Notable Airmen Biographies


Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

The respected commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group, Lt. Col. Davis was trained for leadership from the day he was born. Born to Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the first black general of the armed forces, Davis experienced firsthand the harsh realities of segregation and racism as he was shunned by his fellow white officers at West Point. He persevered and became the first black to graduate West Point in forty-seven years. Before becoming a member of the 99th, he had previously served at Fort Benning, Georgia and taught military science and tactics at Tuskegee Institute. He would command the 99th from 1942-1943 before he was assigned to command the 332nd. He was known for never assigning missions to his pilots that he would not fly himself. During his service with the Airmen, he would receive several awards including the Legion of Merit for leadership. After the war, Davis would continue to serve in the Air Force until 1970 and would eventually become its first black general in 1954.

Black Knights by Homan and Reilly


 

Lt. Col George Spencer Roberts

After Col. Davis was transferred to command the 332nd, Lt. Col Roberts, a member of the first class to receive their wings at Tuskegee, became commander of the 99th. Born in West Virginia, he would earn his pilot’s license under the college’s civilian aviation program. During service with the 99th, he would only record one kill but his leadership was valued just as much as Col. Davis. He was eventually promoted to commander of the 332nd Fighter Group and would lead them back from Europe when the war ended

 


Black Knights by Homan and Reilly

Capt. Charles B. Hall

As the first member of the Airmen to record a kill, Capt. Hall received instant acclaim and was personally congratulated by several high ranking officers in the armed forces. He would later score two more kills and would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts. His success is even more remarkable when one considers that he was originally studying to be a teacher at Illinois State Teachers College a few years before.  

 

 Black Knights by Homan and Reilly

Capt. Edward L. Toppins

Born in Mississippi and raised in San Francisco, Capt. Toppins would be regarded as one of the best pilots of the 332nd as well as one of the most decorated. As he began his training at Tuskegee Institute, he crashed his plane and was out of commission for several months. Despite this injury, he persevered and would eventually be one of the first replacement pilots to join the 99th in combat. He gained a reputation for his confidence in battle and his strong desire to engage the enemy every chance he could get. This would lead to four kills and several awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Victory Medal.


The Tuskegee Airmen by Francis


Maj. Lee Rayford

Maj. Rayford earned his reputation as one of the most decorated black pilots of the 332nd. He began his combat experience with the 99th before coming back to the United States to be a part of the 332nd. He would become the Operation Officer for the 301st and when the group went into combat, he became commander of the 301st. While flying over ninety missions, he was rewarded with several awards including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the American Defense Medal, the Victory Medal, and the Purple Heart.

 

Maj. William Campbell

Maj. Campbell was praised as the best flight leader in the 332nd because of his aggressiveness and bravery. One of the few local members of the Tuskegee Airmen, Maj. Campbell was a student at Tuskegee who majored in business administration before joining the 99th. He had a short tour of duty and was finished by the end of 1943, but eventually returned to the 99th and became its commander, displaying the leadership and bravery that would lead to his promotion of Major. He flew over 100 missions with the Airmen and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts.



Double V by Scott and Womack