Prisoners of Freeman Field
The Tuskegee Airmen

The Seymour Tribune

Thirty-six Black Officers Arrested 
At Freeman Field, Indiana
April 6th, 1945

Last night 36 black officers were arrested for defying Colonel Robert R. Selway's "Jim Crow" order. This order barred them from entering an officer's club that he had wanted to keep exclusively for use by white officers. The officers were arrested in three groups. Following is a list of the officers arrested.  

Group One:

Marsden A. Thompson

Robert S. Payton, Jr. O-1174673

Roland A. Webber T-136695

Coleman A. Young O-1297128

David J. Brown

Leonard E. Williams

Robert L. Hunter

Clifford C. Jarrett

Cyril P. Dyer

Marcus E. Clarkson

Frank V. Pivalo

Shirley L. Clinton

Lester B. Norris

Howard Storey

Clifton Barnett

Charles R. Taylor

Edward R. Tabbanor

Norman A. Holmes

James C. Warren


Group Two:

Argonne F. Harden

Carl O. Roach

Robert B. Johnson

LeRoy A. Battle

Wendell G. Freeman

Clarence C. Conway

Roger V. Pines

Edward R. Lunda

Victor I. Ranson

Lloyd W. Godffrey

Connie Nappier, Jr.

Robert J. McDaniel

George H. O. Martin

Adolphus Lewis, Jr.



Group Three:

Roger C. Terry

Ollie C. Goodall

James V. Kennedy


The black officers continued to defy Colonel Selway. Twenty-five additional officers were arrested for attempting to enter the club at the times indicated:  

At 1515 hours:  

Robert O'Neal

William H. Johnson

Herbert A. Harris

S. W. Green

C. E. Lewis

Leonard A. Altemus

Frank B. Sanders

George W. Prioleau, Jr.  O-713065

Edward W. Watkins

Curtis Williams

Maurice J. Jackson, Jr.  T-140105

C. F. Lawrence

David J. Murphy

Sidney H. Marzette

Alvin B. Steele

Harry S. Lum

W. H. Miller




At 1520 hours, alone

Edward V. Hipps, Jr.  O-2068897




At 1540 hours:

William B. Ellis

Spann Watson

Le Roy F. Gillead

P. T. Anderson

Harry R. Dickerson




At 1545 hours:

Arthur B. Polite

James W. Mason



A total of 61 black officers were now under arrest. After two days of arrest, 58 of the officers were released. Col. Selway continued to hold three of the men; Roger C. Terry, Marsden A. Thompson and Shirley R. Clinton.

Col. Selway was very unhappy with the actions of the officers and wrote Base Regulation 85-2 and ordered all officers sign an endorsement that the officer had read and understood it. This regulation barred the black officers from the white officers club. Over a period of two days, 101 black officers refused to sign and were placed under arrest.  

Officers under arrest on April 13th, 1945:

Arthur L. Ward

James B. Williams

David A. Smith

William C. Perkins

James Whyte

Stephen Hotesse

Wendell A. Polk

Robert E. Lee

George H. Kydd

Donald D. Harris

Paul L. White

Charles E. Wilson

John E. Wilson

Paul W. Scott

McCray Jenkins

Harris H. Robnett

Donald A. Hawkins

Glenn W. Pullman

Eugene L. Woodson


"E" Squadron, 118th AAF Base Unit

Frank B. Sanders

Walter M. Miller

Denny C. Jefferson

James H. Sheperd

Edward R. Lunda

James E. Jones

Sidney H. Marzette

Leonard A. Altemus

Howard Storey

James C. Warren

Cleophus W. Valentine

Ario Dixione

Robert B. Johnson

Calvin Smith

Lewis C. Hubbard, Jr.

William J. Curtis

Cyril P. Dryer

Victor L. Ranson

Lloyd W. Godfrey

LeRoy F. Gillead

Connie Nappier, Jr.

Argonne F. Harden

Robert L. Hunter

James W. Brown, Jr.

Charles F. Darnell

James V. Kennedy

Glenn L. Head

Harry R. Dickerson
Deceased 09/25/2010

Quentin P. Smith

Charles J. Dorkins

Maurice A. Jackson. Jr.

Herdon M. Cummings

Mitchell L. Higginbothan

Alfred U. McKenzie

Herbert J. Schwing

Wendell G. Freeman

David J. Murphy

Calvin T. Warrick

Robert S. Payton, Jr.



Military Has Been Desegregation Model

By Major Cox

Fifty years ago, on July 26, 1948 President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981. The order brought an end to racial segregation within the ranks of the United States military forces. The written document contained six paragraphs with less than 250 words.

Executive Order 9981 addressed four areas: First, it declared the President's policy of equality of opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin. Second, it created the President's seven-member Committee on Equality of Treatment in the Armed Services. Third, it authorized the Committee to examine existing rules and determine what changes would be necessary to carry out the policy of integrating the services. And fourth, it directed all executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government to cooperate with the Committee in its work.

President Truman held views about race and civil rights similar to other southern politicians of his time. This being the case, why was he different? What was the driving force behind his decision to integrate the military? There is no simple answer, or maybe there is.

One year earlier on June 28, 1947, while speaking at the Thirty-eighth Annual Conference of the NAACP, President Truman provided delegates a glimpse of the future. In his speech about "civil rights and human freedom," Truman congratulated convention delegates gathered at the Lincoln Memorial for what he called "the effective work for the improvement of our democratic processes."

He won their allegiance when he said, "It is my deep conviction that we have reached a turning point in the long history of our efforts to guarantee a freedom and equality to all our citizens… And when I say all Americans--I mean all Americans."

In February of the next year, (Feb. 2, 1948) President Truman did something no previous President had ever done: he sent Congress a special message on civil rights. He proposed a ten-point program, which included provisions for an anti-lynching law, an anti-poll tax law, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, a Commission on Civil Rights, home rule for the District of Columbia and desegregation of the armed services.

The morning he sent his message to Congress, Truman wrote in his diary that members no doubt would receive his message coldly. "But it needs to be said," the President concluded. He underestimated the reaction in the congress. Critics on Capitol Hill easily stopped his proposals.

But the issue of civil rights rose again at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in early July 1948. Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey stunned party regulars when he engineered the adoption of a civil rights plank that was stronger than the one proposed by Truman. In response to Humphrey's coup, many of the southern delegates walked out of the convention hall.

Some historians believe President Truman had hoped to unite the Democratic Party by promising civil rights to African Americans, but not pushing so fast as to alienate segregationists. That was not to be the Truman legacy. Instead, renegade southern Democrats formed the Dixiecrat Party and nominated South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond for president.

