Wil­liam R. White, for­mer mem­ber of the Tuskegee Air­men, dies at 88

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM -

Wil­liam R. White, a for­mer mem­ber of the famed squadron of African-Amer­i­can pilots known as the Tuskegee Air­men, has died. He was 88.

White was a hum­ble fam­ily man who rarely talked about his war ex­pe­ri­ences, fam­ily mem­bers said Wed­nes­day. White died July 24 at his home in Smith­field, his son Bran­don White told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Bran­don White and his sis­ter Inetha Holmes said they did not learn that their fa­ther was a mem­ber of the Tuskegee Air­men in World War II un­til a cou­ple of years ago. As chil­dren, they would ask him about an Army Air Corps photo that he had, but he would not say much about it.

“He wouldn’t go into de­tail about any­thing,’’ Bran­don White said. “He was very hum­ble, hum­ble to a fault.’’

Wil­liam White, a Smith­field na­tive, was drafted into the Army In­fantry in 1945. He trans­ferred to the Army Air Corps, and then was as­signed to the 99th Pur­suit Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group. He said dur­ing a 2013 talk at the Isle of Wight County Mu­seum that he ser­viced the unit’s planes to keep them in the air, The Vir­gini­anPilot (http://bit.ly/1DP1qPs ) re­ported.

The Tuskegee Air­men were the U.S. mil­i­tary’s first AfricanAmer­i­can avi­a­tors. The group went on to take part in more than 1,500 com­bat mis­sions, earn­ing more 96 Distin­guished Fly­ing Crosses.

In a 2013 in­ter­view with WVEC-TV ( http://bit.ly/1MUNadg), Wil­liam White said he and his fel­low Tuskegee Air­men had to fight two wars, one with the en­emy and the other with racism.

“Ev­ery­thing we did we had to fight for it,’’ he said. “And they wanted us to fail, but they for­got one thing. We, as blacks, we were very gifted. And gifts come from whom? God. And that’s how we made it.’’

Bran­don White said his fa­ther did what he felt he had to do in re­gards to serv­ing in the war.

“He would al­ways say that, ‘Amer­ica was the only home I know,’’’ he said.

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