Three members of the legendary, World War II era Tuskegee Airmen will speak at Jefferson Lab's Black History Month celebration at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 19. The public is invited to the event.
The program will start with footage from the 1996 movie based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first squadron of black American pilots to defend their country in World War II. Overcoming nearly insurmountable racial obstacles, the men of the "Fighting 99th" distinguished themselves and their race.
The Tuskegee Airmen saw combat in more than 1500 missions while escorting bombers across Europe and northern Africa during World War II. Not one of those aircraft was lost to enemy fire — making their unit the only one from WW II to hold this distinction. However, their most important victory came in 1948 when their bravery, tenacity, and service to country led to President Harry Truman's decision to desegregate the U.S. military.
The three Tuskegee Airmen scheduled to speak at the Department of Energy's Jefferson Lab include: Lieutenant Colonel Francis Horne, Chief Master Sergeant Grant Williams and Lieutenant Colonel Howard Baugh.
Colonel Horne initially served as an aircraft mechanic's helper and an aircraft radio repairman. After finishing his degree at (then) Hampton Institute and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), he was commissioned and served in command positions during and after the Korean conflict. Colonel Horne was the Operations officer for the 1st Missile Battalion, Ft. Meade, Maryland, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Chief Williams performed administrative, first sergeant and Group sergeant major duties during WW II. He was recalled to duty in 1950 and worked administrative positions stateside and overseas (Japan, Turkey and Vietnam) before retiring in 1975 from (then) Headquarters Tactical Air Command Logistics, at Langley AFB.
Colonel Baugh, was a flight instructor for the twin-engine B-25 Mitchell and flew 135 combat missions. During his 25 years of active duty he amassed nearly 6000 flying hours and flew more than 15 different types of aircraft.
The men are motivational and inspirational speakers with indomitable spirits. They have been featured on television programs and interviewed for a variety of publications.
The three men will speak about their lives and military careers beginning at 2:30 p.m. in the CEBAF Center auditorium located at 12000 Jefferson Ave., Newport News. The public is invited to this free event. The presentation will last about one hour with a question and answer period at the end. For security purposes, enter at Jefferson Lab's main entrance (Onnes Dr.). Everyone over 16 is asked to carry a photo ID and security guards may perform vehicle and parcel inspections.