Charles McGee, a 102-year-old Tuskegee airman, died Sunday at his Maryland home.
He flew 409 combat missions in fighter aircraft during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Later, he helped to bring attention to Black pilots who were able to defend America but still faced racism in their home country.
Charles Edward McGee, who was born December 7, 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio, graduated high school in 1938.
In October 1942, he left his post as a student at the University of Illinois and went to the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama for flight training.
He stated that he and his Black Airmen knew they were fighting to be equals to their white counterparts in a 1995 interview. “Equality of opportunity,”He stated. “We knew we had the same skills, or better.”
McGee joined The Red Tails’ all-Black 332nd fighter unit in June 1943 and January 1944. He flew 136 missions with the group, which accompanied bombers across Europe.
From 1940 to 1946, Tuskegee was home to over 900 men. Around 450 men were deployed overseas and 150 died in combat or training.
McGee served 30 years in the Army Air Corps and later the U.S. Air Force.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame still considers his record of 409 air fighter combat missions in three conflicts to be a record.
He retired as a colonel in the Air Force in 1973 before earning a college degree in business administration and working as an executive.
In 2007, he received the Congressional Gold Medal.
McGee received an honorary commission to mark his 100th birthday and was promoted one-star to the rank of brigadier général. Over the holidays, Vice President Kamala Harris sent McGee a birthday wish.
Charles McGee was 101 years old.