that I had excellent or superb night vision, at Keesler Field.  And that was where during the physical examination they showed you various things to test your vision.

I:          What types of things?
B:        Well, uh you know fluorescent uh,

 

0:25:00

oh, alright.  There was a c, like, it was on a box.  Now this c had an opening.  And that opening would be placed at the 9:00, 6:00, 3:00, or 12:00 position.

I:          Okay.

B:        And of course, it was charged up for bright lights, and then we were in a darkened area

 

0:25:30

cause we were before them for about half an hour we had glasses on.  And uh, so that it would enhance our night vision.  And we went into this, uh, room which had no light at all.  And of course, you always saw this, this c which could be rotated to the various uh, positions.

 

0:26:00

The distance away that they put this box was dependent upon your night vision, your ability of night vision.

I:          Okay.

B:        I was as far away; he was as far away from me as he could get in the room.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And I could still determine which clock potion that opening was because it would, uh, he could rotate it to any point.

 

0:26:30

And I was able to tell him uh, as far away as possible as he could get in the room, uh, which position that opening was on the c.  And uh, that along with the depth perception and other physical situations that you, that they examined, they examined everything.

I:          What else did they do?

 

0:27:00

Well, psychological, pscyomotovic, psychomotive examinations were dependent upon your uh, coordination skills.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Uh, for example, they had something similar to a uh, record player which was a turntable.  And you had a

 

0:27:30

a probe, a metal probe that had a little arm to it.  And on that turntable, it had a metal dot.  And you had to keep that metal probe on the dot and of course rotate it around.

I:          Um hm.

B:        That was one form of coordination.  The other was uh, the speed in which you were able

 

0:28:00

to turn switches on and off, uh.  They had four switches for example, top, left, bottom and right on a platform.  Then you had lights that you sat in front of, again top, left, bottom, right.  And uh, when a light would come on, it would come on for example on the top, and you would hit the top switch.

 

0:28:30

I:          Okay.
B:        The top, and all the switches were spring loaded back to their neutral position so all you had to do was hit the switch.  That time interval was uh, the time in which you had to reach for the switch.  And uh, you were graded according to those, the others of your class.  Uh, what else was there?

 

0:29:00

Uh, there was uh, oh.  There was something like an airplane.  And again, you had three lights, left, center and right.  And uh, you had rudders that you sat down, and you could uh, when you put the rudders to the right or left, the airplane would go to the left or right.

I:          Okay.

 

0:29:30

B:        Now again, it was timed.  Everything was timed.

I:          Um hm.
B:        So that uh, when that light comes on to the left, you make sure your rudder goes to the left and get over to uh, to the left.  Uh, to the right for, bring it back to the center, whatever the case may be.  Again, everything’s timed.  And from the time the light goes on to the time when you begin to react.

 

0:30:00

So uh, you are in essence repeating not only against everybody else but against yourself as well.  But like I said, there’s uh, that was quite an experience.

I:          Guess so.  Did anyone else in your family join the service?
B:        Yes.  My brother was in there.  He was older than me.  He was six years older than me.  And he put his age up and went in the military before the War.

 

0:30:30

He was always a military-type person.

I:          Okay.

B:        Uh, he was in what’s called the 8th Infantry Regiment, um.  And he joined before the War even started, long before.  Uh, he was six years older than me, and he put his age up to join.

I:          What were his duties?
B:        He was a uh, Field Officer, uh, Field Artillery Officer.  The 8th Infantry was an Infantry organization.

 

0:31:00

And then when they went up to, after the War started, uh, they were sent to Fort Custer, Michigan.  And that was where they changed from the Infantry to the Field Artillery.  And he actually went to Tuskegee as well, as a liaison pilot.  He became a liaison pilot.   A liaison pilot is where uh, he flies little small Piper Cub-type airplane.

 

0:31:30

I:          Okay.

B:        And, in warfare.  And he flies around, he knows where the target is.  He takes off, and he flies around the target area.  And the people in the field artillery, normally because the range is so great, normally they can’t even see where the shells are hitting.  So, he racks the artillery fire.

 

0:32:00

So uh, to the point to where the artillery can actually hit the target.  That was his job.

I:          What did you think it would be like, being in the military?
B:        Well as a kid, you always have the concepts of military life, you know, shooting machine guns and all that sort of thing.  But uh, you find out really quickly it’s entirely different.

I:          What was the process by which you enlisted?

 

0:32:30

What did you have to do?

B:        Took the examination to be an Aviation Cadet and uh took your physical examination.  Once you found out whether you passed that or not, passed your examination, mental examination, you took your physical.  And then after you reached the proper age, you went into the service. You were called into the service for flight training.

 

0:33:00

I:          What did your parents say to you about going in?
B:        My parents, my mother did not want me to fly.  Period.

I:          Okay.
B:        My father was very ambivalent. He wasn’t, he didn’t have feelings one way or the other about it.

I:          Okay.
B:        He was always supportive of whatever I wanted to do.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And my mother was just uh, completely against it, you know.  Her attitude, if God wanted you to fly, he would have given you wings.

 

0:33:30

I:          Alright.  So, you took the examination. You took the physical.  Where did you meet to leave and go to a certain?

B:        Where did I meet?
I:          Where did everyone say goodbye to their family?
B:        Well, Fort Sheridan.  That’s the main loop, just North of Chicago.

I:          Awesome.
B:        Uh, on going to Fort Sheridan, uh, you went there.

 

0:34:00

And then you went on, there was no group, uh, departure at all.  Each individual left on their own.

I:          What did Fort Sheridan look like?
B:        A military installation, typical military installation, a lot of barracks.  A lot of uh, buildings and uh, people marching around and playing from time to time.

 

0:34:30

That was my first experience going up to Fort Sheridan and uh, seeing people watching.  And of course, my orders were that, was to go to Fort Sheridan to get my uniforms and uh, instructions, be examined physically again, get uh, my uniforms and then, uh, go to Keesler Field.

 

0:35:00

That we did.  Now, that we went in a group.

I:          To Keesler Field?

B:        Yeah, to Keesler Field from Fort Sheridan.

I:          And was that when you got to Keesler Field?

