Memorial Day Fly-IN 2004
 Pilot Plans to Show P51 Mustang at the Arizona Fly-In
 Memorial Day Weekend Fly-In Is A Great Success
 Profiles: Colonel Charles McGee
 Pilot Plans to Honor Airmen with Trip Around the World
 Visiting Tuskegee Airman Brings Black History Alive at Würzburg
 Michael Guess, Minnesota Golden Eagle, Perishes with Senator Paul Wellstone


Memorial Day Fly-IN 2004
May 28 thru May 30, 2004
"Why Moton Field"

Significance of the Tuskegee Airmen and Moton Field
by the National Park Service

After researching such a broad and significant story, the NPS study team realized the importance of the Tuskegee Airmen and Moton Field, the site of primary flight training for these African-American pilots. The meaning of this airfield extends to include the 477th Bombardment Group and their struggle for equal rights within the Army Air Forces, as well as the important participation of Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University) and supportive Americans in the struggle for full African-American participation in the military. If you need to order an essay on such a topic, we're always ready to share our insights with the readers.

Significant points concerning the history of the Tuskegee Airmen are:

1. The struggle of African Americans for greater roles in North American military conflicts spans the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Opportunities for African-American participation in the U.S. military were always very limited and controversial. Quotas, exclusion, and racial discrimination were based on the prevailing attitude in the United States, particularly on the part of the U.S. military, that African Americans did not possess the intellectual capacity, aptitude, and skills to be successful fighters. Political pressure exerted by the black press and civil rights groups resulted in the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen, making them an excellent example of the struggle by African Americans to serve in the United States military.

2. In the early 1940s, key leaders within the United States Army Air Corps (Army Air Forces), as well as the majority of white Americans, did not believe that African Americans had the intellectual capacity to become successful military pilots. After succumbing to the pressure exerted by civil rights groups and black leaders, the army decided to train a small number of African-American pilot cadets under special conditions. Although prejudice and discrimination against African Americans was a national phenomenon, not just a southern trait, it was more intense in the South where it had hardened into rigidly-enforced patterns of segregation to protect white privilege. Such was the environment that the military chose to locate the training of the Tuskegee Airmen.

3. The military selected Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University) as a civilian contractor for a variety of reasons. These included the school's existing facilities, engineering and technical instructors, and a climate with ideal flying conditions year round. Tuskegee Institute's (Tuskegee University's) strong interest in providing aeronautical training for African-American youths was also an important factor. Tuskegee's students and faculty had designed and constructed Moton Field as a site for its military pilot training program and named it for the school's second president, Robert Russa Moton. Students from the school's civilian pilot training program had some of the best test scores when compared to other students from programs across the southeast.

4. In 1941 the Army Air Corps (Army Air Forces) awarded a contract to Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University) to operate a primary flight school at Moton Field. Consequently, Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University) was one of a very few American institutions the only African-American institution to own, develop, and control facilities for military flight instruction.

5.Moton Field, also known as the Primary Flying Field or Airport Number 2, was the only primary flight training facility for African-American pilot candidates in the U.S. Army Air Corps (Army Air Forces) during World War II. Thus, the facility symbolizes the entrance of African-American pilots into the Army Air Corps (Army Air Forces) and the singular role of Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University) in providing economic and educational resources to make that entry possible, although on a segregated basis.

6. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American soldiers to successfully complete their training and enter the Army Air Corps (Army Air Forces). Almost 1,000 aviators were produced as America's first African-American military pilots. In addition, more than 10,000 military and civilian African-American men and women served as flight instructors, officers, bombardiers, navigators, radio technicians, mechanics, air traffic controllers, parachute riggers, electrical and communications specialists, medical professionals, laboratory assistants, cooks, musicians, supply, fire-fighting and transportation personnel.

7. Although military leaders, bonded by racist concepts of white superiority and African-American inferiority, were hesitant to use the Tuskegee Airmen in combat, the airmen eventually saw considerable action in North Africa and Europe. Acceptance from Army Air Forces units came slowly, but their courageous and, in many cases, heroic performance earned them increased combat opportunities and respect.

8. The successes of the Tuskegee Airmen proved to the American public that African Americans, when given the opportunity, could become effective military leaders and pilots. This helped pave the way for desegregation of the military, beginning with President Harry S Truman's Executive Order 9981 in 1948. It also helped set the stage for civil rights advocates to continue the struggle to end racial discrimination during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Consequently, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen constitutes a powerful and seminal metaphor for the struggle for black freedom in America.

9. The Tuskegee Airmen also reflect the struggle of African Americans to achieve equal rights, not only through legal attacks on the system of segregation, but also through the techniques of nonviolent direct action aimed at dismantling white privilege in the military. The members of the 477th Bombardment Group, who staged a nonviolent demonstration to desegregate the officers' club at Freeman Field, Indiana, helped set the pattern for direct action protests popularized by civil rights activists in later decades.

