EAST COAST CHAPTER
Harvey Alexander was born April 13, 1921. He registered for service in the Army Air Corps in 1942 but for a short time was assigned Sergeant in the 369th Infantry Division, the same unit in which his father served during World War One. In March 1942 he transferred to the Army Air Corps and trained as a B-25 pilot under the watchful eye of flight instructor Daniel “Chappie” James. He graduated from Class 44-D and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in April 1944.
Harvey loved to fly. He once said that, while in flight, he had a total sense of freedom.
LeRoy A. “Boots” Battle, Sr.
LeRoy A. Battle, Sr. was inducted into the service on 23 August 1943 at Camp Upton, Long Island. He went to Keesler Field, MS for Basic Training, then to Tuskegee Institute for Air Cadet Training on to several other camps and fields for Gunnery and Bombardier Training, returning to Tuskegee for Pilot Training. At Freeman Field, he was one of the first 19 officers arrested on 11 April 1945 for attempting to enter the “all-white” Officers’ Club. The actions of this group were a catalyst in the 1948 abolishment of segregation at all military installations.
Lt. Battle was honorably discharged from the service on 13 October 1945 and immediately enrolled at the Julliard School of Music. In 1946, he enrolled at Morgan (State) College, graduated in June 1950 with a major in Instrumental Music and received his Master of Education Degree in 1961 from the University of Maryland.
LeRoy Battle taught music at the Frederick Douglass Elementary Junior Senior High School in Upper Marlboro, MD, for 22 years and is credited with raising the Frederick Douglass Music Department into one of our nation’s finest organizations. In February 2003, LeRoy was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Maryland Music Education Association.
LeRoy performed as a house drummer at the “Three Deuces” and “Downbeat” Clubs where he accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Nat “King” Cole, Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey and many other notable artists. He played with “Tee” Carson, Buck Hill and many other famous entertainers in Washington, DC. He was a drummer with the Redskins Marching Band for 17 years – and led his jazz ensemble, “Roy Battle and the Altones”.
Mr. Battle is a recognized and honored educator, jazz musicians, composer, civil rights pioneer and author of Easier Said, And The Beat Goes On, and A Tuskegee Airman.
William E. Broadwater
A native of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, William Broadwater was sent to Tuskegee Army Air Field as a Pilot Trainee in 1944 and served with the 477th Medium Bomber Group. After his discharge from active duty in 1946, William completed his education and established a long career with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He received numerous awards and citations during his 29-year tenure with the FFA, serving as Chief of Airspace, Airports, Obstructions and Air Traffic Rules Division. After retiring from the Federal Aviation Administration in 1980, Mr. Broadwater started a consulting firm that specialized in technical matters dealing with air traffic control operations and procedures, aviation regulations, aerospace education and obstructions in airspace. His professional and community service included: Traffic Controller's Association, Civic Association, P-TA and Flying Club.
William Broadwater was one of the charter members (membership card #003) of the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. He served as the third president of the Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated.
Dr. Cyril O. Byron, Sr.
Cyril O. Byron, Sr. was drafted in the early 1940s while studying at Morgan State University. He was sent to the Tuskegee Airbase in Alabama and assigned to the 99th Fighter Squadron from training. Cyril was assigned as an armorer to a crew of specially trained noncommissioned officers in airplane maintenance. Their motto was, “we keep ‘em flying.” Cyril O. Byron’s unit, the 99th Fighter Squadron, was transferred to Casablanca, North Africa in April 1943, moved across North Africa to Italy, and was joined by fighter squadrons from the 332nd Fighter Group. As a means of identification, that unit had the planes’ tails and noses painted red and became known as the ‘Red Tails,’ which escorted bomber planes.
Dr. Cyril O. Byron, Sr. returned from abroad in 1945 and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, a Master of Education degree, a Certificate of Advanced Studies from New York University and a Doctor of Science degree in Education from Temple University. He was appointed to the faculty at Coppin State College (University) in 1953 and served for 23 years in many capacities which included chairman of the Science and Mathematics Department, Dean of Education, and President of the Faculty Senate. He was an Administrator at the Baltimore City Community College from 1946-1985, retiring as Associate Dean of the Division of Natural Science, Health and Physical Education.
