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Clarence E. Huntley Jr. & Joseph Shambrey, who both served as part of the elite all-Black Tuskegee Airmen force, died this past Sunday at their Los Angeles homes. Lifelong friends who enlisted into the Army Air Force together, Huntley (pictured) and Shambrey were both 91.

Huntley and Shambrey were both air mechanics for the 100th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Force’s 332nd Fighter Group, and were shipped to Italy in 1944. The pair kept the planes operational, and Huntley was especially proud of his role.

By way of an Associated Press interview, Huntley’s nephew told the news organization that his uncle took his job so seriously that he earned the nickname “Mother” from pilot Capt. Andrew T. Turner.

Shambrey’s son shared that his father and friend faced so much discrimination in their lives that being less than heralded when they arrived home from the war didn’t affect them. Despite their service in Italy during World War II, the public failed to recognize the contributions of several Black soldiers.

Huntley and Shambrey both downplayed their military roles, electing instead to raise their families modestly and going on to quieter careers.

Huntley worked for 60 years as a skycap at airports in Burbank and Los Angeles according to his daughter. Shambrey served in the Korean War as a National Guard combat engineer and later worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. According to reports, the pair passed quietly in their homes.

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