The Resource: Moton Field

Named in honor of Robert Russa Moton, the second president of Tuskegee Institute, Moton Field was built between 1940 and 1942 by Tuskegee Institute with financing from the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Because the facility was an army contract flight school, Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama, provided technical assistance in selecting and mapping the site. Edward C. Miller, an architect, and G. L. Washington, an engineer who served as Director of Mechanical Industries at Tuskegee Institute, designed many of the structures at the air field. The school also selected Archie A. Alexander, an engineer and contractor, to build the air field, and Alexander began construction on the flight school facilities in June 1941. Inclement weather caused several building delays, and student laborers and skilled workers from Tuskegee Institute helped finish the field so flight training could begin on time. When Tuskegee Institute finally completed the facility, it included two hangars for aircraft, a control tower, a locker building, a club house, several wood buildings for offices and supplies, a few brick structures for storage, and an area for vehicles and their maintenance.

7. A recent fire, however, destroyed a hangar at Moton Field (Hangar No. 2) and damaged the adjacent control tower. Time and neglect have also caused several buildings to fall into ruin, while others have been demolished. Only nine of the fifteen known structures at Moton Field during World War II remain. Many of these structures have deteriorated and need immediate repair, while one of them has been altered from its original appearance and use. Nonetheless, many of the historic landscape features at the field, such as the reservoir, gasoline pits and fuel storage facilities, the paved aircraft area between the hangars, the taxiway to the air field, vehicle areas, and curbs and road beds, are still visible and contribute to the character of the historic site. Unless some form of resource protection is established, the historic structures and landscape features at Moton Field are in danger of further decay and will be lost to future generations.

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Pilot Plans to Show P51 Mustang at the Arizona Fly-In
by Vicki McNally

Pilot Lee Owens will be at the Copper State fly-in October 9th - 12th. The annual event is held at the Castle Grand Phoenix Airport. The event was named Copper because Arizona is known as the Copper State.

Lee will be holding photo sessions and media interviews while displaying his P-51 Mustang. The plane he plans to fly around the world will proudly be displaying the names of donors who have helped fund his trip. Lee says, "We still need about 5,000 people to give us $50.00 each."

Although he had originally planned to make the flight this year, Lee said the war and a lack of funds have delayed his trip until next year. Still enthusiastic, he says, "That's o.k. We'll be the only show in town next year!"

He plans to paint the plane in the original "Red Tail" design that adorned the Tuskegee Airman Mustangs. The plane will be retrofitted with special fuel tanks. The rear seat will be removed allowing for an extra 275 pounds of fuel, as will the lockers. Wing tanks will be placed on the plane and shipped back to the United States when he reaches Europe.

Lee is Chief Pilot for Glendale Aviation in Arizona. If he is successful, he will become the first Black man to ever make the journey in a single-engine plane.

The Tuskegee Airmen's National Organization has enthusiastically backed a flight in the three-quarter-sized P51 Mustang World War II craft. Owens didn't expect to make the trip for several years, but plans to make the journey next year.

Owens grew up in Mississippi and believed his mother when she told him, 'You can do anything you want to do." For Owens and his brother, those words have turned out to be prophetic. He has overcome tremendous odds in order to become the black aviator he wanted to be. At this point in his life, his main goal is to complete the trip and mentor young people.

Henry Sanford, executive director of the Tuskegee Airman Incorporated in Arlington, Virginia, said, "That'll be something even more exciting to talk about as he reaches out to the youngster's".

A foundation has been established to make this dream come true. More information can be found on this Website:

As Owens says, "No black man has ever flown a single-engine plane around the world. I believe in this project so strongly, that I am willing to put my life on the line to do it." Now, he needs people with financial backing who will believe that strongly in his cause.

Owens is a visionary for young black people. He inspires them to make their goals and wishes come true. After he has made the flight, Owens plans to use his experiences to speak to youths across the country about the opportunities of aviation.

Tuskegee Airmen National President Brian Smith said Owens trip is the perfect fit for the organization.

"We have a lot of programs around the country geared toward exposing youth to careers in aviation, not only flying but in air traffic control, ground crews, and maintenance," Smith said. "We've got the history side, which is a good portion of our mission, but the other side is influencing youth to get into aviation."

Owens says the trip will take place next year. In the meantime, he will in "full regalia" October 9th through the 12th promoting his plane and the historic trip he plans to make. People who would like more information about the flight can call Lee at 623-206-6248 or Ronald L. Edwards 623-521-4879.

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Memorial Day Weekend Fly-In Is A Great Success
By Vicki McNally


The largest gathering of black pilots in the country was held over the Memorial Day Weekend during the 32nd Annual Fly-In held in Tuskegee, Alabama. The event celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the deployment of the Tuskegee Airmen.

During World War II, a group of African-American aviators were the first within the segregated U.S. Military to prove that blacks could fly in combat. Twelve of the original aviators attended the weekend event. President Sam Jones said, "That's really unique, because these gentlemen are over 80 years old and you don't really get that many of them together that much anymore."