B:        Well, we were rounded up and of course we were told that this was the precursor to the Aviation process or uh, to learn to fly.  Of course, I’d been flying all the way a few years before.  But uh,

 

35:30

for military flying.  And uh, you’re going to have your physical examination.  You’re going to have your psychological and your psychomotive examinations and do what you’re told, and you go to sleep this time.  You wake up at this time, and you’re regimented.

I:          Okay.  What type of training did you receive there?
B:        There wasn’t any training at all.  It was all examinations, mental and psychological and

 

0:36:00

physical examinations.

I:          Where did you receive training?
B:        That was at Tuskegee.

I:          Okay.  And what did your program there start with?

B:        Well, uh, you went into what was called Pre-Flight.

I:          Um hm.
B:        You had uh, various phases:  Pre-Flight, uh, then Primary, Basic and Advanced.  Those were the four stages.

 

0:36:30

Pre-Flight, you’re not flying at all.  All you’re doing is going to school and you’re getting physical examinations.  Believe me, you got all kinds of physical examinations.  And uh by the way, many of these physical examinations were designed to eliminate our war shy people.  The whole situation was designed for failure.

I:          Okay.

B:        You weren’t supposed to succeed at all.  It was designed for failure.

 

0:37:00

Uh, they would go to ground school, and that was for about four or five weeks, or three or four weeks, something like that.  And you’re not flying at all. All you’re doing is going to ground school and attending your classes and generally taking physical examinations again.  Almost every week you take a physical examination pre-flight.

I:          Okay.

 

0: 37:30
And after pre-flight?

B:        Then you go to primary.  Primary is where you transfer from Tuskegee Army Airfield to Tuskegee, Alabama, the university.  Well, at that time it was Tuskegee Institute.

I:          Um hm.

B:        We were housed at a dormitory on the premises, on the property of Tuskegee Institute.  And that was separate

 

0:38:00

and apart from everybody else.  We had our own dormitory.  That was where we lived, had rooms.  And there were three floors which, of course, we all had two to a room.  And uh, we attended ground school, for example, in the morning.  And we flew in the afternoon. Or you flew in the morning and had ground school in the afternoon, depending upon

 

0:38:30

what you might be scheduled at, however you might be scheduled.  But regardless of uh, that, you always began to run five miles a day.  Physical training, you run five miles, come back and exercise for 30 minutes straight without stopping.  And uh, while the instructor was

 

0:39:00

showing you, while you were doing one exercise, he was showing you the next one.  And you went immediately from one right into the other.  [INAUDIBLE]

I:          After primary, you got a lot of exercise, huh, a lot of physicals, but a lot of exercise.

B:        Right, yes.

I:          What happened after primary?

B:        Well, you go to uh, basic.  And, in primary, that’s where you’d begin your flying phase.

I:          Okay.

 

0:39:30

B:        And that’s in a Stearman bi-plane, two wings in a bi-plane.  And an instructor, uh, sits in the front seat, and you sit in the back seat.  And you, uh, learn the military way of flying.  Well, I had been flying before, so flying was not new to me.

I:          Um hm.
B:        But uh, transferring from

 

0:40:00

a 65-horsepower Piper Cub to a 175-horsepower bi-plane, oh, that was, I was in Heaven.  And having., you know, knowing how to fly and I’m able to fly this airplane and convert to a solo no problem at all, that was just fantastic.

I:          Do you remember the first day you got into that new plane?
B:        Oh, sure.  Of course.

I:          Tell me about that.

 

0:40:30

B:        Uh, that, that’s Heaven cause uh, in getting into a 175 horsepower engine aircraft and uh, flying, as I said, it was no problem at all in that. I had been flying before.  But the heavier horsepower engine, that was, that was fantastic.  And of course, the instructor

 

0:41:00

would always ask if you had any, know how to fly before and of course I told him yes, that I had been flying with a CR Coffing.  He knew CR Coffing.  Anyway, he got in the airplane, and uh, of course you had your uh, helmet on, your goggles, kind of your like, scarf and your flying suit.

 

0:41:30

And you were sitting there, you start falling where he’s showing you how the airplane flies, and that was when you begin to get the instruction of how to fly this particular airplane.

I:          Okay.

B:        And flying is the same.  I don’t care what airplane you’re flying.  It’s all the same.  But uh, when you get that

 

0:42:00

feel of that airplane, of course you’re controlling the power on that airplane, and uh, making your turns and whatnot, then you get the feel of that airplane and how it’s, the heaviness of it and weight of it, and you be able to control it.  That’s really where you really feel that you are the master of the world.

I:          Okay, yeah,

 

0:42:30

you have wings now.

B:        Well, you don’t have any wings yet.  But you’re working toward that.

I:          I mean, your mother said if you were meant to fly, you would have had wings.

B:        Right.

I:          What happens after basic?
B:        You go into advanced.  That’s where you uh, fly your military-type of airplanes after you formation flying, instrument flying, uh, and your combat-type of flying.

 

0:43:00

And you fly maybe a P40 which is an actual fighter airplane if you’re in a single engine.  If you’re in multi-engine, you go into the B25.  And uh, fly, all you’re doing really throughout your flying training session is flying more and more powerful aircraft.

 

0:43:30
So, when you go in from the, I went from the Piper Cub to a Stearman, 65 to 175 horse, 175 horse to 350 horse, from 350 horse to a 650 horse, 650 horse to something close to 1,000 horsepower.  So, your speed, your capability of

 

0:44:00

flying is increased.  And your type of flying changes drastically.  And uh, that’s something that uh, you don’t forget.

I:          When did you get your wings?
B:        Well, actually I came out of the service before I got my wings because the War ended.  See, I’m already 80 years old now.

I:          Um hm.

 

0:44:30

B:        I’m the baby of the group.  I’m the youngster of the original Tuskegee Airmen.  The War ended when I was still in flight training.  So, I was declared surplus but put back into civilian life.  I did go back into the military in 1949, volunteered.  And uh, that was the integrated Air Force then.  Before at Tuskegee, that was the segregated Air Force.

 

0:45:00

At Tuskegee, uh, all the personnel there uh, there was the Black Air Force within the Air Corp.  And your pilots were black.  Your uh, mechanics were black.  Your propeller men were black.  Your parachute raiders were black.  Everything was black except a few of the instructors.  They were white,

 

0:45:30

from basic on up.  But uh,

I:          How long did those four stages last, from pre-flight to primary?

