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Tuskegee Airmen, heralded Black aviators of WWII, honored at Luke Air Force Base
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Tuskegee Airmen, heralded Black aviators of WWII, honored at Luke Air Force Base

  • Members of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen pose for a photo at the end of the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsMembers of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen pose for a photo at the end of the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
  • Asa Herring, a Tuskegee Airman and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, enters Hangar 999 at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale with his son, Mark Herring on March 24, 2022. 'From Iceland to Germany to everywhere, they got a lot of things accomplished, and we’re proud of him,' Mark Herring says.
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsAsa Herring, a Tuskegee Airman and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, enters Hangar 999 at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale with his son, Mark Herring on March 24, 2022. 'From Iceland to Germany to everywhere, they got a lot of things accomplished, and we’re proud of him,' Mark Herring says.
  • Retired Air Force Maj. Fannie Griffin McClendon of Tempe, who was a member of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion during World War II, is honored at the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022. McClendon and her battalion were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on March 14.
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsRetired Air Force Maj. Fannie Griffin McClendon of Tempe, who was a member of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion during World War II, is honored at the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022. McClendon and her battalion were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on March 14.
  • Former Air Force chief of staff Ronald R. Fogleman, left, is presented with an Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen jacket by Richard Toliver, middle, and William Norwood at the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022. 'Something I think is important is that chapters, such as we have here, keep the history and heritage alive,' Fogleman says. 'There is no reason why anybody should be denied the opportunity to serve their country just because of the color of their skin.'
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsFormer Air Force chief of staff Ronald R. Fogleman, left, is presented with an Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen jacket by Richard Toliver, middle, and William Norwood at the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022. 'Something I think is important is that chapters, such as we have here, keep the history and heritage alive,' Fogleman says. 'There is no reason why anybody should be denied the opportunity to serve their country just because of the color of their skin.'
  • Members of the military join the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsMembers of the military join the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
  • Members of the military look on as Asa Herring, former Tuskegee Airman and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, is honored at the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsMembers of the military look on as Asa Herring, former Tuskegee Airman and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, is honored at the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
  • Planes come and go outside the doors of Hangar 999 during the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsPlanes come and go outside the doors of Hangar 999 during the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
  • Air Force Lt. Col. Stanley C. Brown speaks with former Tuskegee Airman Asa Herring at the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
    Hope O’Brien/Cronkite NewsAir Force Lt. Col. Stanley C. Brown speaks with former Tuskegee Airman Asa Herring at the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.

Amid the roar of jets taking off and landing at Luke Air Force Base, members of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen gathered Thursday in Hangar 999 for Arizona’s ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day.

This year’s celebration honored the late Brig. Gen. Charles E. McGee, who was one of the fabled Black aviators of the Army Air Corps during World War II. He died Jan. 16 at 102.

Robert McGee told the crowd that he’s proud of his father’s achievements and the impact he made, which continues to be shared through celebrations like the one at Luke.

The airmen, he said, “were fighting in two wars, with a double victory. A war against Hitler and the Nazis, but also a war against racism in the United States.”

A handful of Tuskegee Airmen and other World War II veterans also were honored at the celebration.

Before World War II, the U.S. military was segregated, but in 1941, qualified Black volunteers were allowed to train to fly at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. During the war, these aviators escorted bombers and boasted one of the lowest loss records of bomber escorting units at that time, according to Tuskegee University, which was chosen to train the pilots, navigators and bombadiers because it already had a proven civilian pilot training program.

The fourth Thursday in March was designated as Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2013.

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