Despite all these events, and with his civil rights legislative proposals bogged down in congress, President Truman decided to desegregate the United States Armed Forces by executive order. This decision surprised both liberals and conservatives. Army General Omar Bradley, warned, that it was not the business of the armed services to conduct "social experiments."

Notwithstanding General Bradley's public admonition, the armed services marched forward and implemented the desegregation policy. By the end of the Korean War in 1953, the U.S. military was almost completely desegregated.

Today, thanks in large measure to President Truman's gutsy decision to do the right-thing, the U.S. military is a paradigm of institutional racial integration, a 50-year-old role model. One with a path to success, that would be a wise choice to follow, for the many public and private institutions that seem unable to modify their racist policies.

Originally Published: 4 August 1998, Montgomery Advertiser

A version of this information appeared in the Summer 1993 issue of the IHS's popular history magazine Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History.  

In January 1945 the American effort in World War II was reaching a climax. GIs in Europe had turned back the last German offensive on the western front at the Battle of the Bulge, and in the Pacific Theater United States troops were recapturing the Philippines from the Japanese. While military operations were reaching a fever pitch overseas, back home in Indiana activity was winding down at a military installation that had awarded wings to approximately four thousand airmen: Freeman Field, located near Seymour. Although the U.S. War Department had placed the installation on an inactive basis on Jan. 27, 1945, the air base would soon be a proving ground in a different struggle, not against fascism on the battlefront, but against racism on the home front.

Denied access to the base's officers club on account of their race, approximately sixty officers from the all-black 477th Bombardment Group, which was receiving bomber training at Freeman Field, were arrested on April 3, 1945, when they attempted to enter what the Indianapolis Recorder referred to as a "swanky and modern officers club set up by order of Colonel Robert R. Selway, Jr., commander of the outfit." After the dust had settled, three officers--Roger C. Terry and Marsden A. Thompson, both of Los Angeles, and Shirley R. Clinton of Camden, N.J.--faced a court-martial, and approximately 100 men from the air group (including current Detroit Mayor Coleman Young) were jailed at Godman Field in Kentucky.

The calm atmosphere of a small Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) emergency field, located southwest of Seymour, changed following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which plunged the United States into war. On May 6, 1942, the War Department announced that the Seymour CAA field had been selected as a site for an advanced aerial training center for bomber pilots, to be designated as Seymour Army Airfield. The base, which was renamed Freeman Army Airfield on March 3, 1943, in honor of the late Capt. Richard S. Freeman of Winamac, Indiana, included more than 400 buildings and was built at a cost of approximately $15 million. The 2,550-acre facility the federal government created in Jackson County was "the epitome of military airfield design," according to Louis Osterman in his 1986 history of the base. The installation had an immediate financial impact on a community still reeling from the Great Depression.

Officially activated on Dec. 1, 1942, under the command of Col. Elmer T. Rundquist, the air base welcomed its first group of soldiers just seven days later. The added population proved to be a boon for area businesses. "The stores were open on Saturday night then, and the sidewalks were packed from curb to store with townspeople, the farmers of the area and their families, and soldiers in their wool, khaki uniforms and jaunty overseas caps," Seymour resident Carolyn Mahon told Osterman.

To help meet the soldiers' recreational needs, the city had been planning, even before the first troops reached the base, to open a United Service Organization (USO) center. It organized a USO Council and obtained the use of the former Greeman Furniture Store. The club opened in December 1942 and was the scene of a number of dances and other activities for soldiers. The club, however, did not provide services to all military personnel stationed at the air base.

On Jan. 21, 1943 the first members of the black 320th Aviation Squadron arrived at the Seymour installation. The some 600 squadron members were used primarily as service troops, performing such duties as cooking in the mess hall and tending the base's 20-acre garden.

Segregation in the armed forces during World War II was widespread. In fact, it wasn't until January 1941, after pressure from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other groups, that the Army Air Force (AAF) allowed blacks to become pilots. After being threatened with a lawsuit, the War Department established an air unit (later known as the 99th Pursuit Squadron) for African-Americans near Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. The Tuskegee Army Air Field, however, was completely segregated at the outset, with fliers under the command of and trained by white officers.

Opportunities for blacks in this state at the start of World War II were little better than those offered by the Army. "It was nearly impossible to find in Indiana a public place, institution, or group where whites accorded blacks an equal and open reception," noted Indiana University Professor of History James Madison in his history of the state from 1920 to 1945. Although there were no actual statutes on the books, in many towns blacks encountered so-called "Sundown laws," which forbade them to stay in the city after dark In most aspects of their daily lives, from eating in restaurants to watching motion pictures, African-American Hoosiers faced discrimination and segregation.

Jackson County was no different from any other Indiana community in the 1940s "in that segregating and insensitivity to civil rights issues were accepted facts of life," noted Osterman. Because black troops stationed at the airfield could not use the white USO club in Seymour, the USO Council established a separate facility for them on West Tipton Street, which was dedicated on Feb. 14, 1943, in ceremonies held inside the center because of severe weather. Rev. John L. Prentice, Jackson County USO Council chairman, formally presented the club to the city "as a channel of service for the citizens."

Segregation continued to be a problem for the next black troops stationed at the Seymour base, the 477th Bombardment Group, which was part of the First Air Force. Under the command of a white officer, Colonel Selway, a West Point graduate and Far East veteran, the unit "had traveled a rocky road since its activation in January 1944," according to then Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. The first black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in this century and a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, Davis took charge of the 477th during the height of the Freeman Field controversy.

The first black squadron to be trained for service in multi-engine airplanes, the 477th was originally stationed at Selfridge Field, located near Detroit. The field had a history of racial conflict. On Jan. 1, 1944, some black officers who had attempted to enter the base's officers' club were blocked by commander Colonel William L. Boyd and a second officer. This blockage flew in the face of the armed force's own rules, specifically Army Regulation (AR) 210-10. According to that ruling, officers' clubs and other social organizations were mandated to offer "all officers on duty at the post the right to full membership, either permanent or temporary." Alan Osur, who studied race relations in the AAF during World War II found, however, that the military organization had "dogmatically pursued a system of segregation that was almost impossible to maintain. It even went so far as to violate War Department regulations in order to prevent the mixing of whites and blacks in officers' clubs."

Afraid that black "agitators" in the Detroit area might incite trouble with the Selfridge Field airmen (race riots had broken out in the city in June 1943), the AAF moved the 477th to Godman Field near Fort Knox, Kentucky. At the new airfield, black officers were able to enjoy full use of the officers' club. Racial relations, however, were not as promising as they seemed. While blacks used the officers' club at Godman, their white supervisors used the facilities at the segregated Fort Knox. Osur points out that black airmen were powerless to protest the situation; since they were not assigned to Fort Knox, they could not use its facilities.

