Charles McGee, a Tuskegee Airman who flew 409 fighter combat missions over three wars, has died. He was 102.
On Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced his death on Twitter, both of them calling McGee an American hero.
Today, we lost an American hero, Brigadier General Charles McGee. A member of the Tuskegee Airmen, he completed over 400 missions during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I had the honor of calling him last month on his 102nd birthday to thank him for his service to our nation. pic.twitter.com/p8MfrR1hQ3
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) January 17, 2022
“While I am saddened by his loss, I’m also incredibly grateful for his sacrifice, his legacy, and his character. Rest in peace, General,” wrote Austin.
Today, we lost an American hero. Charles McGee, Brigadier General and one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airman, passed at the age of 102. While I am saddened by his loss, I'm also incredibly grateful for his sacrifice, his legacy, and his character. Rest in peace, General. pic.twitter.com/3GLNbfRHs7
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) January 16, 2022
The Tuskegee Airmen was the name given to the first African American unit to fly combat airplanes during World War II.
McGee was one of more than 900 African American men to train in rural Alabama from 1940 to 1946 after the Army Air Corps was directed to comply with Civil Rights and allow Black pilots.
Roughly 450 of those pilots were deployed overseas during the war. More than 150 Tuskeegee Airmen lost their lives in training or combat.
McGee was part of a rare group of pilots who flew combat planes in World War II, The Korean War, and Vietnam. He was a tenured and respected pilot for the US armed forces.
“You could say that one of the things we were fighting for was equality. Equality of opportunity. We knew we had the same skills, or better,″ McGee told The Associated Press in 1995.
McGee was accorded an honorary commission promoting him to the one-star rank of brigadier general under a congressional measure signed by President Donald Trump. The award came just after the airman turned 100-years old.
In 2020, McGee was applauded by members of Congress when introduced by former President Trump during his annual State of the Union address.