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Tuskegee Airmen

December 29, 2009 | By Corina Knoll
Night has fallen, so they work by streetlamp light. Matt Rodriguez reviews the route with the driver. "Basically, same as last time," he says, pulling on the bill of his cap. "Use your radio." His wife, Katie, untangles an electrical cord, her brow furrowed and eyes focused. Behind them rises an enormous bald eagle, whose 17-foot wingspan serves as a backdrop for two fighter planes frozen in midair. Fashioned from foam, steel and a fanciful imagination, the eagle will land soon on a Pasadena street.
December 28, 2009 | Times Staff And Wire Reports
Percy Sutton, the pioneering civil rights attorney who represented Malcolm X before launching successful careers as a political power broker and media mogul, has died. He was 89. Marissa Shorenstein, a spokeswoman for New York Gov. David Paterson, confirmed that Sutton died Saturday. She did not know the cause. His daughter, Cheryl Sutton, declined to comment when reached by phone at her New York City home. FOR THE RECORD: Percy Sutton obituary: The obituary of civil rights attorney Percy Sutton in the Dec. 28 Section A said his father was born into slavery.
September 22, 2009 | Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Robert Searcy, a member of the all-black group of World War II servicemen known as the Tuskegee Airmen and a longtime resident of Los Angeles, died of colon cancer Sept. 7 at his granddaughter's home in Atlanta. He was 88. Searcy was born in 1921 in Mount Pleasant, Texas, and briefly attended what is now Prairie View A&M University before enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1942. In an interview earlier this year, he said that after basic training at Ft. Hood, Texas, he was selected to lead a group of airmen to Tuskegee Army Airfield in Tuskegee, Ala. Searcy described how porters on the train platform that day told him that his men would be segregated on the Pullman train car, barred from dining and sleeping quarters.
June 22, 2009 | Corina Knoll
Flight was always on his mind. As he plowed soybean fields and chopped cotton in his tiny hometown of Heth, Ark., Jerry Hodges passed the time by imagining himself streaking across the sky in the cockpit of a Navy plane. As a teenager growing up in the 1930s, it seemed an impossible dream. There was no such thing as a black fighter pilot and the Navy was not about to accept its first. But on Sunday, a gray-haired Hodges regaled a small audience with tales of flying bombers during World War II.
January 18, 2009 | Molly Hennessy-Fiske
For years, Robert Searcy tried to forget serving as a Tuskegee Airman during World War II. Sometimes, he thought of his service in the segregated military as two years, 10 months and 27 days lost. He had hoped to become a doctor but enlisted instead at the end of 1941. He never trained as a pilot; like the majority of the 16,000 African American airmen, he was support staff, a clerk in military intelligence. After the war, Searcy dropped out of college.
January 10, 2009
Re "Backbreaking wartime work, lost to the jungle," Column One, Dec. 30, 2008 I am writing regarding your excellent article on the horrible story of the black regiments more or less enslaved to build a crazy road across the terrible wilds, jungles, mountains and swamps of Burma during World War II, suffering from blood-sucking leeches, climbing mountains and slogging through swamps, while drenched by monsoon rains. More than 1,000 died, about a man for every mile (all this while fighting the Japanese)
July 5, 2008 | From the Associated Press
Retired Lt. Col. Charles "Chuck" Dryden, one of the first of the black World War II pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, has died. He was 87. Dryden died June 24 in Atlanta of natural causes, said Roger Neal, a spokesman for the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta. Dryden was on the museum's board of directors. "He was not just a part of American history; he helped to make it," museum founder Nick Snider said.
June 18, 2008 | From the Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The black airmen whose lives will be the basis of a George Lucas movie know the picture will highlight their record of successfully escorting thousands of U.S. bombers in World War II. They also feel it should tell of the trials they encountered stateside, like seeing German prisoners of war being treated better and afforded rights that were withheld from black American citizens.
March 30, 2007 | Adam Schreck, Times Staff Writer
William B. Ellis, a Los Angeles resident who at 90 still introduces himself as Wild Bill, chuckled as he recalled being told that blacks like him couldn't cut it as fighter pilots. "They said we didn't have the muscle coordination to fly airplanes," he said Thursday amid tales of dogfights and aerial derring-do. Were they ever wrong. Ellis and other African Americans who enlisted to fight in World War II went on to become some of the most feared and respected pilots in the war.
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