Other problems plagued the black fliers at the Kentucky AAF base. Along with bad flying weather during the winter, the field suffered from a lack of proper hangar and apron space and an air-to-ground gunnery range. On March 1, 1945, the 477th moved from Godman to Indiana's Freeman Field. Trouble, however, soon broke out between blacks and whites. The difficulties weren't with Seymour residents, who, according to AAF Captain Earl D. Lyon in his study of the bombardment group's war service, "were less openly antagonistic" to black officers than residents of similar small towns located near Army airfields. Instead, the racial trouble broke out on the base over a familiar issue--the officers' club.

In attempting to keep black and white officers from using the same facilities, Colonel Selway, with the support of AAF Major General Frank Hunter, took advantage of a loophole in AR 210-10 by designating one officers' club at Freeman for supervisory personnel and a second one for trainees, which resulted, as Osur points out, in "de facto segregation." The issue came to a head on the night of April 5, 1945, when 19 black officers, disregarding an assistant provost marshal's orders to leave, entered the whites-only club. Shortly afterwards, two other groups of blacks totaling 17 officers joined the original group; all 36 were put under arrest by the provost marshal. The next day, an additional 21 African-American officers were arrested when they tried to enter the club.

Freeman Field command, through its public relations office, attempted to put its own spin on the issue. It issued a statement to the Seymour Daily Tribune to the effect that in the case of recreational facilities, it had "been a long standing policy which applies throughout the United States which maintains that it is unwise to have personnel in training utilizing the same recreational facilities with those who train them." Even though the two groups might use the same instructional facilities--classrooms, training equipment, airplanes, ranges, etc.--after normal duty hours "each . . . selects its own recreation and entertainment separately, in order that they may relax from their official status."

Despite the air base's best efforts, the outcry over the incident would not die down. First Air Force legal officers were soon on their way to Freeman Field to investigate the matter. They found that Selway's original order was "inexact and ambiguous as to its meaning or purpose," and all but three of the black officers were released. (Lieutenants Clinton, Terry, and Thompson were still under lock and key for allegedly pushing the provost marshal when the entered the club.) A new directive from base commander Selway, however, would spark more protests and lead to even more arrests.

Selway, with General Hunter's help, drafted an order for black officers to sign outlining what facilities different personnel could use on the base. The directive also included a place for the black officers' signatures indicating that they had read and fully understood the order. Even when that designation was stricken from the order, and the black officers were asked merely to signify that they had read it, some continued to defy the authorities. A total of 101 blacks--who became known as the 101 Club--refused to sign and were flown back to Godman Field and placed under arrest awaiting court-martial.

Quentin P. Smith, who grew up in East Chicago, Indiana, and learned to fly while living there, was one of the 101 black officers arrested for not signing the order. An Indiana State University graduate and former flying instructor at Tuskegee Institute, Smith, due to his large size, had to transfer from fighter to bomber duty. First Lieutenant Smith and the other black aviators did not receive a warm welcome when they arrived at Freeman Field. Smith remembered Colonel Selway informing the group that, along with the officers' club, the base's tennis court and swimming pool were also off limits to them. The announcement was not greeted favorably by the airmen: "We booed the colonel loud and long," Smith said.

The Hoosier native had a more direct confrontation with the colonel after the officers' club incident. Called into Selway's office and asked to sign the new directive, Smith replied in a clear voice, "No, sir." Even when he was threatened by the colonel with Article 64, which states that failure to obey a superior officer's direct order could result in the death penalty, Smith stood firm. In an oral history interview with Indiana Historical Society Editor Doug Clanin, Smith remembered:

"The immediate major said, 'I order you to sign.' I didn't have any breath, I didn't have any saliva left to say anything . . . I shook my head because I couldn't even talk. So I said, 'no' [in high voice]. He rapped a gavel and said, 'you go out that door.' When I went out that door a soldier said, 'Go back to your barracks, don't put your head out, don't come out, when suppertime comes, we'll bring you your food.' So I'm sitting there by myself thinking, 'now this just can't be true. I'm just about 190 miles from home and this just can't be happening.' But it was.

Organizations throughout the United States, including the NAACP and black newspapers, swung into action on the officers' behalf. The War Department received several letters of concern from lawmakers, including Michigan Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, and Indiana Congressman Louis Ludlow. California Congresswoman Helen Gahagan (who would be defeated for re-election after the war by Richard Nixon) even telegraphed Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson urging that the officers be released. These efforts paid off; in mid-April charges against the 101 black officers were dropped and the men were freed.

Charges against the three officers accused of pushing the provost marshal, however, remained in effect. By the time the three came to trial, the 477th had a new commander, Colonel Davis, former leader of the black 332d Fighter Group. An all-black court-martial acquitted Thompson and Clinton of all charges, convicting only Terry for "offering violence against a superior officer." He was fined $150.

The entire Freeman Field situation deeply troubled Colonel Davis. Although he could understand the underlying feelings of prejudice shown by officers from the Deep South, he could not understand "putting the issue of segregated facilities ahead of the need to prepare the group for war; nor the decisions to move the 477th from one airfield to another, which halted progress toward combat readiness for several months." The 477th never had the opportunity to prove itself in combat, as the group was still at Godman Field when the Japanese surrendered to the Allies on Aug. 14, 1945.

Although Freeman Field was once again put on an inactive basis shortly after the officers' club fiasco, its role in America's war effort wasn't finished yet. In June 1945 the War Department selected the base to serve as a testing ground for captured enemy aircraft. Once again airplanes filled the skies over Seymour. Two years later, the War Assets Administration gave the facility to Seymour, which used the base as a municipal airport.

Despite its crucial role in training aircrews for combat, perhaps Freeman's greatest contribution to America's fight against fascism was the incident with the black officers, which, as Osterman points out, "caught the attention of the military and forced a re-thinking of its policy of segregation."

That policy, however, would be in place for a few more years after the war ended. In July 1948 President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 8891 that mandated the armed forces to integrate. Truman's order could not instantly strip away the legacy left by the years of discrimination in the military. Smith, perhaps reflecting the feelings of the hundreds of thousands of black troops who battled prejudice during World War II, stated: "Nobody wanted us."

Eyewitness to Jim Crow - Roger "Bill" Terry Remembers 

"For the first time in 50 years, I could vote, I could hold office, I was restored to my rank of Second Lieutenant, and it only goes to show that we're a nation of laws. If you wait long enough, you will be vindicated. The only thing is that they wasted so much money and so much time doing it. But, we did show them that we could fly."