B:        From uh, about nine months.

I:          Nine months.

B:        Um hm.

I:          And was it different than what you expected it to be?

B:        Not really. Uh, my expectation was to endure whatever came along.

 

0:46:00

It was a matter of survival.  Again, when the War ended, I decided to get out uh, I was surplus and got out because uh, then, at that point, uh, the chances of graduating and getting my wings was very slim.

 

0:46:30
And if I got out, I could always go back into the Air Force.
I:          Um hm.

B:        That was one of the things that they told us.  You can go back into the Air Force.  Fine.  So, that meant that I could rejoin the Air Force at a later time and go back through flying school again if I wished, which I did, exactly what I did.

I:          Okay.

B:        In 1949, I went back through flight training all over again.  BY that time, I’d had my pilot’s license and everything else.

 

0:47:00

I:          Um hm.

B:        So, flying was nothing new to me.  I’d been flying all the way working for Mr. Coffee and [INAUDIBLE] airport.  So, flying was not new.  But uh, there I began training in the, well, it was called the AT6.  And that was the entire phase of flying in what was called basic.

 

0:47:30

And uh, for advanced flying training, we’d have us sent through Williams Field, Arizona. And there we transitioned into jets.  And uh, we transitioned into what was called a T33.  That was a two-place fighter, and to learn how to fly the jets.  Then when you soloed, instead of flying the P33,

 

0:48:00

you flew the fighter, the F80 fighter.  That’s what you soloed in.  And that was fantastic.

I:          Okay.  A new plane.

B:        A new plane.  And you get in and said okay, this is it.  Go fly it.  And it’s a jet aircraft, and they tell you three things.  One, don’t ever spin the F80.

 

0:48:30

Two, don’t never ever spin the 80.  Three, don’t never, ever, ever spin the F80.

I:          How did you feel when you came back uh, to Chicago after being in training?
B:        Well, it was unusual because uh, now I’m “a war veteran”, and that and 50 cents wouldn’t buy you a cup of coffee because there were so many people that had been discharged

 

0:49:00

from the military.  And uh, oh, they would find a job and whatnot.  And my advocation was still flying.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And so ultimately in 1949, I decided to go back into the military and took the examination all over again.  Passed it, and uh, took my physical, passed that and of course just waiting until

 

0:49:30

I could be called to go back into the service.  In the meantime, I’m still in the Reserves from World War II.

I:          Okay.  What job did you have before you reenlisted?

B:        I knocked around with very different types of jobs.  Anything I could find because employment was a little difficult because you had so many people that were being discharged from the military looking for a job.

I:          Um hm.

B:        And uh, so

 

0:50:00

whatever I could get at the time, I took it.  I worked for, let’s see.  As I recall, I worked for McCormack Corporation making twine.  I was a machinist there.  And I worked at someplace out on oh, Argo, Illinois,

 

0:50:30

as again, a machinist making cardboard boxes, uh, working on a machine as a machinist and cutting uh, cardboard to make boxes.  And I worked in a restaurant, whatever I could find at the time, a whole lot of different jobs.

I:          Okay.  And you decided to reenlist because you wanted to continue flying.

B:        Right.

 

0:51:00

I:          What were the people like that you met in training?  How did the teachers treat you?
B:        Well, the teachers treated me okay.  Well, they had, I’ll make reservations on that because uh, this was in 1949. Nineteen forty-eight was when President Roosevelt signed the executive order to integrate the military services,

 

0:51:30

all military services.  So, all the military now is integrated as opposed to being segregated.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Now, you still don’t have individual things.  You can’t legislate the feelings of each individual.  If they felt segregation before 1948,

 

0:52:00

’49, in ’49 they’re still gonna feel that segregation.  And they will tend to take it out on you in some way, even though they understand and are ordered that the armed forces are integrated.  So, they will give you a little harder way to go than the white guy.  My class when I started out

 

0:52:30

had 10 blacks out of about 200 total.

I:          Um hm.

B:        I was the only one, the only black that finished, graduated.  There were others that were washed out, some for various good reasons.  But there were some that were washed out for, mainly because they were black.

 

0:53:00

the whites were not washed out to the same degree as the blacks were.  But again, uh, within the group of your classmates, we became very close.  That’s something that uh, you learned to live with and learned to respect.  The integrated Air Force

 

0:53:30

is that.  It’s integrated.  Your classmates may be white, and you may be black, but you’re still classmates.

I:          Okay.

B:        And uh, there were guys that well, we got along very, very well.  And roommates.  You were assigned a room, and your roommate may not like you originally.  But over a period of time, you get to know each other.

 

0:54:00

Independent from each other.  And you live as everyone else.

I:          How did civilians feel about the military and the War during that time coming out of World War II?

B:        They really felt the discrimination and the segregation because throughout the South, even though the military was integrated, the South was not.  By law, it was still segregated.

 

0:54:30

I was down at Randall Field, Texas.  Well, in the town of San Antonio is still as segregated then as it was during the War, during World War II.  They had the same segregation, segregated laws, same situation that existed then in 1949 as it did in 1945.

 

0:55:00

Uh, so there was no difference in the segregation in civilian life.  In the military, yes.  There was a difference.

I:          And did you feel more respected by your peers in the military?

B:        Yes.
I:          Once it was integrated?
B:        Yes, um hm.

I:          Okay.  So, the segregation seemed to be something in the outside of the military for even the white people in the military.  You got more respect from them.

B:        Oh yes.

I:          Was there anything you were afraid of going into the Korean War?

 

0:55:32

B:        Afraid?  No.  I can’t think of being afraid of anything.

I:          What was

B:        I stayed kind of busy.

I:          Stayed kind of busy.  What were you busy doing?  Tell me about that.

B:        Coming back.

I:          I mean, what would the day of combat look like, sound like?

