Whether you found out about the Tuskegee Airmen in a history book, the 1995 HBO television movie named after them or George Lucas’ criminally-ignored 2012 film Red Tails, it goes without saying that America was indefinitely made proud by the Black men in that legendary squadron.
One of those prestigious gentlemen who fought bravely in World War II was decorated war hero Charles McGee, who we’re sad to say has passed away recently at the age of 102.
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McGee died this past Sunday (January 16) in his sleep at home in Bethesda, Maryland as reported by his son, Ron McGee. He’s credited with flying 409 fighter combat missions over the span of three wars, later in his military career helping to bring attention to the stateside racism against the same Black pilots who fought for America’s freedom.
More on the courageous and honorable life of Charles McGee below, via AP News:
“After the U.S. entry into World War II, McGee left the University of Illinois to join an experimental program for Black soldiers seeking to train as pilots after the Army Air Corps was forced to admit African Americans. In October 1942 he was sent to the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama for flight training, according to his biography on the website of the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
“You could say that one of the things we were fighting for was equality,” he told The Associated Press in a 1995 interview. “Equality of opportunity. We knew we had the same skills, or better.”
McGee graduated from flight school in June 1943 and in early 1944 joined the all-Black 332nd Fighter Group, known as the “Red Tails.” He flew 136 missions as the group accompanied bombers over Europe.
More than 900 men trained at Tuskegee from 1940 to 1946. About 450 deployed overseas and 150 lost their lives in training or combat.”
McGee stayed with the Army Air Corps (now U.S. Air Force) for 30 years, going on to serve in record-breaking aerial fighter combat missions which included the Korean War and Vietnam War as well. He eventually retired in 1973 as a colonel in the Air Force, later earning a college degree in business administration and going on to work as a business executive.
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Born on December 7, 1919 in Cleveland, Charles McGee is survived by his daughters, Charlene McGee Smith and Yvonne McGee, 10 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and a great-great grandchild. May he rest in peace and finally be spiritually united with his wife, Frances, who died in 1994 after more than 50 years of marriage.
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