Quentin Smith
Tuskegee Member
Freeman Army Air Field

Quentin Smith fought World War II on two fronts

November 11, 2009

America was involved in three wars during World War II. There was the war in Europe, fought chiefly by the Army. There was the war in the Pacific, fought mainly by Navy and the Marines, although the war in the Philippines was all Army.

And there was the war against racial discrimination, fought chiefly by the brave pilots called the Tuskegee Airmen.

Until recently, little was known about the all-black unit of airmen. Their courage broke the color barrier then in practice by all units of the armed forces.

Ken Burns, in his TV epic "The War," tells of civilian race riots in Detroit and Mobile, Ala., but fails to deal with the absence of any black officers in the Navy or Marine Corps, and few in the Army.

From personal experience in World War II with thousands of Marines and Navy personnel, I never saw a black Marine or any black officers among the fleets we were attached to in six major battles.

Quentin Smith of Gary is one of the few living pilots trained at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

"Nobody wanted us," Smith said, "because the word was out, 'Blacks can't fly, blacks can't fight and blacks can't lead.' "

They had something to prove.

Gen. Colin Powell said of these airmen, "They had the wind under their wings."

Their record in combat was extraordinary and led eventually to President Truman eliminating racial segregation in the military in 1948. But not before a contentious battle.

Historians recognize now that before Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Ala., or Martin Luther King Jr. began the civil rights movement, Smith and 100 fellow courageous black officers set the nation on the course to fulfill the Declaration of Independence's ideal that "all men are created equal."

Source: http://www.post-trib.com/news/opinion/1875556,col-wolf-1111.article

Quentin Smith, one of the last of the Tuskegee Airmen, died Tuesday at the age of 94.
Source: http://www.nwitimes.com
Jim West
Page last revised 01/16/2013