On Aug. 23, 1944, while escorting B-17s over Czechoslovakia, Mr. McGee, by then a captain, had peeled off to engage a Luftwaffe squadron and, after a fierce dogfight, shot down a Focke-Wulf Fw 190. On the forward fuselage of his P-51, his wife’s nickname, “Kitten,” had been inscribed.
When not escorting bombers, Captain McGee’s group flew target-of-opportunity missions, bombing and strafing enemy airfields, rail yards, factories and other installations. Of the 992 Black pilots trained at Tuskegee during the war, 355 were deployed overseas, 84 were killed in action, a dozen died on training and noncombat missions, and 32 were taken prisoner after being shot down.
The Tuskegee Airmen’s record of protecting bombers was excellent, losing only 27 bombers on seven of its 179 escort missions, compared to an average of 46 bomber losses among all other 15th Air Force P-51 escort groups. The Tuskegee Airmen also destroyed 112 enemy aircraft in the air and 150 on the ground, as well as 600 rail cars, 350 trucks and other vehicles, and 40 boats and barges.
Captain McGee flew more than 130 combat missions in World War II, and returned to the United States in December 1944 to become an instructor for another unit of Tuskegee Airmen, the 477th Bomb Group, flying B-25 Mitchell bombers out of stateside bases. That group never got into the war. Mr. McGee served at Tuskegee Field until 1946, when the base was closed.
He decided to remain in the Air Force. President Harry S. Truman officially ended segregation in the armed forces in 1948. The order hardly ended discrimination in the services, but the captain loved flying and saw his best opportunities for the future as a career officer in the jet age.
At Lockbourne Air Field in Ohio, he became an operations and training officer, flying Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star and Northrop F-89 Scorpion jet fighters. While the F-80s saw extensive combat in the Korean War, Captain McGee flew all 100 of his Korean War combat missions in P-51’s. He was promoted to major.
As a lieutenant colonel in the Vietnam War, he flew 172 combat missions in McDonnell RF-4 photo-reconnaissance aircraft, and commanded the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, near Saigon.
Credit: Source link