[Roger "Bill" Terry, a native of Southern California, earned his pilot's wings at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama during World War II. In this narrative, Terry describes his experience in the Jim Crow South, how it altered his outlook and led him to fight discrimination in the Armed Forces. He is a college graduate from UCLA, received his law degree from Southwestern University, and served as the President of the Tuskegee Airmen.]

To the student:

As you read this first person account of life under Jim Crow, ponder the following:

  • Why wasn't Bill Terry accepted into the Air Force when he first applied? How does this reflect the military culture of the time?

  • Why did the white pilot from the University of Wyoming say that white pilots couldn't have made it through the Tuskegee Institute's training program successfully? Why do you think the training there was so rigorous? How did this training benefit the Tuskegee Airmen? Why does he describe the white military instructors as both "good" and as the "opposition?"

  • Can you describe Mr. Terry's reaction to the climate in the South? What was he reacting to? How did his experience there affect his outlook on life? Why do you think some southerners reacted differently?

  • Why wasn't Terry concerned about being arrested for his action of civil disobedience in Indiana? Can you describe the role Eleanor Roosevelt played in desegregating the military? Why was she not able to help Bill Terry?

  • After reading this narrative, can you list the various ways, both overtly and subtly, that African Americans in the military resisted or coped with discrimination? How do you think their actions were or were not helpful?

Roger "Bill" Terry describes his first attempt to join the Air Force.

My name is Roger C. Terry, and I'm known as "Bill" Terry. I was born in California... went to high school in Compton...and to college at UCLA. I finished UCLA at the age of 19 before the war.... Everybody was white [at UCLA]...everybody was white [in school] except at Compton J.C., I think there were about 40 Negro students there, colored students there. And, four of them were my brothers. It was just that way. We had a completely...well, a united nations, really...neighborhood that we lived in. See, I lived in this neighborhood...and, there's Mammy Clark. She was a white lady, an old white lady. We called her Mammy Clark...and the Chinamen lived over here, and the Tagouris lived right over here. They were well known.... And, Butch owned a whole lot of the property around there. He was quite prosperous....

I've been a product of Southern California. My participation in World War II would be the same as any person who was born in Southern California in 1921 with the exception of the fact that we suffered the pains of segregation and discrimination.

I went into the Air Force in 1941 after the war started. They had an advertisement in the Daily Bruin, which is the UCLA paper, asking for candidates for the Air Force. And I, along with about 1,000 other fellows, we signed up for the Air Force. We took the examination for pilot...I think about 700 of us passed it. And then...about 500 of us passed [the physical]. After we passed it, they set a date to swear us in. And, the Colonel, in looking over...the applications, he saw that I was a basketball player, and it was basketball season. Ken Forbes was a basketball player, and he had been kept under the football team. So, he [the Colonel] thought that he should swear in the two athletes, since the Bruin athletes joined the Air Force. And so, the day came, three days later, and I went before the camera...and he swore us into the Air Force. About four days later, he called me up and said, "Would you come and see the Colonel?" "When I went to see [him], he said, "Why didn't you tell us you were colored?" I said, "You didn't ask me. And, it wasn't on the papers; therefore, I didn't know about it. What difference does it make?" He said, "Well, I don't know. But, you wait until you hear from the Air Force." And so, I waited for about a month, and I got a paper saying that I was too big...I weighed too much. I was 6 foot 2½ [inches] and [weighed] 175 pounds, in the best physical condition I could be in....

After arriving at Tuskegee, Bill Terry learned the art of flying--and the ways of the South in the Jim Crow era.

Anyway, I finished college...with no place to go--they couldn't draft me, because you had to be 21 to be drafted...I couldn't get a job because of the fact that I was 1-A. And then, I got a telephone call from a man...and [he] said, "If you can come to Tuskegee, we'll teach you how to fly, and we'll make an instructor out of you." So, I borrowed some money...and I bought myself a helmet, goggles, and everything. And, off I went to Tuskegee.

...Somebody met me there and said, "Well, you're the guy that came from California. You're to sleep in the first emery...." So, I went to bed and, about two hours later, [heard] the damnedest noise..."Onward Christian Soldiers" and all that. I ran to the window and comes the whole school. It was the band first, then the president, then the vice presidents...then all the girls, and then all the boys. And, they were all dressed in uniforms...on their way to chapel. I knew, then, that I had reached...Beulahland, so to speak.... So, with little to do about it, I went to breakfast.... And, [one of the guys] asked me, "I beg your pardon, do you have any cigarettes?" I just happened to have a package of Old Gold...and I didn't smoke. So, I said, "Here." He said, "I don't smoke that type." Therefore, I'm getting hip to what they like and what they don't like.

Then, we went to the dining hall. It was a white hall. And, all the men were at one end, and all the women were at the other end. I said, "What is this?" He said, "There's no mixing on Sunday. At two o'clock...on the lawn...we can talk to the girls, but you can't sit down, you can't talk to them, you know. I mean, you can talk to them, but you can't touch, etc. I was first integrated to the folk ways of the South and the attitudes of the people...and I didn't like it from the beginning. It was anti-social, as far as I was concerned, and it was completely unacceptable to me, because I had grown up in California. I was born here and went to school here. I felt that my existence or my ability to cope and to answer any situation that might come to bear was...due to my particular capacity to take care of the incident, because when I went into the service...I went in with a bunch of the guys that I knew at college. They were already...flying here, flying there, other places. They had gone into the service as candidates for officers' positions in the Navy. And, I had just as much ability as they had. I felt that I had the capacity to exist and to either excel or not excel due to the particular field in which we were competing.

...When I got involved, we knew that [the Tuskegee experience was the result of pressure by the NAACP.] But, we felt that from the beginning that they were going to allow us to fly with the rest of them. We didn't know that it was going to be separate and equal...separate and unequal. We didn't know that we would be completely isolated from the point of view of somebody who had seen combat, had done other things with the air force. We felt that the 99th, once they had proven that they could fly, that we would be integrated. And then, we found out that we were wrong. I think I found out the third class.... The first class was five guys, the second class was two, and the third was three, and we figured out that they weren't going to have many more. I was down there, I was learning to fly, and I don't think that they thought we would ever go into combat...that we would ever be anything but a token to say that, we let you fly, and that's it.