One of those original airmen, Henry Bohler of Tampa, Florida, has attended every Fly-In event since 1971. Jones said, "These gentlemen proved to be some of the brightest and most brilliant people of our race when they participated as Tuskegee Airmen because they offered so much."

The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated young soldiers who volunteered to become America's first black military airmen in what was termed a 'Noble Experiment' nearly 60 years ago. Those who were accepted for aviation cadet training and who became single or multi-engine pilots were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee Alabama.

From 1942 to 1946 nearly 1,000 African Americans graduated in aviation cadet classes and also received commissions and pilot's wings. At first restricted in their roles during World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen played a crucial role in escorting other pilots during missions.


The NAI organization was founded in 1967 to promote the involvement of blacks in the field of Aviation. One of the goals of the organization is to encourage Black youth to remain in school and to further Black participation in aviation. In keeping with that goal, this year's fly-in featured the first ACE Camp for young people.


Over a hundred young people were bussed to the event to attend the Academic camp, which Jones describes as "a pre-college experience."

The camp held an orientation on the first day and then the young people were taken on tours. Black Wings partnered with the Tuskegee University and the FAA Center of Excellence to hold the event. During the course of the event, the young people went on tours of the Museum of Aviation and attended classes set up by the engineering department at the university. On Sunday, a banquet was held at the Kellogg Conference Center.

Young people from as far away as Detroit and Texas came to Alabama to participate in the three-day event. Jones said, "Kids are astonished by the education of the people there." "The mechanics that worked on the planes had Master's Degrees," he said.

President Jones said that normally the Fly-In is funded through membership. "This year we had an opportunity to get some assistance from the FAA." Jones said, "That reinforces that aviation is very much alive in our community and so is the involvement of young people in the aviation area." The FAA showed to us the importance of continuing this event," Jones said. "When other people pat you on the back, it's like atta-boy and it reinforces."

There were some amazing events during the fly-in. In attendance was a Corporate Jet that belonged to a church. One gentleman from Arizona flew in a 'kit' airplane he had built himself. Another arrived in a low-wing aircraft.


The aviators who participated in the Fly-In proved that they are in full support of our youth.. One individual who hails from St. Louis has agreed to promote the event in his own community. He owns three McDonald's Restaurants in the St. Louis area and has agreed to do some in-store advertising in the restaurants. Next year he will be back with some young people from St. Louis.


One of the participants during this year's event called Pine Bluff where Brian Smith, President of the National Organization of Tuskegee Airmen was attending a charter chapter meeting. Upon hearing that the Alabama group had flown some 300 kids on Saturday, he flew to Tuskegee to see what was going on. He told President Jones, "This is the pattern that we should probably try to adopt with our other flying events."

He strongly reinforced holding ACE Camps with the Fly-Ins.

The event was a huge success. Next year's event is sure to be even larger as young people from across the nation are exposed to opportunities available to them in both education and aviation.

Sam Jones said, "I really feel we touched a lot of children from the inner cities and also woke up the conscious level of the nation because of the press coverage."

Contact or with any questions.

Reprinted with Permission from:


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A series of conversations about lives enriched by flying
conducted by Joe Godfrey

Colonel Charles McGee

Charles McGee, who hadn't been in an airplane when he arrived at Tuskegee Institute in 1942, just wanted equal opportunity and the chance to be graded on his performance. Thirty years later he retired as a Colonel, holding the highest three-war total of combat missions in U.S. Air Force history. In this month's Profile, AVweb's Joe Godfrey talks with Colonel McGee about his love of flying, and how the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. honor the past and shape the future.

Charles Edward McGee was born December 7, 1919, in Cleveland, Ohio. His mother died giving birth to his sister when he was about a year old. On his 22nd birthday Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and WWII soon interrupted his studies at the University of Illinois. McGee was sworn into the enlisted reserve on October 26, 1942, and entered Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Training. He received his silver wings as a single-engine pilot and a commission as 2nd Lieutenant on June 30, 1943, as a member of Class 43-F, Tuskegee Army Air Field, SE Flying Training Command.


McGee became a career aviator. In his 30 years of active duty he became a command pilot with over 6,100 total hours. He flew fighter aircraft combat tours in three major military conflicts, the P-39, P-47 and P-51 with the 302nd Fighter Squadron in Italy during WWII, the F-51 with the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron in Korea, and the RF-4C with the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS) in Viet Nam. He commanded the 44th Fighter Bomber Squadron in the Philippines in 1951-53, the 7230th Support Squadron in Italy 1961-63, the 16th TRS 1967-68, and the 1840th Air Base Wing and Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri, in 1972. He retired from active duty on January 31, 1973, with 409 missions-- the highest three-war total in USAF history.

Colonel McGee's awards include the Legion of Merit with Oak Left Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with Two Clusters, Bronze Star, Air Medal with 25 Clusters, Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with Cluster, Presidential Unit Citation, Korean Presidential Citation, The Hellenic Republic WWII Commemorative Medal and several campaign and service ribbons. He holds a BA in Business Administration. After his military career he became Director of Real Estate and Purchasing for ISC Financial Corp., and VP of Real Estate for its subsidiary, Interstate Securities Company. He managed Kansas City Downtown airport before he retired in 1982. Since then he has been active in church and charity work, and served as President of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. from 1983-85.