Dr. Cyril O. Byron, Sr. has served on any education boards and commissions and is the recipient of countless certifications, citations and awards commemorating his service. Always an outstanding athlete, Dr. Byron served as a sports official in football, basketball, and baseball. He was the first African American to officiate in NCAA East Coast Chapter Divisions’ I, IAA, II, and III football games.
Lt. Col. Woodrow W. Crockett
Woodrow was one of six children born to William and Lucinda, who were schoolteachers and farmers in Texarkana, AR. He was a brilliant, budding mathematician, who teachers sometimes turned to as a substitute when they were away. As a young man, he traveled to Little Rock to live with his sister Martha while pursuing his educational dreams at Dunbar High School and Dunbar Junior College.
When he could no longer afford to attend school, Woodrow joined the U.S. Army and became a member of the 349th Field Artillery Regiment, the first black field artillery unit in the regular Army. He applied for pilot training and was assigned to Tuskegee Army Air Field as an aviation cadet in August 1942. Woodrow graduated as a single-engine pilot in March 1943 and became a member of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, also known as the “Red Tails”. During World War II, he flew 149 combat missions, when 50 missions constituted a normal tour of duty.
During his 30 years of military service, Woodrow held a number of positions, including Squadron and Group Operations Officer, Flying Safety Officer, and Squadron Commander, as well as Radiological Safety Officer on an atomic bomb test in the Southwest Pacific in 1951. He was Assistant Test Director for F-106 test programs at Edwards AFB, and at McGuire AFB. Woodrow held two Mach 2 cards, having flown twice the speed of sound in both the F-106 Delta Dart and the F-104 Star Fighter.
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College, Woodrow received multiple awards during his military service, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Presidential Unit Citation, and two Soldier’s Medals for bravery, awarded for extricating pilots from burning aircraft. He was also awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster. He attained the highest aeronautical rating in the military — command pilot — in March 1958. In 1970 he retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel after 28 years on flight status, with 20 years of jet experience, approximately 5,000 hours of flying time and 520 flying hours in combat. He had piloted the P-39, P-40, P-47, P-51 Mustang, the F-80 Shooting Star, the F-86 D/L-All Weather Interceptor, the F-106 and the B-17.
Following his retirement from active military duty, Woodrow worked for six years in Equal Employment Opportunity at the National Guard Bureau (NGB) in the Pentagon, assisting state guard units with recruiting women and minorities to ensure that guard units reflected the communities in which they served.
Although Woodrow had been an avid basketball player during his younger years and a skier later in life, after retiring from the NGB, he began playing tennis, co-founding the Golden Racquets – Fairfax County Senior Tennis. He was also a long-time member of the Washington chapter of the National Dunbar Alumni Association.
A charter member of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., Woodrow served in several capacities, including as National Treasurer and on the board of directors of the East Coast Chapter. For many years, he made presentations about the Tuskegee Airmen to schools, churches, civic and public organizations.
In 1992, Woodrow was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame. During 1994 D-Day 50th Anniversary ceremonies, he escorted President Bill Clinton and the British Prime Minister John Major to the Aviator’s Wall at Madingley Cemetery near Cambridge, England. In 1995, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in December 2001. Woodrow has donated military memorabilia to the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History, the Tuskegee Airmen Collection at the University of California at Riverside, and to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Lemuel Rodney Custis
Lemuel Rodney Custis, who was Hartford's first black police officer and helped bring about desegregation of the armed forces as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, died Thursday, February 24, 2005. He was 89.
Custis, of Wethersfield, was a member of the first class of black men to undergo pilot training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. George Schnyer of East Windsor, who has studied the Tuskegee Airmen, said Custis was the last surviving member of the group.
Custis was not boastful. He never mentioned he was leaving his police job to become an Army pilot during World War II.
Connie Nappier of New Britain, who later went through the same pilot training Custis completed to become a Tuskegee Airman, remembered Custis as a beat cop in Hartford. Custis had joined the department in 1940, two years after earning a bachelor's degree at Howard University.