...The ones that first taught you how to fly, the ones that gave you the introduction to flying, were Negroes.... We would take our primary training there [and] we would fly, I think it was, 80 hours. Then, if we completed that, we went to basic. That's when we got our first flight with [white] military personnel. We flew the BT-13...about 80 or 90 hours. We got our introduction to the use of the radio. We learned how to use flaps. We learned how to use prop pitch.... Then, we went to primary...that's when we got our [white] military instructors. And, I will say that they were good instructors. They were tough. It was, [well] you've heard of the situation where they say stand in line and say, "Look to the right of you, look to the left of you. Two of you won't be here." Well, we thought that was a joke, but it wasn't.... We started with 83 in my class and we finished with 14 fighter pilots and seven twin-engine pilots. That's 21 out of 83...less than a fourth.

...I know one [white pilot]. He played basketball with me, [he] went to the University of Wyoming when I went to UCLA. He was a P-38 pilot; he just went through, you know. When I told him what we did to get our wings, he said, "Hell, we never would have made it." See, what happened was, at Tuskegee you flew BTs, ATs, B-25s, the same damn field. And, if you weren't astute, and if you weren't on the ball, you really got washed out. I can recall coming in one day, and I'm getting ready to land. And, the guy said, "AT-10, pull up and go around. There's a B-25 on your tail." I pulled out. You had to give way. The AT-10 gave way to the B-25, the B-25 gave way to the fighter, the other words, you had to know your pecking order when you came in to land, and you had to know how to get out of there.... Well, if you messed up, like one of my friends--I guess he didn't know that the guy was coming with his P-40 and just shaved his tail off, and he was dead. But, we were lucky. We had very few accidents. I think we had one of the best records in the world. And another thing that a lot of people don't realize, we had the best of ground crews. In fact, I never worried about getting in an airplane, whether an airplane would quit on me. I was worried about getting it up and getting it down....

...My best memory [of my training at Tuskegee] was when I got my wings. That was a sense of accomplishment.... After that, nothing seemed to matter. I didn't go any place during my training so that I would run into any of the effects of segregation. I just concentrated on trying to get my wings. ...So you stayed on the field...and, I think, the only time I went off the field was when my grandmother died, and I went to the funeral.... But, all of your work was within this field and within this little town. You were surrounded by Negroes all the time, and you saw the white folks, they were the instructors, but they were the opposition. Whether you believe it or not, they were the opposition. They helped us, and they were all volunteers...that was one thing. But, we felt that you had to learn, and if you didn't learn, then you'd get cut off.

And so, when I got my wings, I came home. For the first time in my life, I...took a girl to the theater and didn't have but three weeks or two weeks or something like that. I found myself counting the number of colored people to see who was with me and who was against me. And, that meant that I had changed my whole outlook on life, because, prior to that time, it really didn't effect me as to how many colored people there were, how many white people there were, unless somebody was going to start a fight or something like that, then I would have to count the odds. But, I'd count the odds no matter where I went. And, I found out that after that experience, I continued to count the odds for me and...against me and to figure out strategically how I was going to get out of some place and how to get into it. It was definitely a change in my attitude.... It was just the idea that I had never been any place where there was a percentage count, where you figured where the hell your place was. I resented it. I resented it to the core of my being that they would have the temerity to set up a standard that, perhaps, I should meet. We (my buddies and I) all felt the same way except for a few who were southerners. But, we always talked about finding out whether we were full fledged officers or whether or not we were tokens, and we wanted to prove to them that we were as good as they were, in fact, much better than most of them.

After his squadron was selected for an overseas assignment, Terry encountered more discrimination, even though President Roosevelt had outlawed segregation at recreational facilities on military bases. In this passage, Terry describes his response and the consequences he suffered as a result of his action.

[After I got my wings, we were sent to] ...Goodman Field, Kentucky. It was an auxiliary filed for Ft. Knox. And then, there were two squadrons of this group that were in Atterbury (AAF) (Columbus),Indiana. Then, there was the other section that was down there in Walterboro, South Carolina, where we would go for gunnery, bombing etc., so, we were scattered. And so, they decided that we were going to go overseas. Finally, MacArthur...asked for the best-trained B-25 squadron in the country. And, they said it was the 477th. But, they're colored, and most of the generals and the commanders of the U.S. Air Force over there, they said they didn't want the colored group coming...because they would disrupt the harmony of the [Forces].... But, MacArthur said, "To hell with what you like and what you want. I want the best-trained one, and we will take the 477th."

So...they decided that we would go to Freeman Field, Indiana, and, there, we would have the whole group together, and we could make plans, etc. So, we sent a cadre, about eight or nine officers and 20 enlisted men...they went up...looked it over, and they said what could be used, this, that, and the other. But, when they came back, they reported to us, and when I say "us," I say we were very much aware of it. We're going to go fight, and we're going to die, well okay. But, we're going to find out whether or not we're full-fledged officers and whether or not we're full-fledged Americans. And, so he set this up so that he's got officer's club number two, that's for "you guys," and officer's club number one for the white guys...and we found out...we could go to officer's club number two, but we couldn't go to the PX, we couldn't go to the officer's club, we couldn't go to the bowling alley, and we couldn't go to the theater. And I said, well to hell with that. Roosevelt has signed this Executive Order 210-10, paragraph A and B, saying there would be no discrimination, no segregation at any recreational facility of any Army, Navy, or Marine base in the country.

...So, we ended up at Freeman Field. The train backed in, and we all got out and got our billets and everything. We set up a table to make sure that all the guys that went to the officer's club were in good uniform, their fingernails were clean, they hadn't been drinking, all this stuff. So, here we are...and we sent...three people at a time to go down, get arrested, and come back. So, they went down, got arrested and...I think...I was the 62nd guy, or something like that. I went down there, and the guy said, "Well, you can't come in." ...I said, "Well, why not?" And, he said, "All you trainees...." I said, "How do you know we're trainees?" He said, "Well to be frank, no niggers can come in." So, I had a little bit of reluctance...I went over to him. I...walked by and went in, and there was a Major in there. He took my name and all my credentials and sent me back under arrest. So, that was okay, because that's what I was looking for, to be arrested. The next day, we sent some guys down there, and they closed it before they got there. I'll never forget this guy's statement. He said, "You got to be swift. You got to be quick." And so, we didn't worry about being arrested, because we knew...Franklin D. Roosevelt's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt was very instrumental in us getting to fly.

We knew we had a friend...Bill Parker, whose mother was the chief housekeeper at the White House, and a friend of Eleanor's. And we knew if we could get Bill Parker to Washington DC...he was just a working officer...a first MP, I think. He was with us. We...said...would he talk to his mama? His mama would talk to Eleanor. Eleanor would talk to Franklin, and Franklin would say, "Let my people free," see? But, it didn't happen that way. Franklin was feeling a little tired. He was having a little R&R down in Warm Springs, Georgia.... Anyway, by the time we got there, they weren't communicating between the White House and Hyde Park.