B:        Well, on a typical day, you might fly

 

0:56:00

one mission.  You might get up at about 3:00 in the morning and get to briefing by about 4:30 and get to uh, Chow Hall maybe about 4:00, 4:30 in the morning and get to briefing by 5 or 5:30, find out where your mission is going that particular day, and you uh,

 

0:56:30

are dismissed from that.  You go to your airplane and pre-flight your airplane, make sure the aircraft is flyable and that everything is okay, and you have what’s called a start engine time.  You start engines that time, and you taxi out to your formation point where you, again, your formation flying,

 

0:57:00

and when you’re starting out in combat, you’re always a wing man.  So, you have a leader, and you’re flying on your leader’s wing.  And for the first eight or 10 missions, you’re dependent upon that leader for your life really because uh, you have no experience in combat.  And you’re going into a combat situation

 

0:57:30

where you can get killed.  It’s up to you to fly your aircraft, react to the things that you should react to as far as flying the aircraft is concerned, do the things you’re trained to do, and still protect the leader.  That’s your job is to protect your leader.

 

0:58:00

Uh, his job is to seek the enemy out, fire on the enemy.  Your job is to make sure that no other aircraft comes in on him.

I:          Okay.
B:        He is, of course, still looking back over to you, and you’re generally looking over this way, and he’s looking over this way.  But uh, when he goes under the [INAUDIBLE] to attack an airplane, to shoot at another aircraft that’s the enemy,

 

0:58:30

he is completely vulnerable because that’s all he’s looking at.  He’s like a horse with blinders on.  The only thing he can see is that aircraft that he’s shooting at, going after.  Now at that point, other aircraft can come in on him to shoot him down and/or you from any direction.  And it’s up to you to clear the area to make sure

 

0:59:00

that nothing comes in on him.  If so, then you get some directions as to break left, break right, whatever the case may be.  You’re telling him how to break.  And he doesn’t question that.  He breaks immediately, whatever you tell him.  So, that’s, so his life is depending upon me.

I:          Um hm.
B:        And other than being under the gunsight, he’s protecting me

 

0:59:30

like I’m protecting him.  So, your life depends upon each other greatly.  That’s a flight of two.  You have a flight of four which is like your fingers.  You have a flight leader here, his wing man, element leader, his wing leader.

I:          Okay.

B:        Now, instead of flying a flight four like this,

 

1:00:00

they’re spread out in combat formation.  You can be about a mile away from each other.  So, the flight itself can be about four miles wide.  But you still have sight of each other.  And you’re still flying on the leader.  And that leader is against a turn, that leader makes a turn, you see him turn, you pick your turn.

 

1:00:30

At 45 degrees, all four of you are in trail.  So, for example, if I’m the element leader here, and he’s the flight leader over here, he starts making the turn, I’ll make a turn.  At 45 degrees, his wing man will be right behind him, and I’ll be behind his wing man.  My wing man will be behind me.  Pull out 90 degrees later.

 

1:01:00

I:          What was it like to see your first plane go down?
B:        Well, actually the first plane that I saw go down was the enemy.  And I was on the flight leader’s wing when he was shooting at a MIG.  And uh, that was, actually that was a lot of fun because

 

1:01:30

it was what we call a solid red nose.  They had four categories of MIGs.

I:          Um hm.
B:        And you could determine the four categories by the nose of the MIG.  It was a solid red nose.  He didn’t know enough to come out of the rain.  He was a youngster.  He was

 

1:02:00

not the best pilot in the world.  And he had a red checkered nose, I beg your pardon, blue, blue.  Solid blue nose was the worst.  And a blue checked nose.  Then uh, a solid red nose, then the red checkered nose.  He got a red checkered nose on your tail, he knew what he was doing with that airplane.  And that’s something

 

1:02:30

that uh, he was, he was an expert with that airplane.  And this particular time I was on the fighter’s wing was a solid blue nose.  He didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain.  All he wanted to do was to get back to Enton Airport and land.  And uh,

 

1:03:00

he headed for Enton, and we were able to cross the Yalu River.  That’s the only time that we had the ability to cross the Yalu River, and that was when you were chasing another airplane, when you were in what was called hot pursuit.  And I was shooting at this MIG and hitting him every once in a while.  And finally, he’s traded out

 

1:03:30

to go down the runway.  And he was pretty well on the mark meaning the speed of sound, pretty  close to it.  And he was the, he decided he was going to land that airplane come hell or high water.  And he squatted that airplane.  First of all, he lowered his landing gear.  He was right on the mark.  They came off, lowered his flaps.  They came off, and he’s still flying the airplane.  And he’s gonna put that airplane down on the runway.

 

1:04:00

A gun was shooting at him and hitting him, and he went, he hit the runway.  He couldn’t come back on his power yet.  He was still [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Okay.

B:        He hits the runway, bounces up and hits it several times.  And the pilot was still shooting at him and hitting him.  And he goes off the runway and goes into the Yellow Sea.

 

1:04:30
The Yellow Sea was a huge area of tides.  It has some of the highest tides in the world.  I think about 25 or 30’ of tides.  And so, the tides were down, and there was nothing but mud.  He went off the runway and hit this mud and began to hit the mud.  Finally, the plane went north forward

 

1:05:00

and went right straight into the mud.  Well, the whole plane just disappeared right into the mud.  Of course, he was killed.  So, we came back uh, cause I would sit there laughing at him because uh, I’m flying on [INAUDIBLE] wing and watching him hit the airplane, just double checking make sure that nothing else was coming in on him and watching him hit the MIG and watching this guy without

 

1:05:30

even batting an eyelash, he was giving the full power and bouncing the airplane without cutting back on his power at all.  So again, he was bull nosed and didn’t have the right information to come in and out of the wing, out of the rain.  Stupid.

I:          Okay.  Why do you think that the enemy or anyone in the military would put markings on their plane to let the opposition know that they had no experience?
B:        Well, this is something that uh,

 

1:06:00

that was their way of thinking I guess.  But uh, so that each individual can progress to his skill of flying to a better degree.

I:          I feel like that would be marking easy targets.

B:        Well, it’s an easy target, but also as a guy increases in his ability, his experience level

 

1:06:30

his capability is in pieces. As such, he goes from a blue nose up the scale to red checkered nose.

I:          How many missions did you do?
B:        One hundred combat missions.

I:          And do you have, is there a memory from those missions that sticks out more than the others?

B:        Yes,

 

1:07:00

a couple of them I want to talk about.  They were bombing missions.  But one of the things that we did quite a bit of, and that was we escorted photo reconnaissance aircraft.  It was an F80.

