Willie Rogers, the oldest living Tuskegee Airman, passed away Nov. 18. He was 101.
According to reports from FoxNews.com and the Huffington Post, Rogers died from complications after a recent stroke.
Rogers served in the 100th Fighter Squadron, assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group. He wasn’t one of the pilots, though. Instead, Rogers specialized in administration and logistics, according to the Huffington Post. He was wounded during a January 1943 mission.
Fliers of a P-51 Mustang Group of the 15th Air Force in Italy “shoot the breeze” in the shadow of one of the Mustangs they fly. Left to right: Lt. Dempsey W. Morgan Jr., Lt. Carroll S. Woods, Lt. Robert H. Nelson Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner and Lt. Clarence P. Lester. Ca. August 1944. (Courtesy National Archives)
According to the National Museum of the US Air Force, almost 1,000 Tuskegee pilots were trained to fight in World War II, and over 350 were deployed to the front lines. Over 16,000 other personnel were trained to serve in ground roles, as Rogers did during the war.
Rogers was one of about 300 Tuskegee Airmen who lived to receive the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, with his being awarded in November 2013.
Of the Tuskegee Airmen, 32 were captured by the Nazis, and 84 were either killed in action or from other causes, including accidents or on non-combat missions. The group flew 179 bomber escort missions, of which 172 ended without any losses to the bombers. Members of that group received 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses, at least one Silver Star, and almost 750 Air Medals.
Advanced instruction turned student pilots into fighter pilots at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Ala. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The 332nd Fighter Group first flew Bell P-39 Airacobras, then transitioned to the P-40 Warhawk, then the P-47 Thunderbolt, and finally to the P-51 Mustang.
The group shot down 112 enemy aircraft, destroyed 150 more on the ground, was credited with crippling an Italian destroyer, destroyed 950 ground vehicles, and sank or destroyed 40 boats and barges.
A bomber group of Tuskegee Airmen — the 477th — was slated to have four squadrons (the 616th, 617th, 618th, and 619th Bombardment Squadrons) of B-25 Mitchells, but it never saw combat.
All four Tuskegee Airmen fighter squadrons are still active. The 99th Flying Training Squadron flies T-1A Jayhawk trainers, the 100th Fighter Squadron is an F-16 unit with the Alabama Air National Guard, and the 301st and 302nd Fighter Squadrons are Air Force Reserve F-22 units.
The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing has assumed the lineage of the 332nd Fighter Group.