And so, Bill went to the White House and told his mother. His mother had to get on the train and go to Hyde Park to tell Mrs. Roosevelt. That takes a couple of the time we got him there and everything. He told her, and then, by the time she got in touch with Roosevelt, the old joke was that he said, "The Nazi's are over here on the western front, and Hirohito's boys on the eastern front, now the Negroes." And he gave up, and he died, see? That was a bad day. Here I am...waiting on Roosevelt, that he would do the right thing, and he's dead. And what do we have? We have Harry Truman. And Harry Truman was a Pendergast man, he was a southerner...he was the boss, and he was a southerner. And as far as I could determine, he didn't believe in integration. I thought that he didn't. And, I was very wrong. He believed in integration, but he didn't believe in social freedom of action. But, he did desegregate the army in 1948.

So, I stayed in jail.... There were 101 of us. They wrote up a directive saying that I read and understood regular orders, and I could only go in such-and-such a place. And, 101 guys refused to sign it. So...they moved all of these officers...back to Goodman Field. And, they had the other guys pack up their stuff, because they were going to go back to wherever they came from.... These other two guys that they picked out to say that they were the leaders of this insurrection...they flew them back to Goodman Field, where they had barbed wire fence all the way around this compound. They did have recreational facilities, they could play cards, etc. But, they were not working--they were not doing anything. And, they [the Air Force] did something that the Japanese couldn't do and the Germans couldn't do. They put two complete groups of airmen out of action.

Finally, after a couple of weeks, they flew me back down to Goodman Field and put me in another room. [They] put a man outside the door with a gun and, on the hour, every hour, they would come in and ask me who I was. "Who are you?" "Second Lieutenant Roger B. Terry, 0841165." They would do that. And, if I wanted to go to the bathroom, I'd have to knock on the door. The guard would open the door, and I'd say, "I'd like to go to the latrine." ...He couldn't take me to the latrine; the officer of the guard had to be there. And, of course, the officer wouldn't come right away. He wouldn't come running. He would just wait. So, I got smarter than they did. I'd wait an hour before I got ready to go to the toilet, and I'd ask for somebody; by the time they got there, I was ready. Then, they'd take me down to the bathroom...and you had to use the bathroom with the guy standing there with the gun. It was just debilitating, really, and discouraging....

They finally charged me. And I said, "You've got to charge me within seven days. The articles of war have to be presented to me." They didn't say anything but about 14, 15, 16 days, they charged me with mutiny, treason, inciting to riot, disobeying a direct order, jostling, and conduct unbecoming of an officer. So, it went on for about a month or two months.... But, the other guys, they went back to work. They were given reprimands, and there were only three of us left under arrest. And then, I guess, it got all tied up...they said, ‘What the hell, you've got all these guys, you've got 900 and something pilots, and they're not doing anything..."

They sent for Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. They got him from overseas, and they brought him back, and...he took over command of the 477th. That was the first time that a Negro had command of any facility in the United States Army.... Before that, there was always somebody who was in his class, in the class above him, or something like that. He was in command of the group, but he was never in command of the facility, which covered all of the area surrounding it. So, he came back...and, the white folks, they were working in Air Corps supply. They found out he...he's bringing a whole colored command with him, and they said, "We refuse to work for him." That's one thing I can say for him. Davis was not phased one bit by it. He sent for ...two companies of [black] WACS [from Des Moines, Iowa,] and brought them there right away. And, they [the whites] said, "Well, now we'll go to work for you!" And, he said, "No. It's too late. We've already got your replacements..."

Well, anyway, I was court-martialed...I was convicted, and I stayed convicted for 50 years and one month. And, after 50 years, I was president of the Tuskegee Airmen, and General Fogelman was the main speaker at our convention in Atlanta, and the Secretary of the Air Force was there, and Secretary of Defense...I was given a full pardon, and I restored my rank, etc. For the first time in 50 years, I could vote, I could hold office, I was restored to my rank of Second Lieutenant, and it only goes to show that we're a nation of laws. If you wait long enough, you will be vindicated. The only thing is that they wasted so much money and so much time doing it. But, we did show them that we could fly.

Based on his experiences as a Tuskegee Airman, Roger "Bill" Terry has some advice for young students.

Well, I would like to say that you should take advantage of your educational facilities and prepare yourself, so if the chance comes where you have to prove yourself, you will be able to do it. Nothing suffices except education and learning how to do whatever you want to do under the proper circumstances. It's kind of tough to say, but...the [African-American] girls have learned it and the boys haven't learned that they have to be prepared. And, most of them are thinking about basketball or football or so doing this, that, and the other and making a fast buck. What is really important is to be solid in your family background and in your education. And then, the sky's the limit.

Lieutenant Maurice D. Pompey

at Freeman AAF

Maurice Pompey was born May 14, 1923 in South Bend, Indiana & presently resides in Tucson, Arizona with his wife,

Josephine Pompey. They have two children: a son, Maurice Pompey jr. & a daughter, Tina Pompey.

He was a student at Howard University, Washington D.C. when World War II began. In mid 1942 he secured & filed his application for pilot training. He passed the requisite examinations, waited for his paperwork to filter through the maze of bureaucratic channels that existed, and in February 1943 was inducted into the Army Air Corps. In July 1943, he was assigned to Tuskegee Army Air Field as an Aviation Cadet. In August 1944, upon completion of his training, he received his pilot's wings and Commission as a Flight Officer.

After completing B-25 transition train at Douglas Army Field, Arizona, he was assigned to the 618th Squadron of the 477th Medium Bombardment Group based at Atterbury Army Air Field, Columbus, Indiana for combat training. In January 1945 the 477th Group was designated combat ready with a projected activation date of July 1945 for service in Okinawa. In March 1945, a dispute termed "The Freeman Field Mutiny" occurred in challenge to the authority of the white Post Commander, Col. Selway, to exclude four hundred African-American pilots and officers assigned to the 477th Group from using the Officer's Club at Freeman Field. This dispute and the resulting arrests caused the 477th Group to the reassigned to Godman Field, Kentucky. As part of the reassignment, Col. Selway was relieved of command and replaced by Col. B. O. Davis Jr.. The two hundred whit pilots and officers of the 477th Group were also replaced by capable African-American pilots already assigned to the 477th Group.