 

1:07:30

The F86 which was the airplane I was flying was much faster than the F80.  And we would take a flight of four and escort the photo, we called them photo reconnaissance aircraft, photo rec, and had before and after mission.

 

1:08:00
The fighter bombers from Taegu which is South of us would come up and fly up to North Korea.  And they would have a specific target that they would bomb.  These aircraft had 2,000 pounders, 1,000 lb. bomb under each wing.  And of course, he’d have a whole slew of aircraft going up.  Now, our job was to protect the

 

1:08:30

fighter bombers from the MIGS.  The MIGS would come across, the fighter bombers would go across.  The MIGS would come across the Yalu River.  We would place ourselves between the MIGS and the fighter bombers, protect the fighter bombers.  That was our job, air to air combat.  Okay.  Now, sometimes they would send a photo recy, photo reconnaissance aircraft, up to

 

1:09:00

scout the target area before the fighter bombers got to it.  In other words, what does it look like before the fighter bombers hit it.

I:          Okay.
B:        After the fighter bombers hit it, what it would look like and how much damage did they do.

I:          Um hm.

B:        So again, they would send another photo recy to take pictures of the target after the, after the bomb.  So, we would escort the photo recy from the opposite side of our field,

 

1:09:30

and he would take off and we would wait for two or three, about five minutes, and we’d take off and join him and pick up cause we’d fly much faster than he could.  And he’s loaded down with cameras.  He doesn’t have any guns at all, nothing, no armament whatever.  All he’s got is cameras.  So, it’s our job to protect him.  So, we know where he’s going, and we catch up with him, and finally

 

1:10:00

when we get up, we were in North Korea now flying over, approaching the target area, pick him up.  And now we’re protecting him.  Our job then is to protect him, and we do that by splitting up the four aircraft into two flights of two.  And we fly an S pattern over photo recy because again, we’re flying so much faster than he is.  And in order to combat the aircraft that are coming, that might come in on him,

 

1:10:30

we have to prepare our speed up.  So, we know where he’s going, and all we’re going is flying S pattern over him.  Well, uh, the North Koreans are throwing anti-aircraft generally at him, at us, at all of us really.  And uh, you get used to that.  The aircraft is normally, the anti-aircraft fire is generally

 

1:11:00

aimed by radar.  And the radar that they had was lousy because uh, while they could track a straight flight, if you had any curves or turns to your mission, uh, they couldn’t track that very well.  And that was their problem.

I:          They didn’t know you flew in an S pattern?
B:        Well, no.  We flew an S pattern because we kept our air speed up.

I:          Okay.

 

1:11:30

B:        But so, if anyone came in on the photo recy to shoot them down, we had air speed to go up and intercept the aircraft coming in on them.  But it just turned out that uh, our flying an S pattern over the photo recy, he’s flying straight.  They would normally be, if he was alone, they could track him very easily and shoot him down.  But by us flying over him on an S pattern, that

 

1:12:00

throws off the radar scent as to what the heck the target is.  And because the target is now changing this way and that way as well as going straight ahead.  So, it was never very accurate at all.  But they would throw anti-aircraft anyway, and that was a lot of fun just watch the anti-aircraft fire at us all around.

I:          That was fun.
B:        Yeah.  You get to the point to

 

1:12:30

where all you’re doing is you’re doing a job.  That’s your job.  Your job is flying.  And that’s your job.  That’s your, that’s your work.  You go to work every day.  That’s it.

I:          When did you get married?
B:        I got married the first time in 1951.  She ultimately died.  And Jean and I were married in ’74.

I:          Did you meet your first wife after you came back from Korea?

 

1:13:00

B:        No, I met her long before that.

I:          How did you meet her?
B:        At the airport.

I:          At the airport, okay.

B:        Flying with Mr. Coffey.

I:          Tell me a little bit about Mr. Coffey.

B:        Mr. Coffee was a fantastic gentleman.  I told you that I had always wanted to fly.  And I was still in high school.  He saw in me a kid

 

1:13:30

who wanted to fly so bad he could taste it.  He had a flying school.  And he saw in me a kid who wanted to fly so bad he could taste it, and he actually created a job for me at his flying school.  I was still in high school working downtown at the five and ten cent store as a stockboy making 50 cents an hour.  That was good money in those days.

 

1:14:00

And Mr. Coffey offered me the same 50 cents an hour to come work for him.
I:          Okay.

B:        Now, in addition to that, I got thirty minutes of flying time on the weekends.  If I could have, I would have paid him to work for because that was all I wanted to do is fly.  And here’s a guy that has a flying school and offered me a job, oh shoot.  That was fantastic.

 

1:14:30

And I’m still in high school.

I:          Alright.  Where did you meet him?
B:        Uh, I met him with Civil Air Patrol.  He was the Commander of the squadron with the Civil Air Patrol.
I:          Okay.

B:        And uh, his wife was uh, Willa Brown.  I don’t know whether you ever heard of Willa Brown or not.  But she was  a pioneer of aviation as was Mr. Coffey.  Uh, Mr. Coffey had been flying

 

1:15:00

just about since I was born, maybe a little bit afterwards.  But he was the pioneer of aviation, and he happened to be black.  He had a fine school at [INAUDIBLE] Airport.  A fantastic man.  I’ll always love him and respect him for giving back to me as a youngster.  He didn’t have to do that.

 

1:15:30

But he created a job for me.

I:          What was the last thing you did in the Korean War before you came back home?
B:        The last thing I did was to fly a combat mission, 100th combat mission.  And that was, that was a memorable thing.  On your last mission,

 

1:16:00

you were assigned to relay radio information.  When you go, when the flights go up North to Korea, sometimes they can get out of radio range.  So, when you’re flying over, around what’s called Choto Island, and you relay radio messages from the base to you,

 

1:16:30

and you relay the message up to the combat troops that are flying North of where you are.  Okay.  Now.  That is generally considered a milk run.  In other words, hardly anybody’s gonna be shot down flying, blowing holes over Choto.  After they come back because all you’re doing

 

1:17:00

is sitting there and literally flying circles over Choto.  And you’re not expending any great amount of fuel at all.  So, you’re sitting fat on fuel, and they’re coming back.  And they can get back to where they can land.  And you’re sitting fat on fuel.  So, once they come back past you, then you’re free to attack any targets of opportunity that you wish.