Colonel McGee and his late wife, Frances, raised three children. His daughter Charlene is Associate Dean for Administration and Finance at the Osteopathic Hospital at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and wrote Colonel McGee's biography. His son Ronald is a Captain with Continental Airlines and is an instructor and check airman for the Boeing 777. His daughter Yvonne is a television editor and producer who recently began taking flying lessons.

  What was your childhood like?

I don't remember much about Cleveland, but I remember visiting my grandparents in the mountains of West Virginia. I remember the smell of the bakery in the morning when they'd fire up for the new day. Life was pleasant. We didn't have a lot but we managed and enjoyed family togetherness. We moved to the Midwest in about the third grade, and I was able to get into the Boy Scouts and some social activities. I don't recall schooling in Cleveland, but my schooling from the third grade to the end of high school was in integrated schools, or schools where the black population was so small that they didn't have separate schools. That may have had some later bearing on my getting along with others. I was in good schools and that put me on track to finish high school and consider attending college.

When the war started, blacks needed a college degree to get into flying. But by 1942, when we were deeply involved in the war, you could sign up for Aviation Cadet Training with two years of college. Because that opportunity turned out to be a segregated opportunity, I didn't get a call to begin training until late October of 1942.

Had you been interested in airplanes and flying?

I had never been around one. My only experience was with paper airplanes and looking the other way when the teacher would try to see if it was you that threw it. I was in Army ROTC at the University of Illinois, and since I was in the Pershing Rifles I knew what the life of the foot soldier was all about, so I figured something had to be better than that. It was a good choice because I fell in love with aviation from the start.

So your first flight was at Tuskegee?

My first lesson was in that PT-17 at Tuskegee Institute. We used the Institute's facilities while they were completing the Army airfield. The Army's attitudes were that blacks could not fly and didn't have the right demeanor, and the Institute was one of six black colleges with a civilian pilot training (CPT) program. It was doing so well that they were moving into the second phase of the program, which was training flight instructors. It turns out that the Army was allowed to contract the primary phase of flight training to a CPT. Tuskegee applied for and received the contract for the primary training for the 99th and those squadrons that followed, and I was in one of those. So the Army's position was that blacks can't fly, but they contracted with a black college with black instructors to give us our first training.

2nd Lieutenant McGee

Some pilots already had a private license from a CPT but the Army didn't want them because they didn't have black mechanics so they couldn't use black pilots. When I graduated in June of 1943, my instructor said "It's too bad there's no bomber program of black pilots, because I think you would make a good bomber pilot." Little did he know, which I found out later, that about a month later they authorized the 477th bomb group and developed four squadrons. They were flying medium bombers like the B-29. Later, after my combat tour I rotated back and became an twin-engine instructor.

Was your trip to Tuskegee your first trip to the South?

First trip as an adult. I had spent about a year in Jacksonville, Fla., when my father was teaching at Edward Waters College when I was in the third grade. At Tuskegee you learned to move about cautiously. You learned to avoid places that might spell trouble. I wasn't looking for trouble but you never knew what you might encounter because of the attitudes in the South.

Did the hostility that surrounded you serve to solidify the cadets?

I would say that's true. At that time there was no love between the Institute and the town of Tuskegee, which was about nine miles away. The sheriff and the local police would stop people for whatever cause they might have that particular day. In the early days of the Tuskegee Army Airfield, the Commander -- who was white because there were no blacks with Army experience -- didn't want the Military Police on base to carry sidearms because he didn't want blacks with guns approaching the white civilians who worked at the base. That commander didn't stay there long and Noel Parrish moved from Director of Operations to the command. He didn't change the attitude of segregation but he did believe in equal opportunity and measuring one's performance, and that helped a lot.

The fact that we did everything in segregation did meld us together in a unique way. We went through all phases of training together, we graduated together, we formed a unit, the four fighter squadrons and the four bomber squadrons. The four fighter squadrons went into combat together, still segregated, both overseas and back at home, as we married and our kids came along. So from 1941 until about 1948 we were all together. That led to friendships that lasted a lifetime and gave our unit a togetherness that I don't think any other unit had. Other units would go one place for primary, somewhere else for advanced, then might be broken up to different fighter and bomber units. At Tuskegee we wanted the opportunity to train without standards being changed and be graded on that performance, and I think getting to know and understand one another eventually showed in our performance.

Which airplanes did you like to fly?