Pompey's 618th B-25 Squadron become part of the 477th Composite Group which included the 617th B-25 Squadron and a P-47 pursuit Squadron. On June 24, 1945, the 477th Composite Group was designated combat ready with a projected activation date of August 31, 1945 for service in Okinawa, however, World War II ended on August 14, 1945.

On October 9, 1945, at his request, 1st Lt. Maurice Pompey was released from active duty, placed in the Air Corps Reserves and returned to civilian life to resume and complete his education and pursue a career in Law: Roosevelt University, Chicago, Il 1947. 

DePaul University Law School, L.L.B., J.D. 1948-51 
Magistrate Circuit Court of Cook County, Il 1964-70 
Circuit Judge, Circuit Court of Cook County, Il 1970-83 
Board Member/Chairman Arizona D.E.S. Appeals Board 1987-92

USAF Strives to Erase Insult to Premier Air Group

It took fifty years, but the Air Force finally vindicated the actions of 104 Tuskegee Airmen who received permanent letters of reprimand for attempting to enter the Freeman Field, Ind., Officers Club on April 5, 1945.

The Air Force might never have reviewed the incident because individuals normally must apply within three years to have items in their military personnel records removed. However, the service waived that rule when retired Air Force Lt. Col. James C. Warren asked that it consider correcting the records of everyone involved in the Freeman Field incident.

After the records correction board investigated the circumstances, the Air Force decided to remove the permanent letters of reprimand and to set aside a court-martial conviction against former Army Air Forces 2d Lt. Roger C. Terry.

In announcing the decision, Rodney A. Coleman, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations, and Environment said that "a terrible wrong in the annals of US Air Force and US military history has been righted."

Mr. Coleman referred to the fact that the Freeman Field commander attempted to reverse a War Department policy integrating officers clubs by issuing a letter that distinguished trainees from base officers. At the time, all Freeman Field permanent officers were white, while all the flying trainees were black officers. When the trainees tried to enter the club, military police barred their way. Then Lieutenant Terry brushed against a superior officer to gain entrance. He was later charged and convicted by a general court-martial of assault.

Those given letters of reprimand were charged with "conduct unbecoming an officer, failure to obey a lawful order, and breach of good order and discipline." At that time, the letter of reprimand was one of the strongest administrative actions a commander could impose, according to Air Force legal officials.

Besides Colonel Warren, author of Freeman Field Mutiny, another fourteen Tuskegee Airmen involved in the incident have already had the LORs removed. Mr. Coleman said that the Air Force will remove the letters from the remaining eighty-nine when it receives their written requests.

A Timeline of the History of the Tuskegee Airmen

The following is a general chronology of the major events which led to the formation of the Tuskegee Airmen through their on going efforts today to teach young Americans the value of "excellence in education" and "accurate historical facts omitted from U.S. history books."

May, 1939--Two pilots of The National Airman's Association, an organization comprised of black pilots, meet with Senator Harry S. Truman from Missouri. Truman helps sponsor a bill to allow black pilots to serve in the Civilian Pilot Training Program.

December, 1940--The Army Air Corps submits a plan to the War Department for an "experiment" forming an all black fighter squadron with thirty-three pilots.

January 16, 1941--The 99th Pursuit Squadron is formed by the War Department to be trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama.

July 19, 1941 Tuskegee Army Air Field officially opens.

March 1, 1942--Captain Benjamin Davis, Jr. is promoted to Lt. Colonel.

March 7, 1942--the first class of Tuskegee pilots graduates and earn their wings.

August 24, 1942--Lt. Colonel Benjamin Davis, Jr. takes command of the 99th Fighter Squadron.

April 15, 1943--The 99th (The Lonely Eagles) heads for North Africa.

July 2, 1943--Captain Charles B. Hall is the first Tuskegee pilot to down an enemy aircraft. He shoots down a FW-190 and damages an Me-109.

1943--Lt. Colonel Benjamin Davis, Jr. leaves the 99th to return home to command the 332nd Fighter Group. The 332nd is comprised of the all black 100th, 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons.

October 7, 1943 the 99th is attached to the 79th Fighter Group of the 12th Air Force.

January, 1944--Lt. Colonel Benjamin Davis, Jr. and the 332nd arrive in Taranto, Italy and attached to the 12th Air Force.

June 25, 1944--pilots of the 302nd Fighter Squadron sink a German destroyer with machine gun fire from their P-47's.

June,1944--The 332nd is attached to the 15th Air Force. The 99th Fighter Squadron is added to the 332nd Fighter Group as its fourth squadron.

August, 1944--The 332nd participates in the invasion of southern France by escorting bombers and on ground attack missions in Rumania and Czechoslovakia.

September 10, 1944--Four pilots of the 332nd are awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

March 15, 1945--The all black 477th Bombardment Group is moved from Godman Field, Kentucky to Freeman Field, Indiana.

April 1, 1945--The men of the 477th protest the strict segregationist policies ordered by base commander Colonel Robert Selway in a document called Regulation 85-2.

April 5, 1945--The some black pilots led by 2nd Lt. Roger C. Terry and Lt. Marsden Thompson try to enter the segregated officer's club.

April 9, 1945--Base commander Colonel Robert Selway orders the black officers to sign a statement that they have read and accept Regulation 85-2. The 101 officers refuse in what was called the Freeman Field Incident. [Note: For more information, see the book "The Tuskegee Airmen Mutiny at Freeman Field" by Lt. Col. James C. Warren.]

June, 1945--Colonel Benjamin Davis, Jr. is named commander of the 477th Composite Group, which includes the 99th and 100th Fighter Squadrons. They begin training for combat in the Pacific Theater.

August 14, 1945--World War II ends with the surrender of Japan.

August 12, 1995--The Air Force clears the service records of Tuskegee Airmen involved in the so called "Freeman Field Mutiny" vindicating their stand for equality.

Copyright © 1995-2004 by the Kent School District - All Rights Reserved

On January 16, 1941, the War Department announced the formation of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, a black flying unit, to be trained at Tuskegee, Alabama, the home of Tuskegee Institute. The Secretary of the Army announced that eleven white officers would be assigned to the duty of training 429 enlisted men and 47 officers as the first black military personnel in the flying school. From the inception of the 99th through the period that signaled the ending of WW II (1946), the following numbers of black combat flyers completed training: 673 single-engine pilots; 253 twin-engine pilots; 58 liaison field artillery officers and 132 navigators. The bulk of the flyers were in the 332nd Fighter Group, which consisted of the 99th Fighter Squadron; the 100 th Fighter Squadron; the 301 st Fighter Squadron; the 302nd Fighter Squadron; the 616th Bombardment Squadron; the 618th Bombardment Squadron and the 619th Bombardment Squadron. These men called themselves the "Lonely Eagles", a name which became their reality.

