A Tuskegee Airman

Col George "Spanky" Roberts

“Tuskegee Airmen” refers to the men and women, African-Americans and Caucasians, who were involved in the so-called “Tuskegee Experience”, the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air. Col. George S. Roberts one of the first African-Americans selected for pilot training at the Tuskegee Army Airfield. He flew 78 combat missions over Europe as well as commanded a fighter squadron during World War II.

The history of Tuskegee Airmen is one of the most inspiring legacies of the Civil Rights era. In 1941, Congress mandated an all-African-American flying unit within the U.S. Army Air Corps. In June, the 99th Fighter Squadron formed at Tuskegee Institute founded in Alabama 60 years earlier by Booker T. Washington.

The African-American squadrons were deployed the following summer in North African and Italian campaigns, which began the record of combat excellence the units established. Black pilots escorted bombers and flew raids. They were employed to protect cumbersome bombers from attack planes by shooting down the attackers.
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Renshaw Saved My Life- Paul McCue

Paul McCue

“I’ve always been an adventurer and to begin with, at around the age of sixteen, I was going to join the CCC…” (The Civilian Conservation Corps was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal.) “…but I wasn’t old enough. When I was old enough, the war broke, so I wanted to go to war. The Merchant Marines wouldn’t let me join because I had no experience, so I went across the street and signed up for the Navy and my Mother and Dad had to sign papers. I was not drafted.

I trained at Great Lakes, Illinois and went to Norfolk, Virginia for special training. Then I went to Camp Bradford (At first Camp Bradford was a training base for Navy Seabees, but in 1943 it was changed into a training center for the crews of LSTs or Landing Ship Tanks.) for special amphibious training and then we took shake down crews all over the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico”, explained Seaman 1st Class Paul McCue.

norfolk
Norfolk, VA, showing Camp Little Creek, formerly Camp Bradford.

Camp Bradford was named by the U. S. after a Confederate Army officer. During World War II, Camp Bradford was about half of the present Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base. Between May 1943 and January 1944, over 100,000 troops were amphibiously polished at Bradford. Bradford’s beaches were alive with activity. Early in January 1944 Bradford took a deep breath and plunged into the vital LST program. Hundreds and hundreds of LSTs were manned by the thousands of men trained at Camp Bradford. Bradford’s training staff was comprised of Mediterranean assault veterans giving trainees the benefit of their earlier combat experience. A Secretary of the Navy letter in July 1945 disestablished the separate bases and established the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek with a commissioning date of July 30, 1945. In 1946 Little Creek was designated a permanent base.

“Then I was shipped to Jeffersonville, Indiana where I was put on an LST (Landing Ship Tank) that was 377 feet long and 55 feet wide. It was launched from Jeffersonville Indiana Shipyards in 1944 then we went down the Ohio through Mississippi River to New Orleans, Louisiana.

At Todd-Johnson Shipyard we took up a non-sea going assault boat that filled the deck of our ship. We got up in the middle of the night as a special skeleton crew to get through all those locks and the canal. Once we were through the Panama Canal, we dumped the boat off at one of the islands and from there, this is where all the action started, at all those islands south of the equator- assault landings that we handled more like Marines rather than Sailors because that took special amphibious training. Moving from islands close to New Guinea and Solomon, we moved on up into the Philippine Islands.

Then in the Philippine Islands, I remember very distinctly, we were somewhere near San Pedro Bay” (The Bohol Sea, also called the Mindanao Sea). “While in an edge of convoy, we were getting ready to make an invasion. I was on watch at the time on the starboard side in a gun tub with earphones on under watch to report anything I could see. All of the sudden, I heard an explosion coming from the opposite side of me- the port side.
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Dog Tags, a Spoon and the Holy Bible

Louis Trupo holding his shadow box.

A World War II Veteran Louis J. “Zeke” Trupo of Bridgeport escaped a near fatal Japanese sniper bullet by deflection from his Bible and spoon that was stashed in his shirt pocket just above his heart.

Louis grew up in Clarksburg and as a student of Salem College enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942. He served as a radio/telephone communications specialist in the Pacific. With the Fourth Marine Division, he survived four battles. The first two, ROI-NAMUR in the Marshall Islands and SAIPAN of the Mariana Islands, he was not injured. In July 1944, at Tinian in the Mariana Islands (the base where the allies loaded B-29s with the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki August 1945 leading to the empire’s eventual surrender and the war’s end), American forces were actively seeking control of the island when Trupo was sitting in the command post on the last day of the battle and all of the sudden he felt a blow to his chest that knocked him over. He realized he needed to do as he was taught, so he stayed down and crawled into a dry cesspool where he remained until a fellow Marine carried Trupo out to safety. From there, he was airlifted to Saipan, where a corpsman would remove the remainder of the bullet from his chest. “The bullet split in two when it hit my dog tags around my neck and a spoon that was in my shirt pocket”, Trupo said.
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