Captain McGee and "Kitten"
Italy, 1944

  First I have to give credit to our mechanics and technicians. The fine print in the program said "and all the necessary support." Just like our pilots had no previous experience, our mechanics may have been auto mechanics or something else, but they were trained and supported, too. Not only did they maintain the training airplanes that we flew, from the PT-17 and the BT-13 for basic, the AT-6 for advanced, the P-40 for initial combat -- and that was the key fighter in '41 -- then by '43 we had the P-39 and the P-47 coming out. Three of the fighter squadrons flew the P-39 in combat and the 99th flew the P-40 in combat for over a year. As we moved from tactical work to the strategic escort work with the bombers they flew the P-47 Thunderbolt. Well, that was a new airplane to the mechanics and technicians as well as the pilots.

The 302nd was one of five fighter groups picked to begin the escorts. We flew the P-47 for about 6 weeks from May until July of '44, and then we got the P-51s. There was one P-38 outfit for a while but I think they did more special missions than escorts.

I think most fighter pilots would say the P-51 was the best of the fighter aircraft. I say that because of its maneuverability from the ground all the way to 35,000 feet. Escorting B-17s we were often above 30,000. They would trim up and keep getting higher to stay above the antiaircraft fire, and we'd go up with them. The P-51 was ideal for that work. And there's nothing like the sound of that inline Merlin engine.

Tell us about some of your missions.

We had a variety of missions. I think my first P-51 mission was a fighter sweep. Depending on the nature of the bomb raid and the weather we would sweep in and damage and destroy German aircraft on the ground. I think my longest mission was working with the Yugoslav underground evacuating some of our pilots that had been shot down over the Balkans. Around the D-Day timeframe, we flew the P-47 in southern France to push the Germans back from the coast.

Many times in escort we'd see German fighters but if they stayed away from the bombstream we were escorting we didn't leave the bombers just to chase them. But if they got close enough that they were a threat, we'd dispatch a group to go get them. That's what happened in August of 1944 at the Pardubice aerodrome, north of Vienna , and I shot down an Me-109.

Is that your only air combat action?

Yes. I got credit for destroying one and damaging a lot of German airplanes on the ground but that was my only air action. I had 58 long-range escort missions from January to November of 1944. I had a total of 136 missions. About 80 were tactical and the rest were escorts.

Who were some of the pilots you flew with?

7,000th mission flown by 18th Fighter/Bomber Group; Korea, 1951
One of the hardest losses I had was my wingman, who got shot down on his 97th mission. He wasn't lost to enemy action, it was an accident that happened because of the location of our airstrip. When you lose somebody close it certainly does impact you, but you go on, because the training is the mission is there to be done and you can't forget the task at hand. I found that out in subsequent actions as well.

Where did you go after the war?

Back to Tuskegee, because of the attitudes that were still prevalent. I was selected to go into twin-engine training, first in the AT-10 and then the TB-25. They took out the guns and the armor plate and it made an excellent training platform, because pilots were actually training in the airplane that they'd be flying on medium range bombing missions.

Did you enjoy being an instructor?

I found it very rewarding. I think you learn more about flying by teaching somebody else than any other way. You have to be able to explain all the elements, and keep yourself on your toes to be able to impart the right techniques. So yes, I enjoyed teaching a lot.

With the war over in Europe we were preparing to send the 477th to the Pacific and the 302nd had been disbanded. The 477th composite group became two squadrons of B-25s of the 477th, and two squadrons from the 332nd, and P-47s from the 99th and the 100th. When Tuskegee closed in 1946 we were all sent to Lockbourne Air base in Columbus, Ohio. I became Base Operations and Training officer, which put me in charge of test work on aircraft, and instrument training for the annual proficiency of the rated base pilots. When the Air Force separated from the Army they deactivated the composite group and reactivated the 332nd Fighter Group and Wing. Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became our Commander under the Tactical Air Command.


About that time they said "You can't fly all the time," so I went off for ten months of training to Chanute field as a maintenance officer. When I completed training I went to my first integrated assignment. In 1946 the Air Force had decided to integrate and use manpower and talent and they could save money by not maintaining separate facilities and training. A year later President Truman signed the famous Executive Order integrating all the service branches. I feel that our performance helped bring that about because we showed that it's not about race or color or ethnic origin, it's about training and opportunity.

Speaking of opportunity, were there any opportunities open to a black pilot outside of the military?

No. Not a bit. Because of my love of flying and the joy it brought me, I elected to stay in. We had all the elements, like any other segment of the population. Some, as soon as they could get back home to civilian life, did that. Others went back after they closed the base. I stayed in because I enjoyed the flying and even though I was a maintenance officer I still had the rating. In the '50's I thought a time or two about getting out and going to the airlines, but they weren't ready. In fact it wasn't until the early '60's, after a couple of lawsuits, that the first black airline pilot was hired. By that time I had a Korean tour behind me and a promotion and I still enjoyed the work I was doing and the flying so I stayed in.

How did the organization of Tuskegee Airmen get formed?

We didn't start the organization until 1972. There had been a couple of reunion efforts in Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York -- big cities where you'd expect a concentration of people -- and people had kept in touch. But, the organization was started in 1972 as a Veteran's organization. Four years later we amended our charter to be educational and charitable. Our focus has been to preserve our heritage and history and what it has meant to civil rights in our country, and to promote the opportunities for youth in our country in aviation and space. Ours is a very diverse country, but our diversity doesn't show up in all areas of our economy and culture. So those two things have been our focus.

