Monday, March 23, 2009
(COLUMBIA, Mo.) -- In conjunction with Black History Month, Columbia College has produced a video chronicling the life of Colonel Charles McGee ’78, USAF (retired), a former Tuskegee Airman.
Tuskegee Airmen were a select group of World War II fighter pilots who broke stereotypes by being the first black men to fly in combat. The airmen escorted American bombers over the hostile skies of Europe. Their sterling record helped persuade President Harry S. Truman to integrate the armed forces after the war.
“It was the first time the country used a large group of blacks in a technical area,” said McGee. “A lot of good talent was going to waste because somebody didn’t give them the opportunity or didn’t provide them the training. Once that was done, it made all the difference and opened some doors and opened some eyes, and certainly we have found since then that talent doesn’t come in happenstance of birth or color of skin.”
In his extraordinarily long career, McGee also commanded a fighter squadron in the Philippines, a reconnaissance squadron at now-defunct Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base just south of Kansas City and holds the Air Force fighter combat record for missions completed and combat hours. In 2007, President Bush awarded the Airmen the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the nations’ highest civilian award.
The Col. McGee video is available online.