 

1:17:30

And uh, remember now, I’m on my 100th mission.

I:          Right.

B:        Okay.  I’m coming back, and I drop down to about 20,000 feet.  And I see this truck on a straight line, straight road.  And I see him moving, going South, and I’m on my way South, and I’ve got to get down to his altitude,

 

1:18:00

I mean, down to ground level.  And so, I just put the fuel out. I let him get ahead of me, [INAUDIBLE] we pulled up and I’m maybe about this high off the ground, maybe about four or five feet.  And I’m on the mach, right at the speed of sound.  And I’m going down this road, and I hook up fire and I start firing on this truck.

 

1:18:30

And the shells aren’t hitting, and I pull it up just a little bit because it’s a little distance away.  And the shells hit the truck.  When it hits the truck, the truck blows up literally, poof.  Now, I can describe it the way it happened. And it takes me much, much longer to describe it than the actual time it took because we’re talking maybe a fraction of a second.

 

1:19:00

When it blew, it blew up in kind of a semi-circle like this.  I saw the engine going up.  I saw what looked like the hood or a door or something like that going up.  What would be my altitude, and you know, you don’t want to run into an engine blowing up.  And I dropped down.

 

1:19:30

And I went under everything because it went up in a semi-circle like that and then went right straight through it, just no skill on my part, but the good Lord saying come, stupid, you know.  And that was my 100th mission.  I could have been killed very easy.  But again, that was a stupid thing that I did.  But uh, that’s just what happened.

I:          They made that announcement to you?  How did you find out that this would be your last mission?

B:        Oh, you know how many missions you flew.

 

1:20:00

You keep track of.

I:          So, at 100, you get out.

B:        Yeah, that’s the maximum.

I:          How did you feel about going that long?
B:        Well, that’s the situation where everybody, when they fly their 100th mission, they go home.

I:          Were you happy about that?  Were you looking forward to going home?
B:        Yes, I was glad to go home because uh, I’m through.  And I’m having no more combat to fly.

 

1:20:30

I could sit up back at home and fly combat, well not combat but uh, fly what’s called uh, where called up the ground. I forget what it’s called.  Anyway, you know,

 

1:21:00

You’re flying combat missions, but uh, it’s, you’re back here in the States.  And you’re in an unknown aircraft that come along.   For example, like uh, it was one of those pictures.  We were flying over Cape Cod, alright.  So, two aircraft go out, and they’re directed by ground radar to intercept an inbound aircraft.

 

1:21:30

Unknown.  Our job is to intercept the airplane, find out what it is, what kind of aircraft it is, identify it, radio the information back to the GCI Unit, which is Ground Controlled Intercept, radio that information back and do what they tell us to do.  If they tell us to keep it under surveillance, then we’ll sit there and fly in formation on that particular airline or aircraft,

 

1:22:00

Whatever they happen to be.  If we were told to shoot it down, we would shoot it down.  If we were told to bring it back to Otis Air Force Base, we’d bring it back to Otis.  Whatever they told us to do, we would do it.

I:          What type of questions did people ask you after you returned back from the Korean War?
B:        What was it like?  It’s a job.  You do a job, and that’s it.

 

1:22:30|
You go to work every day.  That’s all you do.  Flying is your job.  You are so accustomed to it that uh, it’s just another day situation of going to work.
I:          How were you treated when you came back from the Korean War?
B:        Well, no one raised any uh, big ruckus about it.  You were a

 

1:23:00

veteran.  You came back from the War.  Hooray.  That’s it.

I:          Did people with the segregation situation get praise, or it was pretty much the same after World War II as it was?
B:        It was the same as World War II all the way up until I came, well, in 1964 when the segregation order was passed in Congress in 1964

 

1:23:30

after the Supreme Court decision.

I:          Were there any misconceptions about the War like did you learn anything?  Did you realize that something was different than what you previously expected it to be?
B:        Not really.  Once you realized what combat was like and learned what the combat was like, you did a job.  And uh, you knew what to expect.

 

1:24:00

You knew how to fly.  Basically, that was all you did.

I:          Is there anything you would change about your experience?
B:        Not really.

I:          No?  Okay.  What was the hardest thing you did in the service?
B:        Well, I was a test pilot.  And I flew tests on aircraft that had been either battle damaged and repaired

 

1:24:30

or went through the maintenance section which requires a test flight before putting them back into commission.  And that was also my job.

I:          Okay.

B:        That was an additional job that I had as a test pilot.  There were three of us in the wing, Thomas, Gus Grissom, the astronaut who was killed, and myself.

 

1:25:00

So, three of us were test pilots in the Fourth Fighter Wing in Korea.  And throughout the rest of my military career, I was a test pilot as well back here in the States.  So, that was, to me, a lot of fun.

I:          The hardest thing you ever had to do was a whole lot of fun.

B:        Sure.

I:          How did you meet your second wife?

 

1:25:30

B:        Well, we grew up together.

I:          Okay.

B:        She lived across the street from each other.  And uh, we knew each other.

FEMALE VOICE:  He lived on the third floor, and I lived on the first floor.

B:        Thank you, Jean.

FEMALE VOICE:  You’re welcome.

B:        Uh, we lived across the street from each other.  And uh, and later on we got back together after uh, I was single.  That was it.

I:          What’s the happiest time of your life at this moment?

 

1:26:00

B:        Oh, I’d have to say when I was flying obviously.

I:          Any particular plane that you liked the most?
B:        F86.

I:          Okay.

B:        That’s the fastest.

I:          I mean, how fast was that one?
B:        Well, that didn’t have horsepower as such.  It had uh, thrust, pounds of thrust.  And that was about 7,200 pounds of thrust.

 

1:26:30

So, you’d have about 3 ½ tons of thrust going, you know, in the direction that you want to go.  It’s pushing out the back, and you’re going that way.

I:          Sounds like fun.

B:        Oh, it was fantastic.  You could get up to the speed of sound very easy.

I:          Very easy.  How long would it take to get up to that speed?

B:        Maybe about five minutes, two minutes, four minutes, somewhere around there.

I:          Um hm.

B:        Three to five minutes you’d be in mach one, close to it.

 

1:27:00

I:          What was your most unhappy experience?
B:        I think when my brother died.