We now have 44 chapters. This year our convention is in San Antonio. Next year, Memphis. Our national scholarship fund, which began in 1979 with five $1,000 scholarships going to needy youngsters leaving high school and going to college in an aviation and space career, is now up to 45 scholarships of $1,500 each. Our goal is to get to 50, then maybe we'll look at two-year and four-year scholarships. Our goal so far has been just to spur some interest in that field of study.

Some of my classmates are still living, but our Lone Eagles memorial grows every month, it seems, because of where we are in our lifespan. We've been meeting annually since 1972, and because of the way we organized we've never made a list of the many hundreds that were involved in the Tuskegee experience. When we showed up at Tuskegee to serve our country, we didn't start out to be Tuskegee Airmen -- that's just the way things happened. The fighter squadrons of the 302nd have been picked up in the Air Force Heritage program and either current active or reserve units are carrying on the number and the history of the squadron. And being a 30-year veteran means I've got lots of friends scattered around the country.

Are you still flying?

If someone's got a seat open, I'm ready. I stopped flying when my wife took ill a few years back. I've tried to live by two rules. One, when you think you know it all you'd better quit flying; and two, to fly safely you do it frequently and regularly. When I couldn't do that I began to back out of active flying. I keep up the interest so I can talk firsthand to youngsters. And if I'm at an airshow and somebody's got a seat open, I'd love to go.

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Happy students attended AirVenture 2002 through the EAA SOAR Program. The students attended the Lewis University ACE Program and attendance at AirVenture was a part of that experience.

Coordination for the experience was through EAA Member Dorothy Davis and Michael Julius of the FAA and Horace Sanchez, EAA SOAR Coordinator.

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Pilot Plans to Honor Airmen with Trip Around the World
By Vicki McNally

One only needs to listen to Lee Owens for a few moments to realize how passionate he is about flying a single-engine P-51 plane around the world to honor those black aviators that came before him.

Lee, 54, is Chief Pilot for Glendale Aviation in Arizona. If he is successful, he will become the first Black man to ever make the journey in a single-engine plane.

The Tuskegee Airmen's National Organization has enthusiastically backed a flight in the three-quarter-sized P51 Mustang World War II craft. Owens didn't expect to make the trip for several years, but the organization has urged him to fly this year, honoring the 100th year of the flight of the Wright Brothers.

Owens plans on following their landmark flight path from New York to Paris on the opening leg of the journey.

Owens grew up in Mississippi and believed his mother when she told him, 'You can do anything you want to do." For Owens and his brother, those words have turned out to be prophetic. He has overcome tremendous odds in order to become the black aviator he wanted to be. At this point in his life, his main goal is to complete the trip and mentor young people.

Henry Sanford, executive director of the Tuskegee Airman Incorporated in Arlington, Virginia, said, "That'll be something even more exciting to talk about as he reaches out to the youngster's."

Owens is a visionary for young black people. He inspires them to make their goals and wishes come true. After he has made the flight, Owens plans to use his experiences to speak to youths across the country about the opportunities of aviation.

Tuskegee Airmen National President Brian Smith said Owens trip is the perfect fit for the organization.

"We have a lot of programs around the country geared toward exposing youth to careers in aviation, not only flying but in air traffic control, ground crews, and maintenance," Smith said. "We've got the history side, which is a good portion of our mission, but the other side is influencing youth to get into aviation."

Owens remembers when he recently spoke with a young black man about aviation. "When I started telling him about Bessie Coleman and Willa Brown, people in aviation that were in history that didn't even get up to WWII, I realized that they had a significant impact on my life." "When the Tuskegee Airman got out of the war and weren't picked up by the airlines as pilots," Owens said, "they went on and did other things." "The background of the military and the discipline and flying made them work harder and made them better citizens. All it takes is a little dedication and a willingness to learn and work hard."

Owens knows this first hand. He grew up in the Mississippi cotton fields as the son of a laborer. One of his responsibilities was to load the crop-duster airplane. It was then that Owens realized he wanted to fly. "I thought it was so cool; you could look right in and see the pilot. He was English and he told me how cool it was to fly. He told me stories about World War II and the Spitfires."

Inspired by his mother's words of encouragement Owens went on to graduate from high school and went off to college. When it became clear that he wouldn't be a pick for the NFL, he focused his life on aviation by joining the Air Force. "In 1975, I said, Hey! I'm going to learn to fly. After two lessons, I was sick as a dog but 5,670 hours later, I am ATP rated. That's the highest ratings you can own and I have all my instructor ratings." He graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1984 with a degree in Aviation Management. Since then he has received accolades and recognition from Arizona State Representative James Weiers and the Goodyear Senior Squadron 313 Civil Air Patrol in Avondale, Arizona.

