Tuskegee Airmen Members of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen pose for a photo at the end of the ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale on March 24, 2022.
Photo by Hope O’Brien/Cronkite News

Amid the roar of jets taking off and landing at Luke Air Force Base, members of the Archer-Ragsdale Arizona Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen gathered Monday in Hangar 999 for Arizona’s ninth annual Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day.

This year’s celebration honored the late Brig. Gen. Charles E. McGee, was one of the fabled Black aviators of the Army Air Corps during World War II. He died Jan. 16 at 102.

Robert McGee told the crowd that he’s proud of his father’s achievements and the impact he made, which continues to be shared through celebrations like the one at Luke.

The airmen, he said, “were fighting in two wars, with a double victory. A war against Hitler and the Nazis, but also a war against racism in the United States.”

A handful of Tuskegee Airmen and other World War II veterans also were honored at the celebration.

Before World War II, the U.S. military was segregated, but in 1941, qualified Black volunteers were allowed to train to fly at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama. During the war, these aviators escorted bombers and boasted one of the lowest loss records of bomber escorting units at that time, according to Tuskegee University, which was chosen to train the pilots, navigators, and bombardiers because it already had a proven civilian pilot training program.

The fourth Thursday in March was designated as Tuskegee Airmen Commemoration Day by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2013.

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