I:          When was that?
B:        It was in 1984.  It was a year before my mother died.  We had uh,

 

1:27:30

grown apart from each other.  And he had cancer.  And when I would go to see him, I was really affected by his condition far more than I would have anticipated.  And when he finally died, that really hit me far more than I had thought it would.

 

1:28:00

[INAUDIBLE]

I:          What is the greatest lesson you have learned?
B:        Never take anything for granted.  Never assume many things

 

1:28:30

will take place because normally they won’t.  Uh, something that I teach the kids when I travel around to the schools, no one’s going to give you anything.  You have to earn that which you accomplish.  People don’t give you anything.

 

1:29:00

They’ll help you, yes.  Uh, they’ll give you information, yes.  And sometimes you’re going to have to sift through that information to determine that which is correct, that which you want.  But never assume anything.  This is going to be this way when in fact normally, it won’t.

 

1:29:30

Generally, you make your own luck.  Generally, you live your own life and make your own decisions of what you’re going to do with your life.  So, I ask the kids, what do you want to do with your life?
I:          Um hm.
B:        Do it.

I:          What advice do you have to someone thinking about enlisting now?
B:        I wanted to fly.  I’ve always wanted to fly.

 

1:30:00

I did.

I:          Um hm.
B:        I accomplished that goal, one of the goals in my life.  People normally don’t accomplish a goal in their life that they establish for themselves.  I’m one of the few people that did.  After I came out of the service, I wanted, I was working for Plus Computing machine uh, Incorporated as a service manager.  And uh, I ultimately

 

1:30:33

joined the Chicago Office Machine Dealers Association.  And worked for my goals, later goals was to become successful in the office machine business.  I did.  I went into business for myself and became one of the largest Midwest independent servicing organizations in the Midwest United States.  I’ve done a lot of things in my life.

 

1:31:00

I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life.  And uh, again, these are the things that I had planned and did.

I:          Can you tell me about your work now with the Tuskegee Airmen DODO Chapter in Chicago.

B:        Okay.  As you have seen several telephone calls.  Well, uh, I’m the

 

1:31:30

President, and in as such, I have to spend an awful lot of time and travel around to the various schools and to various appointments and whatnot.  So, I spend an awful lot of time with the Tuskegee Airmen as it’s President, as it’s leader.  As such, I enjoy it, uh.  I get to know the guys and, of course, we talk about flying, you know,

 

1:32:00

and there are times when we talk about flying during the meetings and whatnot.  And it’s enjoyable.  I enjoy the camaraderie, and I respect them, and they respect me.

I:          Now, I participated in your Young Eagles Program.  And I was reading that you’re at one million, three hundred thousand eight hundred and one students now that have flown up with the

Tuskegee Airmen.

B:        Um hm.

 

1:32:30

How does that feel?
B:        Feels fantastic.  See, the goal was originally established by the EAA, Experimental Aircraft Association.
I:          Okay.

B:        And the goal was to fly one million kids free of charge on an international basis by December 17 of 2003.

 

1:33:00

That date is significant because it’s the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers flight, December 17th, 1903.  On October 25, the one millionth kid was flown of 2003.  So, we’ve just continued since they recruited the one millionth kid, we have continued to fly kids, and we’re still doing that.

 

1:33:30

I:          How did you feel about the destruction of MIGS Field?

B:        Well, that’s the decision of the Mayor of Chicago with which I vehemently disagree because we had to disband the Young Eagles Program

 

1:34:00

and discontinue that which we did at MIGS Field because he had literally destroyed the field with construction equipment.  As a result, we moved our operation to the Gary Airport.  And we’re still flying kids, the same way that we flew at MIGS,

 

1:34:30
but we’re flying them out of Gary.  Just as enjoyable.

I:          Tell me about your recent awards, the Congressional Gold Medal for the original Tuskegee Airmen.
B:        That was a fantastic experience.  Only it was 60 years too late.  Uh, I was there with 300 other original Tuskegee Airmen.  And uh,

 

1:35:00

the gold medal was presented to some of the original Tuskegee Airmen, those that had been shot down and had been a prisoner of war and various other reasons for being there, for example Charles McGee.  He’s the guy that, a Tuskegee Airman,

 

1:35:30

original Tuskegee Airman, actually flew combat in four wars. He flew in World War II, Korean War, Viet Nam War and Desert Storm.  When he came out of the service, he retired as a full bred Colonel.  When he came out of the service, he was the most decorated pilot in the history of the Air Force.

 

1:36:00

He had more combat missions than anyone else in the history of the Air Force, 450 combat missions.  He was one of the people that accepted the gold medal, Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush.  There are others that had equally distinguished careers in the military.

 

1:36:30

And uh, I can only agree with having those guys up there rather than somebody like myself.

I:          What moment stuck out to you the most during that ceremony in Washington?
B:        When President Bush saluted the Tuskegee Airmen, that really affected me

 

1:37:00

because the speech that he gave in my estimation was excellent.  And he saluted the Tuskegee Airmen, not just me but the guys that were older than me.  They deserved it far more than I did.  And he saluted them for the things that they did.

 

1:37:30
Guys that were shot down.  Guys that were prisoners of war.  The guys that were killed.  They deserved it.  And they got it.  It was something that was

 

1:38:00

fantastic for the United States.  To see it 60 years later.  All of them.  Where we were degraded.  I have seen this country

 

1:38:30

change from that discrimination and segregation to a point where you can now go anywhere you want, attend any school, any hotel, travel anywhere in this country [INAUDIBLE].

 

1:39:00

In my lifetime, I’ve seen that change.  I’m proud of it.  Sometimes I get a little too emotional.

 

1:29:30

I’ve seen this country change for the better.  I had maybe just a bit to do with it, just a little bit.  But we started before Rosa Parks, after Martin Luther King.  All of us were necessary.

 

1:40:00

All of which built toward the desegregation of this country and building for you and me and our children, you can go anywhere you wish in this country.  It’s fantastic.  I’m proud of it.

 

1:40:30

I:          How do you feel about the War we’re in now?
B:        I think it’s the biggest mistake we ever made.  But this is still my country, right, wrong or indifferent.  I don’t agree with it.  The participation in this War,

 

1:41:00

And I have fought two wars for my right to say what I wish to say.  I don’t agree with it.  But it’s still my country, right, wrong or indifferent.  And I’ll fight for it as I have before.