Lee is a fully qualified mission pilot who takes great pride in his abilities. He has flown Search and Rescue Mission, Disaster Relief, Counter Narcotics and several Special Operations Missions. He has a variety of experience ranging from Charter Pilot/Flight Instructor to Director of Flight Operations with the airline industry.

In order to complete his journey, Owens needs financial backers. Owens says, "If 5,000 people could give $50.00, the mission is a go." He has approached large fuel companies in the hopes that they would sponsor the purchase of fuel. But he hasn't heard back from those companies yet. Time is of the essence. He expects the flight to cost around $500,000. If the oil companies would back him, that cost would drop back to around $300,000. "The only thing, like anything else in life, is just money', Owens said. "Glendale Aviation is working hard with reps to persuade them to pay for the gas. One-half of the cost is the expensive fuel. Fuel in Europe is almost $5.00 per gallon. We will need to refuel several times. If we can get the plane retro-fitted to handle the weight, we want to fly non-stop from Republic Field to Paris."

Every leg of the flight will run 1200 miles. All of the flight will be in free-world countries. Owens wants to fly to France and drop 13 flowers from the plane on Anzio Beach. "It's a known fact, he says, that they shot down 13 planes over Anzio Beach during WW II." Then he plans to fly the same route the Tuskegee Airman flew to escort the bombers on a flight plan to Berlin. He will be flying to Moscow and across Russia.

"It's just a matter of getting someone to believe this project is worthwhile," Owens said. Thus far, Owens has raised about $100,000. Time is running out. He will want to test the plane and know it inside and out before making the journey. He will need to get some secure financial backing in the next 45 to 60 days. "I got a letter from a lady who sent me $100 in the name of her dead husband. It was so moving."

Owens says he finds flying in Europe particularly challenging. "You must follow so many different rules. Each airport has it's own restrictions. You have to be particularly sharp at navigations because there are fewer navigational aids there."

The P-51 Mustang he plans to fly is in California being completed. He plans to paint the plane in the original "Red Tail" design that adorned the Tuskegee Airman Mustangs. The plane will be retrofitted with special fuel tanks. The rear seat will be removed allowing for an extra 275 pounds of fuel, as will the lockers. Wing tanks will be placed on the plane and shipped back to the United States when he reaches Europe.

A foundation has been established to make this dream come true. As Owens says, "No black man has ever flown a single-engine plane around the world. I believe in this project so strongly, that I am willing to put my life on the line to do it." Now, he needs people with financial backing who will believe that strongly in his cause.

As Owens says, "The only way that we are going to make this happen is to get some people who are passionate and believe that one little black man can make a difference." Due at the Paris Air Show on June 25th, 2003, Owens says, "This is for every black person from slavery on, who was denied or told we couldn't do something."

Owens says the trip could be completed in two weeks. Despite the obstacles of an impending war and of money, he is confident that he will make the journey. People who would like more information about the flight can call Lee at 623-206-6248 or Ronald L. Edwards 623-521-4879.

"An airplane doesn't care what color you are, whether you're short, a man or a woman," he says, "All it knows is inputs and how good the person is inputting it. It has no prejudices, no bias."

You can do anything you want to do. Let no one stand in your way. Those are words of inspiration from a strong black mother who believed in the promotion of her youth. Owens is determined to impart that same message to today's young black youth. And, given his generous spirit and determined will along with some strong financial help, there is little doubt that Owens will make his journey around the world.

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Visiting Tuskegee Airman Brings Black History Alive at Würzburg
By Richelle Turner Collins
Würzburg Bureau


Richelle Turner Collins / S&S
Retired Lt. Col. Howard Baugh, one of the famous Tuskegee Airmen during the 1940s, speaks Wednesday at the 1st Infantry Division/417th Base Support Battalion's African American Black History Month Luncheon.


WÜRZBURG, Germany — During the 1940s, blacks and whites drank from different water fountains. Blacks rode in the back of the bus. Schools were segregated.

And some military leaders believed blacks lacked the intelligence and courage to fly combat missions.

Yet at a small airfield at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, 13 black officers were showing America that its separate and unequal policy for the races was wrong. They even dared to challenge the conventional wisdom concerning the intelligence and leadership of blacks.

Howard L. Baugh was one of those men. He was a second lieutenant in the Army, training as a pilot as one of the Tuskegee Airmen. The men, all blacks, flew as members of the 332nd Fighter Group, escorting B-17 and B-24 bombers and protecting them from enemy fighters. They excelled at their job — a job some thought no black could ever master.

Baugh and his fellow pilots proved them wrong. And by doing so, they helped changed the role and perception of blacks in the military.

"If ordinary people are given training and opportunity, they may do extraordinary things," said Baugh, guest speaker at the Black History Month luncheon Wednesday in the Cantigny Club at Würzburg’s Leighton Barracks. He was accompanied by artist Don Stivers, whose military prints, including ones of the black Buffalo Soldiers, are popular with soldiers.

