Last week’s blog mentioned how Tuskegee Airmen USAF Col. (ret) Charles E. McGee and Lt. Col. (ret) Hiram Mann visited a St. Paul (MN) magnet school that focuses on educating using aviation-related concepts. That was one of many trips that McGee has made to talk about the Tuskegee Airmen.“Colonel Mac” will be making another trip this coming July, this time to Dayton, OH – the Wright Brothers’ hometown. Dayton is the site of the National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHOF), which has selected Col. McGee and three others notable members of the aviation community for induction into the NAHOF. The others who will be honored are Iven Carl Kincheloe, Jr., S. Harry Robertson, and Thomas D. White.
This will be the NAHOF’s 50th annual “Enshrinement” ceremony. To date, 203 people have been so honored. Col. McGee and the other inductees will be joining Charles Lindbergh, Bessie Coleman (see the October 1, 2010 blog entry), Chuck Yeager, space pioneers such as Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell, and others who have contributed to the history of aviation and the aviation industry.
The “official” NAHOF biography of Col. McGee that will be featured during the induction ceremony has not been released yet, but here are some highlights of a very noteworthy life and career that that bio may touch on:
- In 1942, he was accepted into the Army Air Corps Enlisted Reserve and soon after was ordered to report to Tuskegee Alabama for flight training. Originally assigned to class 43-G, he quickly advanced to class 43-F because of his prior college experience (he had been studying engineering at the University of Illinois before applying to the Army Air Corps’s pilot training program).
- After graduating from Tuskegee as a 2nd Lt., he shipped out to southern Italy in December 1943 and flew missions in Bell P-39s and then P-47 Thunderbolts before starting to fly the P-51C Mustang named “Kitten”- after his nickname for his wife, Frances - in July 1944.
- He flew 137 fighter missions during WWII, 100 fighter/bomber missions during the Korean conflict and 173 reconnaissance missions in Vietnam – the most combat missions ever flown by one pilot.
- He held various positions of authority during his Air Force career, including base commander at Richards-Gebauer Air Force Base in Missouri. He retired from the military at age 54 in 1973 after 30 years’ service.
- His post-military career included being Vice President in a securities firm and earning a degree in Business Administration while in his 60s. He served as president of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and, at the request of the Air Force, has traveled to Iraq to do meet-and-greets with troops.
The thing about Col. McGee is that he continues to enjoy life even into his 10th decade. I worked on the 2010 award-winning Rose Parade float that honored the Tuskegee Airmen; he was one of the Airmen selected to ride on the float. “Only” 90 years old at the time, he came to the tent that housed the float well ahead of the times he needed to be there just to look around, meet observers, and talk with those working on the float. He was gracious through delays and joyous when on the float because he was fully engaged in the process.
The CAF Red Tail Project congratulates Col. Mac on his election to the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s “Class of 2011” and we thank him for his past and present contributions to the preservation and betterment of life in these United States.