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Charles McGee: Tuskegee And Beyond

Aviation History

Charles McGee: Tuskegee And Beyond

Charles McGee never thought much of flying until he started training at Tuskegee. When he finally left the U.S. Air Force, he had 30 years and three wars behind him.

Interview by Jon Guttman

Eugene Jacques Bullard, a former infantryman of the French Foreign Legion, set a precedent when he obtained his flying certificate on May 5, 1917, for it qualified him as the first black airman in American history. Significantly, however, the volunteer from Columbus, Georgia, had earned his flying status from the French Air Service, which he served as a fighter pilot in Escadrilles N.93 and Spa.85 from August 27 to November 11, 1917. Bullard's native United States would not allow black airmen to fight for their country until 1943, when the first of a contingent trained at Tuskegee, Alabama, were formed as the 99th Fighter Squadron and shipped out to North Africa. That unit and the 332nd Fighter Group that followed would prove their worth in the last two years of World War II.

Besides establishing an outstanding record for not losing a single bomber they escorted to enemy fighters, several of the Tuskegee Airmen went on to distinguished postwar careers in the U.S. Air Force. One of them was Colonel Charles Edward McGee, who shared highlights of his long career with Aviation History senior editor Jon Guttman.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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