Among these men, were Nebraskans Alfonza W. Davis, Paul Adams, Ralph Orduna, John L. Harrison, Woodrow Morgan, Edward Watkins, Harrison A. Tull and Charles A. Lane, Jr., who trained to become flyers. The enlisted members trained to be aircraft and engine mechanics, armament specialists, radio repairmen, parachute riggers, control tower operators, policemen, administrative clerks and other skills necessary to fully function as an Army Air Corps (AAC) flying squadron or ground support unit. Enlisted men from Nebraska were: Melvin C. Robinson, Jethro Spurlock, William B. Patterson, Ellsworth P. Pryor, Calvin Hobbs, Albert Johnson, Jr., Erven McSwain, Marion N. Moore and Robert D. Holts. Standards were not lowered for the pilots or any others who trained in operations, meteorology, intelligence, engineering, medicine or other fields. The first aviation cadet class trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) in

Tuskegee, Alabama beginning July 1941. They completed training nine months later in March 1942. From 1942 through 1946, 993 pilots graduated and received commissions and pilot wings. Black navigators, bombardiers and gunnery crews were trained at bases elsewhere in the US. Mechanics were trained at Chanute Air Base in Rantoul, Illinois until facilities were in place in 1942 at TAAF.

These airmen fought wars against an enemy military force overseas and against racism at home and abroad and forged the path for what forever changed the fabric of this country. Airmen who did not go overseas trained at Selfridge Field, Michigan as bomber crews in the 477th Bombardment Group (Medium). This composite group also included the 602nd Air Engineering Squadron, 616 th, 617th, 618th and the 619th Squadrons and was equipped with B-26 and later B-25 aircraft. Highly trained military officers, they were denied access to the base officers' club, experiencing a great deal of racism and were treated as "trainees". The group was transferred to Godman Field, Kentucky, then later to Freeman Field Indiana, where the hostilities reached a climax. Black officers tried to enter the club against direct orders. 103 officers were arrested and faced court martial. These proceedings were quickly dropped against 100 of the officers; 2 officers eventually had charges dropped and 1 officer, Lt. Roger "Bill" Terry, was convicted. In 1995 all references to the Freeman Field incident were purged from the airmen’s records and the charges against Mr. Terry had been reversed.

Campaigns of the 332nd Fighter Squadron included Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Anzio; Rome-Arno; Normandy; Northern France; Southern France; North Apennines; Rhineland; Central Europe; Po Valley, and Air Combat-EAME Theater. The 99th Fighter Squadron earned the "Distinguished Unit Citation" for Sicily, June-July, 1943; Cassino, May 1, 1944 and Germany, March 1945. On July 2, 1943, the 99th shot down their first enemy aircraft. Racial attitudes and discriminatory behavior of some Army Air Force leaders and officials led them to question the performance of the Tuskegee Airmen (TA). The 99 th Squadron and allied forces landed in Anzio January 21, 1944. The unit had seventeen confirmed kills, four probable victories and six damaged enemy aircraft by February 10th. News of the success of the TA reached military leaders. Many leaders began to favor them and praised their achievements and included them in more vital missions. The TA earned the respect of bomber crews who depended upon them for coverage. They were dubbed the "Red-tail Angels" by groups they escorted. Perhaps the unit’s greatest claim to fame was they never lost a bomber to enemy fighters. Sixty-six of these pilots were killed in aerial combat while another thirty-two were shot down and captured as POWs. After the war, Black airmen returned to the US and faced continued racism. Achievements and accolades attributed to these courageous men returning to their civilian lives in Nebraska have been: holding positions in leadership and respect as businessmen, teachers, civic leaders, community mentors, proclamations from public and City Officials and even public and military buildings named in their honor.

The distinguished record of the TA include 993 trained fighter pilots flying 1,578 missions, 15,533 sorties and awards to included 1 Legion of Merit,1 Silver Star, 2

Soldier Medals, 8 Purple Hearts, 95 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 14 Bronze Stars and 744 Air Medals and clusters. On March 29th, 2007, the TA was collectively honored and bestowed the most distinguished award established by the US Congress, the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their selfless service to their country.

Mourners remember Long Island New York man, his Tuskegee Airmen days

September 28, 2010 By MARTIN C. EVANS

In April 1945, Harry R. Dickenson, a Hampton Bays resident who died Saturday, was among 58 black "Tuskegee Airmen" who were arrested at Freeman Field, Ind.

The 58 men had been protesting the Army's rules on segregation, which banned black officers from entering "white only" officers clubs.

"He was very proud of being a black officer because Harry knew, as we all did, that we represented...


Funeral services were held Tuesday for Inglewood resident and Tuskegee Airman Claude Davis, 92. Davis, who battled prostate cancer, died April 30 at Centinela Hospital Medical Center.
Davis, the eldest of three children in his family, was born Jan. 11, 1920 in Alabama and grew up in the Pittsburgh area.

He had just earned his English degree from Ohio’s Wilberforce University — with a 4.0 grade point average — when he was recruited to participate in the U.S. Army Air Corp’s 99th Pursuit Squadron at the then-Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. As a pilot, Davis graduated from the program as part of Class 44G in 1944.

In becoming a pilot, Davis’ training included ten weeks of learning the systems that support flight like how to use the radio and basic meteorology. His last basic training included combat training and air combat. In his advance training, Davis chose to become a bomber.

Following advanced training, Davis was sent to Douglas Army Base in Arizona where he learned how to fly the B-25 bomber aircraft. With orders to prepare to fight the Japanese, in March 1945 his squadron was sent to Freeman Field in Indiana and became part of the 477th Bombardment Group.

Prepared for war, Davis and his 616th Squadron never flew in combat during World War II when President Harry S. Truman ordered the military to drop the first atomic bomb Aug. 6, 1945 on the city of Hiroshima in Japan.

Davis joined the National Guard when he left the service in 1945. He returned to active duty during the Korean War. He was married briefly in college and met his second wife, Virginia Ponty, while visiting friends in Ohio, during a break from Air Corps training.

He served for nearly ten years in the military before the couple settled in Berkeley, Calif. He worked first as a bus driver, later sold beer to stores and restaurants and then became a real estate agent. A job transfer brought the family to the Leimert Park area in the late 1950s.

In 1998 President Bill Clinton approved a law establishing the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama. In 2007, the airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Davis is survived by his wife, Martha Cruise-Davis; three sons, Claude Jr., Michael and Steven; a daughter, Susan Davis as well as seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Source: 5/2012

Page last revised 01/16/2013