Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Oldest Living Member Of The Famous Tuskegee Airmen Squadron, Willie N. Rogers Dies At 101

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Willie N. Rogers, the oldest living member of the renowned Tuskegee Airmen air squadron, died Friday evening (11/18/16) in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Rogers served as master sergeant of the squadron of World War II fighter pilots. They became famous as the first black aviators in U.S. history. Rogers was the backbone of the organization, coordinating the ground logistics for the squadron.

“He recognized that we as people and he as a black man have come a long way but that there is still more to go,” Rogers’ daughter Veronica told the Tampa Bay Times. “But in God’s eyes there is no color, he’d say. We are all one and he lived by the greatest commandment — to love one another.”

The Tuskegee Airmen existed at a time when the U.S. military was still segregated. Formally called the U.S. Army Air Corps 99th Flying Squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen were also known as the “Red Tails,” due the trademark bright red tails painted on their P-40 Tomahawk and P-51 Mustang fighter planes.

The squadron trained at Tuskegee University in Alabama. While the existence of an all-black fighter squadron was controversial at the time, the Tuskegee Airmen proved themselves as remarkable pilots during the war. The squadron’s 335 pilots deployed overseas during the war lost bombers in only seven out of 179 escort missions, compared to an average of 46 among their peers. The Red Tails also destroyed a total of 262 enemy aircraft and obliterated 950 rail cars and various other vehicles.

Rogers was reportedly quite humble about his service with the groundbreaking squadron, so much so that some of his family was not even aware of it. He received a Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush in 2007 for his service, but did not attend the ceremony. Rogers’ family had known he was a veteran, but he did not reveal his place in history until 2012.

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