"One day we missed Lem," Nappier recalled Tuesday. After two or three days passed, he and many others in Hartford's black community figured "the man found a way to get rid of Lem."
They learned the truth months later when the Pittsburgh Courier, a newspaper that served black America, arrived. "There was Lem on the front page with the other four fellas, having earned his wings," Nappier said.
"Lem was one of those who was determined that he was going to see it through and get his wings, not to pin bouquets on himself, but to prove we had the capabilities that any other human had," Nappier said.
The Army was responding to pressure when it agreed to begin a training program for black pilots at Tuskegee.
Custis was assigned to the all-black 99th Fighter Squadron, which flew escort and patrol missions in P-40 Warhawks in North Africa, Sicily and Italy from April 1943 to July 1944. Members of the 99th first tangled with German fliers while covering the beaches during the Allied invasion at Anzio on Jan. 27, 1944.
Sixteen Warhawk pilots spotted 15 German Focke-Wulf 190 fighters dive-bombing Allied ships off Anzio. The black aviators attacked the Germans, who were flying superior airplanes, and shot down five without losing one of their own.
The squadron's success that day gave Custis a sense that he was part of something special, although it would be decades before the black aviators would receive wide acclaim for their combat in Europe.
"After our success at Anzio and Salerno ... we had an inkling that perhaps we had made a real contribution," Custis said during an interview in April 2000. "And then, of course, as the years went by, and you got older and you had a better perspective of history and so forth, we could realize that we had really done something from a historical standpoint."
The Tuskegee Airmen went on to earn more fame by escorting Allied bombers. German pilots were taking a heavy toll on the lumbering bombers, and fighter escort was crucial.
The Tuskegee Airmen, by then flying as the 332nd Fighter Group, were the only Allied outfit not to lose a bomber they escorted to enemy fighters.
Despite their performance in combat, the black aviators still endured indignities at home and abroad. But it didn't make them bitter.
"I like to think that most of us, as a result of all of our experiences, tried to really overcome some of those scars we had picked up over the years - some of the mental and social scars," Custis said during an interview in 2002. "We tried to be good citizens in whatever city or town we thought we'd live our lives in."
Custis left the service in 1946 after attaining the rank of major and went to work in Connecticut state government. He retired in 1980.
Reference: Hardford Curant By DAVID OWENS, Courant Staff Writer
Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was born in Washington, D.C., in 1912. He graduated from Central High School in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1929, attended Western Reserve University at Cleveland and later the University of Chicago. He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in July 1932 and graduated in June 1936 with a commission as a second lieutenant of infantry.
In June 1937 after a year as commander of an infantry company at Fort Benning, Ga., he entered the Infantry School there and a year later graduated and assumed duties as professor of military science at Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Ala. In May 1941 he entered Advanced Flying School at nearby Tuskegee Army Air Base and received his pilot wings in March 1942.
General Davis transferred to the Army Air Corps in May 1942. As commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron at Tuskegee Army Air Base, he moved with his unit to North Africa in April 1943 and later to Sicily. He returned to the United States in October 1943, assumed command of the 332nd Fighter Group at Selfridge Field, Mich., and returned with the group to Italy two months later.
He returned to the United States in June 1945 to command the 477th Composite Group at Godman Field, Ky., and later assumed command of the Field. In March 1946 he went to Lockbourne Army Air Base, Ohio, as commander of the base and in July 1947 became commander of the 332nd Fighter Wing there.
In 1949 General Davis went to the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.; and after graduation, he was assigned to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. He served in various capacities with the headquarters until July 1953, when he went to the advanced jet fighter gunnery school at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
In November 1953 he assumed duties as commander of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, Far East Air Forces, Korea. He served as director of operations and training at Far East Air Forces Headquarters, Tokyo, from 1954 until 1955, when he assumed the position of vice commander, Thirteenth Air Force, with additional duty as commander, Air Task Force 13 (Provisional), Taipei, Formosa.