 

1:41:30

Even though I may not agree with what it is, it’s still my country.

I:          What is your favorite quote?

B:        My favorite quote?  I don’t know.  I never even thought about it.

I:          What is the phrase that you use if you could only share one phrase with the world, what is that phrase?

 

1:42:00
B:        Well, I have to paraphrase Jesus or agree with him.  [MUMMBLING]  anyone can possibly live and experience.  It’s the greatest lesson.

 

1:42:30

I:          What’s the most important question someone could ask you?
B:        I don’t know.  I never even thought about that.  Question of how we can get along in life, I don’t know.  What they should do?  Again, no one can make that decision but them.  It’s what I tell the kids in school.

 

1:43:00

I ask them what are you going to do with your life?  No one can decide for you.  You must do it yourself.  Each person must make their own decision as to how they’re going to have their own life.  The only thing we can do as parents, as elders, is to guide the individual as much as possible

 

1:43:30

so he won’t make the same mistakes we did.  Did I make mistakes?  Sure.  But sometimes you have to bang your head up against a wall when you don’t have to.

I:          Right.

B:        And they can learn by your mistakes.
I:          What’s something important that we missed during this interview?
B:        I don’t know.

 

1:44:00

We’ve accomplished the goal 60 years in the making of the presentation by Congress for the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.  That’s something that we all cherish very much.  And it’s something that we hold in pride, that we’re proud to

 

1:44:30

have experienced the presentation in Washington.  It’s a once in a lifetime thing.

I:          Now within that mood of that presentation, you were explaining to me that someone mispronounced Tuskegee.

B:        Yes.  I think it was a representative, I think it was.

 

1:45:00
And throughout his entire speech, he pronounced it Tuskegee as opposed to Tuskegee.  And uh, throughout his entire speech, he referred to it as Tuskegee.  The person who followed him pronounced it correctly, Tuskegee.  And as soon as he did the first time,

 

1:45:30

everybody applauded.  But uh, again that was human error on his part, or he just did not know.  People don’t know, it’s fine.  And it was.

I:          What’s your favorite joke?

B:        I don’t know.

 

1:46:00

My favorite joke, I don’t have the foggiest notion.  Never even thought about it really.  A joke.  If I had looked as a favorite saying or whatever.

I:          Well, thank you very much for this interview.  Thank you for the work that you do, the DODO Chapter, the scholarship for Young Eagles and everything that you’ve done

 

1:46:30

to make sure that I could go to the school that I go to and that I could do this interview with you.  I appreciate you very much.

B:        You’re quite welcome.

I:          Thank you.

 

1:47:00

B:        This is the uh, flight of two, uh, F86’s.  And I’m in the closest aircraft.  And this was taken just outside of Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.    This was our flight in Korea.

 

1:47:30
The one on the left is Roy, my wing man.  On the next, George is flight leader, flight, wing man.  And then George, George, George was the flight leader.  The guy on the right, I don’t remember who he is, his name now.  He was a West Point graduate.  And we didn’t care too much for him.

 

1:48:00

Okay.  This is me, a picture taken in 1945, one of the few pictures that I had taken in 1945.  And the bunny is Butch Key Bunny, mascot of the class.  Class was 46C at Tuskegee.  And this is me getting ready to go out on my combat mission with all my flight gear.

 

1:48:30

Uh, I was smoking at the time.  Plus, the fact that the jacket is in front here, that’s a flotation vest.  Uh, down here is the E and E kit, Escape and Evasion Kit, helmet, uh, knee pad for the months of during briefing.

 

1:49:00

And of course, the gear that you have on, your flight suit, G suit, and your various jackets or whatever that you wear in layers in case you’re shot down, you’ve got clothes to wear.  And you wear those in layers.    Okay, that’s, uh, my crew chief on the left, my armor on the right.

 

1:49:30

And that’s me sitting in the cockpit after I’d just come back from flying my 100th combat mission in Korea.  A very happy day.  Okay.  That’s my airplane, 50687E as in Easy.  It’s an #10 model of the F86, uh.

 

1:50:00

at that time, it was one of the fastest airplanes in production aircraft in the world.  In my particular airplane, you can see the guns on the right-hand side, the three 50 caliber machine guns.  You have three on the left as well.  So, you had six 50 caliber machine guns all loaded with API or Armor Piercing Incendiary-type shells.

 

1:50:30

They would tear up anything.  They’d fly at the rate of, each gun fired at the rate of 650 rounds a minute.  So, you’re talking somewhere in the vicinity of 3,600 rounds of shells going out a minute.  The photo was taken by the Air Force photographer.  And I used that as a picture of me

 

1:51:00

when I was about 24, 25 years old, somewhere along there.  Again, I sat in my airplane.  The next one down is me getting my decoration, one of my uh, air flying awards, air medal.  I forget if that was the first or second air medal.  I got two.  I received two

 

1:51:30

as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross.  But this is a decoration of Air Medal.  And that was again my crew chief on the left, my armor doing his job with my guns.  And one of the other mechanics up in the cockpit.  But those are the guns that uh, as you can see, come out, far out through the nose of the airplane.

 

1:52:00

Uh, the pilot sits right beside the guns.  There’s three on each side.  This is me taking off on a combat mission, again, in my airplane.  Uh, you can see, well you can’t see it too well.  But uh, they’re taking off on metal planks.

 

1:52:30

You can see in here on this one that uh, they’re strictly metal strips with holes in them.  And the runways were comprised of metal planking.  That’s how we took off and landed on those metal planks.  Instead of concrete, they were just placed on top of grass.  Okay.  The bottom is a model

 

1:53:00

of the F86B.  That was taken at Tyndall Field, Florida, Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida.  That was our class that went to the F86D Transition Program.  We were, within the 200 pilots, the 200 pilots that were trained in the entire Air Force to

 

1:53:30

transitioned to teach others in the F86D.  Uh, the F86D is what we called a dog.  A dog was a fighter interceptor that had its own radar set.  And we were extremely competent to learn on instruments in that we could get on the end of the runway, take off, be directed by

 

1:54:00

ground radar to our target, find our target on our own radar set, fire, knock the target out of the sky and come back and land without ever seeing the target on the ground.

 

[END RECORDED MATERIAL]