tv Lt. Col. Harry Stewart Ret. Soaring to Glory CSPAN June 23, 2019 9:56pm-11:02pm EDT
♪ ♪ osage nuc via the dawn dawn's ey light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming ♪ whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight ♪ or the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming ♪ and the rockets red glare ♪ the bombs bursting in air ♪ gave proof through the night that our flag was still there
please thank the honor guard and ken kaplan for that special tribute to the nation. please be seated. ladies and gentlemen, i am the event director for the richard nixon foundation and it's a pleasure to have you over here tonight. thursday of last week marked the 75th anniversary of the operation overlord, the largest invasion in history and a turning point of world war ii. a day that is remembered as the day it is a time to remember and
honor the heroes of america's greatest generation, the heroes of world war ii the sacrifices made in the face of evil to protect ours an into the world's essential freedoms, and it is a time to show a tremendous respect, appreciation and admiration deserved the great warriors of world war ii and all who serve. we are lucky to be among so many of these great patriots tonight. wilwill all of our veterans and current service members please stand to be recognized? [applause] allow me to express a special thank you on model maybe have of myself that the richard nixon
foundation and family. we are truly indebted to you. thank you for your service. [applause] the recipient of the cross tonight's guest speaker is one that absolutely warns the title of hero. a title not only abroad fighting in the sky high above the world war ii theater but also at home as an african-american prevailing in the face of racism. at 17-years-old, hairy t. stewart junior signed up for poor service volunteering before being drafted. he had to sit in a segregated car on the journey to basic training in 1943, but in two years time would be at the up cl of a mustang with a distinct making many of the fellow servicemen would give a sigh of relief at the site of especially
when an escort in the in the belly of a bomber. the markings were of course those of the tuskegee airmen the fighter group the first african-american military aviators in the history of the united states armed forces. colonel stuart flew 44 missions amassing an outstanding record which included being one of only four airmen with three victories in one day amazingly taking down three german aircraft on april 1, 1945. moderating tonight's discussion is the air force colonel scott. he served for nearly three decades as a communications computer systems officer in the united states air force. his service career took him through 19 different assignments at 11 locations around the world that included tours of the
responsible morale, welfare and discipline of 500 personnel. colonel scott retired from the air force in 2005 to join raytheon where he served as a project manager, senior project manager, excuse me, project manager, senior program manager, and business development manager. one of colonel scott noble projects was the arresting systems used a board our aircraft carriers during landing axes and still currently use to this day. he retired just this past march after spending i believe 13 years in the company. he retired this past month but remains busy with the initiatives across the southern california area. ladies and gentlemen please welcome harry stewart and wainscott.
those who went before us. the standards that they set, the courage displayed. and i'm honored to sit here tonight with one of those giant. [applause] i got the opportunity to read this book cover to cover and it is absolutely fascinating to discuss peace wit these with col stuart, we could talk for two hours with the stuff in this book but i promise we are not going to do that. what i wanted to take out just a couple of incidents in the book that i would like you to share with our audience. you see the photo is going by on the screen these are all about incidents covered in the book. a lot of photos are in the book
that we are going to give you a taste of some of that here this evening. while the book is subtitled a tuskegee airman and account it really includes much more than that. their stories were fascinating that you have little direct contact with them. what started if you're interested and meet you want to fly? >> i think it started very early i was born in virginia asked langley field and the aircraft t at this time used to fly over the house and they would tell me
if they moved to queens and the location was about a mile and a half from the local airport at the name of north beach airport in 1939 to watch th the planes e off and fantasize sitting at the controls and flying the aircraft around, i think that's what engendered a dream of someday getting up and flying an aircraft and then it just sort of stuck.
>> so thstuck. the mix of fascination started very, very early you read about the squadron and immediately went down to tell them you wanted to join the 99. >> the recruitin recruiting serd he will join whatever organization we want you to decide. anyway, i had to wait until i was 18 to be called into the service, and the draft was going on at the time and i also had draft status at the time so it so happens i received a letter in the bottom of it but he had any legitimate documents that
went out. anyway, it was calling me into the service at the same day that i would have been an induction agent into the draft. >> for those of you that don't know the history, that would be general arnold went on to become the first chief of the united states air force. >> i was stationed twice during my career but you have to travel back to the south and be reintroduced to the racism and bigotry that her father had taken your family out. i had after two years moving to new york at 2-years-old, i don't
think i was anywhere near west of the river at tha the time, bt anyway, i got on the train at pennsylvania station downtown new york near some of the neighborhood kids i grew up with a lee went as far as washington, d.c. and the train stopped in washington to change engines that came back and said you have to go to the front car. my parents had warned me about this and told me what it would be like and that is where i had to go. they said we are going to go up
there with you and the conductor said no on th of this is that te people back here he has to go to the jim crow car. >> we are going to talk some more about incidents like that and their impact on your life. so, you are going through basic training and one of the things you have to complete before you can move on to tuskegee is you have to pass a flight but when you are 4-years-old, you contracted polio and in fact lost some of the use of your right leg including reflexes. how did you get through a flight physical? i just wanted to tell the story.