In April 1957 General Davis arrived at Ramstein, Germany, as chief of staff, Twelfth Air Force, U.S. Air Forces in Europe. When the Twelfth Air Force was transferred to Waco, Texas in December 1957, he assumed new duties as deputy chief of staff for operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Wiesbaden, Germany.
In July 1961 he returned to the United States and Headquarters U.S. Air Force where he served as the director of manpower and organization, Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs and Requirements; and in February 1965 was assigned as assistant deputy chief of staff, programs and requirements. He remained in that position until his assignment as chief of staff for the United Nations Command and U.S. Forces in Korea in April 1965. He assumed command of the Thirteenth Air Force at Clark Air Base in the Republic of the Philippines in August 1967.
General Davis was assigned as deputy commander in chief, U.S. Strike Command, with headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., in August 1968, with additional duty as commander in chief, Middle East, Southern Asia and Africa.
His military decorations include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and the Philippine Legion of Honor. He was a command pilot.
On Dec. 9, 1998, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was advanced to general. President Clinton pinned on his four-star insignia.
Official USAF biography.
Stewart S. Henley
Stewart S. Henley matriculated to Miner Teachers College after graduation from high school. Before entering the military, he had learned about the Tuskegee program from the Afro Newspaper. Thinking ahead, he took a course on flying that was offered at Armstrong High School. In December 1943, Stewart began his military service at Camp Lee in Virginia, where he trained as a secretary. When he first applied to the Tuskegee program, he passed the academic test, but failed the physical because he admitted to having allergies. Shortly thereafter, he applied again, this time admitting to no infirmities.
At Tuskegee, Stewart Henley was a member of Class 46-C which anointed him “Chief Chicken,” the cadet in charge of the class. In 1945, shortly after he successfully completed his Primary Flight training, both the war and his enlistment ended. Stewart did not pursue further flight training because he did not want a military career and no one, at that time, would hire an African-American pilot.
Stewart Henley returned to Miner to complete his college education. In 1948 he graduated, married and began his career in the DC Publics Schools. He worked as an elementary and then science teacher while completing his Masters n Education and Administration from George Washington University. In 1963, he became an elementary school principle. He retired in 1976 after almost 30 years in the DC Public School System. Along the way, he obtained his private pilot’s license in 1971. When he began training for this license, his old Tuskegee flight logbook created quite a stir at Freeway Airport.
Elmer D. Jones
Elmer D. Jones was active in his Dunbar High School Cadet Corps and ROTC Commander at Howard University. He was commissioned second lieutenant in Army ROTC and was an advanced Civilian Training Pilot (CPT) Program field cadet under Chief Anderson at Tuskegee Institute. In 1941, he received his civilian pilot’s license.
Elmer enlisted in the service and was sent to Chanute Field to train as a non-flying officer for the 99th Pursuit Squadron’s ground crew. He became the 99th’s Engineering Officer and later Commander of its Service Squadron. He was the first ground service person to be commissioned in the Air Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
While the enlisted men of Chanute Field were in training, five of them were admitted to Officers’ Training School as aviation cadets. These cadets successfully completed training, received their military pilots’ licenses and were commissioned as the first Black Army Air Corps officers. Elmer Jones was one of the five.
E. Theophia H. Lee
E. Theophia Hicks Lee worked at Moton Field as the secretary to Tuskegee Institute’s physical plant engineer, G.A. Reed. Her college sweetheart, Phillip Lee, was a Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) instructor at Kennedy Field before being employed as a CPT instructor at Tuskegee Institute in 1943. E. Theophia Hicks married Phillip Lee in the historic chapel on Tuskegee’s campus on May 15, 1943.
E. Theophia served as secretary to the East Coast Chapter, TAI for many years while also serving as Assistant to the Budget Director at Howard University. She continues to reside in Washington, DC and is a member of this Chapter.
Walter L. McCreary
Walter L. McCreary was an original member of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group. He graduated from Class 43-C of the Tuskegee Army Air Field’s Advanced Flying School on 25 March 1943. While on an escort mission to Hungary on 12 October 1944, Walter’s plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He bailed out in the Lake Balaton area and was immediately pounced upon by a mob of angry civilians. German soldiers rescued Walter and took him to a prison camp. As the Germans retreated, Walter was moved from prison to prison until he ended up in Stalag Luft III. He was released from prison when Gen. Patton’s 3rd Army captured the city on 29 April 1945.
