It was today in 1941 that the first Army Air Corps Squadron for Black cadets was formed. Stationed in Tuskegee, Alabama, the Tuskegee Airmen were born. Black Wings tells their story: http://bit.ly/1Kja2mY
White was a modest family man who rarely discussed his war experience. He died in his Smithfield, Va., home last Friday, according to his son Brandon White.
“He wouldn’t go into detail about anything,” his son told The Associated Press. “He was very humble, humble to a fault.”
White’s children only discovered several years ago that he was part of the celebrated World War II unit.
In 1945, the Smithfield native was drafted into the Army infantry. He moved to the Army Air Corps, and then was assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group.
“My job was to service the planes to keep them in the air,” he said during a talk at a Virginia museum in 2013, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
“Whatever the planes needed, we would see to it until someone from maintenance would come pick them up.”
The Tuskegee Airmen took part in more than 1,500 combat missions, earning more than 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses. But acceptance from white colleagues didn’t come easy.
“Everything we did we had to fight for it,” he said. “And they wanted us to fail, but they forgot one thing. We, as blacks, we were very gifted. And gifts come from whom? God. And that’s how we made it.”
Three years after he was discharged, he married Elsie Newby. In 1993, he retired after working 20 years at a naval supply center in Norfolk, Va.
In 2013, White was one of about two dozen former members of the unit who were asked to attend President Obama’s second inauguration.
“It was a great experience,” he told The Virginian-Pilot. “We were no more than 50 feet from the President, and I think this tops all other experiences I had.”
He is survived by his wife, six children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday.
The artists have allowed the Heart of America and Hugh J. White Chapter team to create this unique calendar. All proceeds go to the Youth Fund.
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Clovis A. Bordeaux, who served with the famed World War II Tuskegee Airmen and later worked with noted nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, died March 12, 2011, at a convalescent hospital in Bellflower, Calif., from complications of pneumonia. He was 93.
In an unpublished memoir, Mr. Bordeaux recalled growing up in a two-bedroom house with no indoor toilet in The Ville neighborhood. In 1928, Mr. Bordeaux’s father, Sam, opened a hardware store. As sales faltered after the stock market crash in 1929, his father got sick and died leaving a widow with seven children. His mother, Elizabeth, took a job as a domestic in the city’s black hospital for $12.50 a week.
“We were grateful,” Mr. Bordeaux wrote. “Things were bad. Times were tough. No one had money. There were no jobs. Everyone was on relief. I sold newspapers and hauled groceries for 5 cents.”
He then entered the military, drawn by the $30 a month being offered to join an all-black unit then being formed. He enlisted for four years.
In his memoir, Mr. Bordeaux said about 100 enlistees from around the country traveled by train to Montgomery, Ala., and then marched more than 30 miles to Tuskegee, where they guarded a storage area near the train station.
“We were issued rifles but no ammunition,” he wrote.
He ended up with the 99th Fighter Squadron, which served in North Africa and Europe. By the end of the war in 1945, the 99th had earned three Distinguished Unit Citations and shot down 31 enemy planes.
In “A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman,” author Charles Dryden called the unit’s ground crew one of the Army’s best trained, noting that 75 percent qualified for officer candidate school and that most had more than two years of experience. Dryden described Sgt. Bordeaux, who was in charge of communications, as one of the unit’s key noncommissioned officers.
On discharge, Mr. Bordeaux moved with his wife, Bernice, to Chicago, where he worked with Fermi on the cyclotron project at the University of Chicago. The cyclotron was one of the earliest particle accelerators and opened a new territory in the study of nuclear science. The family later moved to California where Mr. Bordeaux retired from Hughes Aircraft Co.
Among the survivors are three sons, Samuel Bordeaux and Clovis Bordeaux Jr., of Chicago, and Jacques Bordeaux of La Palma, Calif.; and 12 grandchildren.
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Airplane Museums are worth the visit
GREATER ST. LOUIS AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM
This museum is quite different than most, including its location in “Hangar 2,” a 1929 historic brick structure at the St. Louis Downtown Airport (formerly Parks Airport.) Early aviators associated with the building include Charles Lindbergh, Jimmy Doolittle, Albert Lambert, Oliver Parks, Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart.
Notable is the library collection of more than 250,000 photographs of airplanes and their detailed descriptions. The information is used by aviation historians worldwide. Also in the museum collection are several wind tunnel models of airplanes made by the former McDonnell Douglas.
The collection of 11 aircraft on display includes a World War II-era LK10 sail plane and the original trailer used to move the plane.
“The airport is also home to planes that pull advertising banners above the St. Louis metropolitan area,” says museum curator Mike Burke. “Lucky visitors might witness a plane pick up the banner on a hook, or see it dropped at the end of a flight.”
Many visitors include summer school groups and Scout groups working on their aviation merit badges. Through the Young Eagles chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association the museum arranges free flights for youth 8 to 18 interested in aviation.