Baugh, 80, logged more than 6,000 flight hours before retiring as a lieutenant colonel 34 years ago. But he hasn’t forgotten the struggle he and others went through. On Wednesday, he shared war stories and inspired others to continue flying toward their dreams.

But first, he wanted to put things in perspective for today’s soldiers.

In the early 1900s, it was the policy of the military not to accept blacks for many jobs, Baugh said. In 1925, the Army War College conducted a self-study to determine how the military could best use blacks. The study said they should be used for menial tasks and jobs that didn’t require much thought.

The study claimed blacks lacked intelligence and probably couldn’t face an enemy without running, Baugh said. It also said blacks probably couldn’t operate machine as difficult as an aircraft.

But there was a pressure to change that way of thinking, Baugh said. Blacks, whites, the media and organizations pressed President Franklin Roosevelt to let blacks be pilots. The Army Air Corps program was born.

Tuskegee Institute, which was a premier black university, was selected as the training site. Thirteen cadets, including Baugh, were selected. Only five pilots passed the course. Baugh was one of them. But more blacks later passed the rigorous training.

"By September 1942, we had enough trained pilots to form the 99th Pilot Squadron," Baugh told a crowd of more than 300 people. "We had African American support personnel to maintain the squadron."

His first assignment was Tunisia, where he had to fight military prejudice as well as enemy aircraft. But he and his fellow pilots succeeded at both, and by the end of the war, the Tuskegee Airmen were the only group of pilots that never lost a bomber to enemy fighters.

Some say Tuskegee was an experiment and was expected to fail, Baugh said, but the program churned out pilots. And in doing so, it found a place in history.

The audience was taken with Baugh and his stories.

"I wish I would have brought my kids," said Staff Sgt. Elton Mickle.

Mickle said he wants his children and other people to know the hardships of the past, so they will appreciate the present.

And Staff Sgt. Craig Brown said he learned not only some military history but also something about human nature.

Brown, who’s assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 1st Infantry Division, said Baugh inspired him to do better by showing that "regardless of the barriers that may be in front of you, stay focused. We can do anything."

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Michael Guess, Minnesota Golden Eagle,
Perishes with Senator Paul Wellstone
by Vicki McNally

"Flying is like a passport to your imagination"


Nov 4-National Transportation Safety Board officials say it will be several months before they will know the cause of a crash that killed 30-year-old Michael Guess of St.Paul. Guess was co-piloting the King Air Turboprop for Senator Paul Wellstone when it went down 2.5 miles from the airport. The crash killed all eight people aboard.

It was Michael Guess's lifelong dream to become a pilot. Just last summer, he realized that dream when he became a co-pilot for Executive Aviation, a private charter company in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. His fiancé, Jan Nelson, had just given him a new leather flight jacket for his trip with Senator Wellstone.


Guess had such a single-minded passion for flying that family and friends say he seemed destined for the job. Born in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Guess moved to St. Paul as a child and attended Highland Park Senior High School through his junior year. He graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall. He studied aeronautics at the University of North Dakota, earning his degree and pilot's license in 1997.

He became a customer service employee for Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan. IN 2001 he joined Executive Aviation as a pilot. He had logged about 650 hours of flying and was certified as a commercial pilot. Company officials said they were "deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of two of our pilots."

The King Air, built in 1979, was engulfed in poor weather throughout the trip from the Twin cities. Sources close to the crash investigation said the two pilots were advised several times during the flight of 'adverse icing conditions" and were told before landing of the possible buildup of 'Moderate Rime Ice." Rime ice, a sort of freezing fog, can accumulate quickly. Even a small sandpaper-like buildup of ice on an aircraft's wings and other surfaces can disturb the airflow, causing the plane to lose lift or stall. The airplane was equipped with de-icing systems.

A light snow was falling as the aircraft approached Eveleth out of the east. The small airport is not equipped with a control tower or instrument landing system, so the pilots were making a 'visual' approach while communicating with the tower at Duluth. About seven miles out, as they descended through clouds that hung as low as 400 feet, the pilots uttered their last communication to the controllers. It was routine.

Traci Chacich, the airport's office manager, said the King Air pilot radioed his approach from the east and indicated he was going to land on the westbound Runway 27. He then clicked his microphone button to turn on the airport's landing lights and "then there was nothing; no distress at all,' she said.

The plane carrying Wellstone had only two reports of problems in its history, according to the FAA. Both were in March of 1996 and were problems with worn fuel cutoff levers that were replaced with a recommendation for more frequent inspections.

Michael Guess and Pilot Captain Richard Conry, 55, often flew with the Senator, co-workers said. Both were experienced pilots. Conry had logged more than 5,000 hours of flying time and had an airline transport pilot certification - the highest certification a pilot can receive.

Aviation investigators suspect that weather and the instrument landing system at the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport might have been factors in the crash. However, it will be several months before that can be confirmed.

Of his friend Michael Guess, T. Mychael Rambo said, "He said flying is like a passport to your imagination. I don't think there was anything he thought he couldn't do."

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