Walter L. McCreary flew 89 World War II aerial combat missions in the European Theater. In the 1950s, he flew courier missions to deliver classified messages from Kelly Air Force Base, TX to the Air Force Security Forces at the Pentagon. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Lt. Colonel Noel F. Parrish
Lt Colonel Noel F. Parrish ( 1909-1987) was a white southerner who rose above the prejudices of the day to provide inspired leadership to the African American US Army Air Corp Cadets who came to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen. His work as Commander of Tuskegee Army Air Field from 1942 onward, aided morale, sought to diminish the impact of racial segregation, while engendering good relations among the Tuskegee Army Air Field cadets/staff and white residents in the surrounding area. Parrish felt that people should be judged by their capability not their color. It is said that, but for his visionary outlook and ability to transcend the exclusionary customs of the day, the Tuskegee Airmen may not have met with success. His well-respected work led the Tuskegee Airmen association to name its most prestigious annual award in his honor - The Brigadier General Noel F. Parrish Award.
Cicero Satterfield was drafted into the military and sent to Camp Shelby, MS in 1941. When asked what branch of the service he preferred, he said, “Field Artillery.” He was deployed to Ft. Bragg, NC and was trained in drilling, rifle range practice, operating a BD 17 telephone and switchboard, laying simple lines and learning to use Morris and Semaphore codes. Cicero was sent to Keesler Field, MS where he was trained to operate a GMC truck hauling supplies.
In 1942, Cicero Satterfield was transferred to Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) for online airplane machine training on the PT-17. He was then transferred to Jefferson Barracks, MO where he became Chief Drill Instructor for the 1165th Training Group. He was transferred back to TAAF for instruction in venereal disease control. He returned to Jefferson Barracks, MO to supervise a venereal disease control program. His final military service was at Truax Field, WI supervising motor pool dispatchers.
Cicero was discharged from the Army in 1945 and worked at the US Employment Office in Chicago processing applications for returning veterans. He studied mathematics at Wilberforce College then returned to Mississippi where he produced a radio program and operated a restaurant. In 1953, Cicero came to Washington, DC as a GSA employee. He was employed at the Department of Public Assistance as a Social Worker until his retirement in 1974.
Wylie W. Selden, Jr.
Wylie W. Selden, R. was the son of an aviation enthusiast who encouraged Wylie to pursue civilian pilot training at Hampton Institute and later at West Virginia State where his pilot training was conducted in seaplanes taking off and landing on lakes rather than landing fields. Wylie began training in Class 43-F in October 1942, graduated and commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in June 1943.
Immediately following his graduation, Wylie Selden, Jr. and three other cadets were selected at random to receive additional training as test pilots, making them the first and only Black test pilots in the US Air Corps during World War II.
Colonel Harry A. Sheppard, USAF (Retired)
Colonel Harry A. Sheppard, USAF (Retired) was born October 24, 1917 in Jamaica, New York. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on April 1, 1941 and became one of the first Blacks accepted for aircraft maintenance training in the Air Corps and to be assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which was activated a month earlier at Chanute Field, Illinois. He completed pilot training, earning his wings and a commission at Tuskegee Army Air Field on May 28, 1943 and was assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron. During WW II, he flew 123 combat missions in P-39, P-47, and P-51 aircraft. During his 33-year military career, he served as Pilot, Engineering Officer and Supply Officer, earning an impressive list of decorations, including the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Medal, and Air Medal with 13 oak leaf clusters. Colonel Sheppard was a charter member of East Coast Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and served as the first chapter secretary. He served as Chapter President 1987-1988 and as Eastern Region President for three years.
Amazon Prime members, please support ECCTAI by selecting ECCTAI as the charity you would like to donate proceeds from your day-to-day purchases. Amazon will set aside a portion of your purchase and donate it to ECCTAI.
EAST COAST CHAPTER