On Veterans Day, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore will be host to living legends from World War II.
Original Tuskegee Airmen, (ret.) Col. Charles McGee and Sgt. Harry Quinton, will visit the campus on Monday, November 11th, as guest speakers.
They will be appearing at the Student Services Center Theater at 9 a.m.
Col. McGee and Sgt. Quinton are among the last few surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
McGee will be celebrating his 100th birthday next month.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. During World War II, black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to the Jim Crow laws and the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to discrimination, both within and outside the army.
In all, 992 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941 to 1946. 355 were deployed overseas, and 84 lost their lives.
The Tuskegee Airmen were credited with the following accomplishments:
- 1578 combat missions.
- 179 bomber escort missions, with a good record of protection, losing bombers on only seven missions and a total of only 27, compared to an average of 46 among other 15th Air Force P-51 groups.
- 112 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air, another 150 on the ground and 148 damaged. This included three Me-262 jet fighters shot down
- 950 rail cars, trucks and other motor vehicles destroyed.
- One destroyer put out of action. 40 boats and barges destroyed.
Awards and decorations included:
- Three Distinguished Unit Citations.
- 99th Pursuit Squadron: May 30 through June 11, 1943 for actions over Sicily
- 99th Fighter Squadron: May 12 – 14, 1944: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy
- 332nd Fighter Group (and its 99th, 100th, and 301st Fighter Squadrons): March 24, 1945: for a bomber escort mission to Berlin, during which pilots of the 100th FS shot down three enemy Me 262 jets.
- At least one Silver Star.
- 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses to 95 Airmen.
- 14 Bronze Stars.
- 744 Air Medals.
- 8 Purple Hearts. Editor's note: An investigation by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2009 revealed that as many as 47 Purple Hearts were actually awarded.
State and federal representatives have accepted UMES’ invitations to attend and will be bearing tribute resolutions.
Over 200 local K through 12 students are expected to attend, along with UMES undergraduates majoring in aviation science.
Also in attendance will be members of the non-profit education program Young Elites of the Eastern Shore West to East Coast Aviation Network, also known as Y.E.E.S. W.E. C.A.N.
The program, founded by Cheryl A. Walker, introduces Somerset County youth (ages 8 to 18) to the vast world of aviation and STEM-related fields.
UMES is providing the venue for this event in collaboration with the local youth aviation program.
The event is free and open to the public.