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Need Inspiration? Read an excerpt from Liberty and Justice for ALL…Stories of Middlesex County African-American Veterans of WWII and Korean War

We look to our past to provide us with the strength to overcome current challenges.  View an excerpt from our latest leadership project that profiles heroes who persevered beyond the trials of adversity.  The following is from our interview with Tuskegee Airman, Charles R. Nolley II:

Charles persevered and pushed onward to continue his training – first as an Encryption Specialist, then as a Tuskegee Airman pilot.  Each step provided him more pay and valuable expertise and experience.  Charles wanted the opportunity to prove them wrong; to prove to everyone that African-Americans deserved a chance, the right, to fight for their country.

News of the war continued to be fed to the soldiers on the base however, the men were not sent to fight.  Whenever they completed what they thought was the last bit of training, they were called back to do more.  White officials thought that they were not ready for combat no matter how much training they received.

They didn’t send us to combat.  “[They would say] those niggas don’t have it up here (tapping his head)…if they got to combat they wouldn’t know what to do.”

White boys were in the A20s [plane]. It was no way equal to the Messerschmitt (German plane).  They had to protect the bombers. They did the best they could.  I have to give them credit.  It [Messerschmitt] could turn better.  They did the best they could.  They gave them [white soldiers] training and sent them to combat.  They trained us and when it was time, they gave us more training.

In the meantime the government was trying to build a better plane.  When we first got in, we got the new plane.  It was like the A-20 except in one phase it could turn better.  We got the P51-Mustang, variety C.  That was the real McCoy.  At that time, I thought that was the fastest thing made.  It did everything.  It was there [its destination] as soon you were thinking about it.  It could out fly anything in the air.

Unbeknown at that time, there was an advantage hidden in the flawed perception and negative actions of white officials on the base.  By holding back the Black airmen and giving them an inordinate amount of training and practice runs, the men gained and heightened their skills and technical ability to expertly fly all types of aircraft.  The Tuskegee Airmen became the ultimate fighter pilots.

Thank You, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt…“These colored boys can fly!”

The war was getting intense.  General McArthur repeatedly called for more men on the front line and asked for the unit.  However General Hunter continued to say the black squad was not ready.

Finally we were called into combat.  Mainly I think because of A. Phillip Randolph and his threat, but also because Mrs. Roosevelt came to Godman Field.  There was a pilot in our squadron we called Chief.  He had flying experience before the war.  We respected him because he already knew everything we were trying to learn.  He took her up to show her what the plane can do.

After the flight, she called her husband [President Roosevelt] and told him, according to what I heard, “These boys can fly!”  Shortly afterwards we were sent to overseas.

Thanks to our First Lady, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt…It was an honor to finally go to combat.

We were anxious to go and fight to prove ourselves.  So many negative things in their papers and writing that we couldn’t handle combat.  So like most of the guys…I was young and I wanted to show them what I could do.  We had got a good plane and good training…best trained pilots in the Army.  When we finally got this great plane we were anxious to go

Carving the Way Through the Sky

We were stationed in North Africa, but flew over Germany to escort the bombers.  Our job was to protect the bombers.  We never lost a bomber to enemy planes.  There were guys in my outfit who would just look for things to bomb.  On their days off, on their own (although most of us waited for orders), they would go into Germany to scout airports and look for fighter planes.

Turn…Turn…Turn.  Get on their tails!

In combat I wasn’t afraid, I was excited….then to hear these big enemy buzzing things were trying to kill me…I’m going to kill him first… I’m a better pilot with a better plane I’m a better man than he is…I’m going to shoot him down and make him sorry.

Soon as we got there (combat) we were told by the experienced guys – turn!  We were told to turn to get on their tail.   When they [the enemy] got on your tail you turn and get on his.  And we would turn and pretty soon we would wind up there.

Some of those guys [Tuskegee Airmen] could do anything….they were just wonderful.  They named some of the guys, Hunters or Avengers…they would go out with their wingman to hunt for planes.  They were just so nasty to us in basic training.  It made us anxious to go fight.  Just to show that the things they wrote about us…that goes for the top of the Air Force.

We were there to protect the bombers and we never lost a bomber to enemy planes…purely to show that we were the best in the world.  Our [US] bombers won the war.  Because we got them there safe.  So we must have won the war.

“The Enemy tried to fight us…then they tried to outnumber us… when they sent up extra planes, we just said there were more people to shoot down…when they saw us come over the horizon they would about face.”

We hope you will return to our site to learn more about our heroes and the progress of this project.

The Chenault Group, Inc. has partnered with the NAACP Metuchen Edison Area Branch and Middlesex County Cultural Heritage Commission to undertake this project of immense opportunity for learning and sharing the history of struggle, survival and perseverance. The first phase of the project covers time periods surrounding WWII (1939 – 1945), and the Korean War (early 50′s).Our goal is to interview and photograph Middlesex County African American veterans from different branches of the military in order to create engaging, detailed written, visual and audio accounts of each Veteran’s experience.We hope to illuminate the African-American perspective to the call to defend America on foreign soil; the conflict between patriotism and racism; and the residual effect of war on personal lives, family and local community as they transitioned from military to civilian life.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!To make this an outstanding presentation befitting of the sacrifices made by our Veterans, we are in need of:

  • Interview subjects: WWII and Korean War Veterans
  • Personal photos of family, social events taken in and around Middlesex County from 1939 -1945 and early 50′s that include Veterans (preferably in uniform)
  • War-time related memorabilia (newspaper & magazine articles, obituaries, posters, post cards, etc.) and unique artifacts
  • Uniforms and other articles of clothing, medals, awards, certificates

DON’T LET OUR HISTORY VANISH! Help us take this rare and unique opportunity to preserve history and increase awareness of the contributions of our soldiers.

For further information, contact Monica Kilgore directly at or (732) 261-8279

January 19th, 2012 Posted in Q & A, Resources |

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