Oldest Living Tuskegee Airman Dead at 101
Willie Rogers solidified his place in American history when he signed up to be part of the Tuskegee Airmen in 1942.
And sadly, the oldest surviving member of the famed fighter squadron has passed away.
He was 101.
Rogers largely served in logistics during his time with the famed, groundbreaking World War II aviation unit, CBS News reports.
Rogers, who lived in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the last 50 years of his life, was so low key about his participation over the years to the point where some of his own family members did not know about his historic past.
In 1942, Rogers was drafted into the army and served as part of the 100th Air Engineer Squad. He also served with the Red Tail Angels. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Rogers with the Congressional Gold Medal.
“Rest in peace, our friend – St. Pete’s 2015 Honored Veteran and Tuskegee Airman, 101-old Willie Rogers,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted.
The Tuskegee Institute was selected during World War II by the U.S. military to train pilots. In the first civilian pilot training program, students completed their instructions in May 1940. The program was then expanded and became the center for African-American aviation during the war.
Despite facing discrimination in a segregated military, the Tuskegee Airmen were among World War II’s most respected fighter squadrons. The Airmen did not lose a single bomber to enemy fire in more than 200 combat missions during the war. That’s a record that remains untouched by any other fighter group.
From 1942 to 1946, 15,000 men and women shared the “Tuskegee Experience,” the Tuskegee Institute states.