FREDERICK, Md. (WJZ) — The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps, flying more than 15,000 sorties during World War II.
There are just nine Tuskegee Airmen still alive. Colonel Charles McGee is one of them, and he will celebrate his 100th birthday in just three weeks.
McGee was one of three children. His father was a minister, his mother died in childbirth. He was raised in Chicago and had two years of college under his belt when World War II broke out. That’s when he joined the Tuskegee Airmen.
“Down at Tuskegee Bolton Field, my first ride in a pt-17 open cockpit, I was hooked,” McGee said.
The Tuskegee Airmen, a unit many felt shouldn’t exist, became one of the Army’s best protecting U.S. Bombers.
“We were fighting for two victories,” McGee said. “Victory over Hitler in Europe, and victory over racism here.”
“To me, the way I put it is, to be able to go up in the air and loop, roll and spin and come back and put your feet on the ground, that’s great,” McGee said.
McGee dubbed his plane “Kitten” in honor of his wife who stood by him as he flew 409 sorties in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, breaking the Army record.
“That’s 30 years to accomplish all that,” McGee said. “That’s a lot.”
McGee said he lives by the four “p’s” – perceive, prepare, perform and preserve.
On his birthday last year, he did what he loves best and took the controls of an airplane.
“Oh my goodness, to get up there. I’m still up there in that flight that they gave me on my 99th birthday,” McGee said.
On Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, McGee will be celebrated for a century of service to his family and his country, and he will fly again.
“Hope, health and everything holds up, so that I can do that one more time,” McGee said. “I have been given the opportunity for a wonderful life.
The celebration will be at the Frederick Airport. It will last all weekend and McGee will fly Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7, at 9:30 a.m.