>> it hit the achilles tendon and i think they overplayed it. i almost kicked the doctor off the podium. when i kicked my leg hair, he didn't find out i had the atrophy that prevented me from certain movements on maximizing certain movements. >> but that got you to tuskegee. you started in september, 43 in a class of 75 cadets. but by june of 40 fo 44 only 26u finished. >> that's correct. how old were you when you started? >> i was 18 when i started. >> and you and i were talking
downstairs a little bit you said one of your vivid memories of that was your very first solo. tell us about that. >> i flew a plane called for called for now and it's something like 175-horsepower or something like that. but i received seven hours of instruction before the instructor thought that i was capable of the craft. the difficulty that i had was i had not been in flight or aircraft before that time and i was a little surprised because it didn't react and it wasn't the same as i thought it would be. when we were kids we used to
push these around and they had a wooden cross beam with wheels on the side. if you wanted to go left you push your right foot and left like this if you want it right in with a short left foot and returned like that. the plane was just the opposite, so i had a little difficulty in the push to the other side. i overcame that and finally the instructor said a large structure underground that tells you where it's coming from and he got out of the cockpit that was in front of me and stood on
the wing and started 2,000 debacle where he got out and what he didn't realize due to the way you do when you are with me for takeoff and that was it. i got an overwhelming feeling of pleasure and accomplishment and advancement into the plane started virtually going up into the air and i flew back like the told me to the. the. he said the tickets back around again so he did this three tim times. >> what an incredible experience, he teen-years-old,
didn't even have a driver's license. [laughter] in the resort you really didn't need a car so i didn't have one. >> june 44 you go through all of your flight training and have over 200 hours at this point in the series of different aircraft to there is one on the screen right there. after some intro training, in early january at 45, and you arrive at the 32nd fighter gro group, you get qualified to fly the p. 51 and fly the first combat mission that month.
tell us about that. >> in the first few days i flew the combat mission. at the time it's something like five or 600 bombers that were involved and we were one of the seven fighter groups that were assigned to escort and of course so that they wouldn't be stretched out for that maybe 100 miles. my squadron was due to escort the last of the bombers going over to the device is the last
they maintained the same ground speed and they were doing everything over the bombers so there was no this ballet in the sky of these materials, and it was the streamers going ahead and on the fighter planes going above them and it was just awesome. it was a sight i will never see again because we will never put a force like that in the air again. that is the last of what people see. now it can do as much damage as all of those in the entire war so it was a sight to hold in a
sight that we will never see again but it brought back some vivid memories. >> incredible. thank you. >> into combat missions in 1945 the most memorable one i think we will see is april 1. one was april 11945. we were on a mission near austria and the entire group that we were with were escorting a certain group of bombers. however, the air was quite
peaceful at the time for the bombers dropping their payloads fair and we were dispatched by to make a fighter sweep in that area. the slighter sweep was to involve the opportunities and disabling freight trains and moving traffic and into the aircraft if necessary. we were looking for trouble and trouble found us. we were attacked by them.
i don't remember how many but we got shot down and one of the fellowfellows that got shot dows damaged enough to try to make it home if he got as far as yugoslavia and landed without incident. the second pilot that was with us was shot down and killed instantly. the third was from philadelphia, pennsylvania. his aircraft was disabled and he had to get them out. when he landed, a mob of civilians picked him up and delivered him to a local jailhouse for confinement but
about two nights later, another mob formed, broke into the jail, took walter out, beat him up and then hung him from a lamp post. that isn't to claim an indignity that was reserved for the members of the tuskegee airmen this has happened a lot of airmen especially among those that went down near the territory you can understand where they've taken place. so about a year ago i was invited by the government to come over and participate in a
memorial for the second lieutenant they sold out though it was their obligation to show and gave them a very dignified remembrance and i was pleased to have been invited to the ceremony. >> that is a memorial on the territory of the char charm and german airbase. i forget how to pronounce the airbase now but it --
>> finally honored. in that battle, you were credited with shooting down the aircraft and for that you were awarded the distinguished cross. the war in europe and spain ma may 1945. you returned to the states in september 1945, decorated war hero. how were the block servicemembers treated upon their return? >> except for the black press, i would say there was very little recognition as far as the social atmosphere of the country was concerned it returned to the same old same old.
the social atmosphere within the country was the same as it was when i left to go into the service and the changes that we saw taking place in the years after the. >> we can talk a little bit about how some of those things were rectified later on in your life. you remained in the 32nd as it transitioned to the air force. one of the thing things he lears flying isn't only dangerous when you are in combat. so, march 20, 1940, you had a little engine trouble.
>> in kentucky i have bailout and my aircraft dove into the ground. it was a p. 47 and it smashed into about 100-yard from the cabin of a young lady was a western singer now but by the name of loretta lynn. i waited in the parachute about maybe half a mile on mile away and i was up on the hillside into the mountainside and some little girl saw me coming down through the clouds in my parachute and told her daddy, she was about 5-years-old at the time and he got the horse. thank you he got two horses.
he was on one of them and was pulling the other one behind him. he came up the mountainside and i had broken my leg on the tail of the plane coming out and broke my leg so i was sitting in an outcrop of rocks in 20 got there he yelled hello and of course a panicked voice i yelled out i am in here. when he came within eyesight you could discern me very well, he was startled and i guess i was the first among a few black man he'd ever seen but to see this black man falling from the sky in a parachute -- [laughter]
would anybody believe you? [laughter] and of course i was just as concerned myself. to say we found that i and that's the way he was when we found him. we greeted one another and he boosted me up on the horse and then there was a parade going through the countryside trails with the horse until we got to the highway. ..
>> i got a call and danny said i am the town historian and we have heard about butcher hauler in 48. but there were so many rumors that i just wanted to find out and write a story about it. i said what are the rumors cracks they said a black man stole a b-52. [laughter] and then there was a bombing raid and they called the
united states fighters up and they shot him down the. [laughter] i said just to show you how it all ended up, i was invited down to the coming down in kentucky where butcher hauler one - - hollow is a brand-new 51 mustang. and it was quite a pleasurable experience. [applause] >> this is in - - full of so many incredibly good stories.
and general vandenberg who was the commanding general of the air force decided he would like to resurrect among the different fighter groups to see is the best at handling their weapons. and to call on all 12 groups and in the continental united states. and asked him to send the three best pilots plus not to las vegas nevada with that competition confines in the area. and by the way i would like to digress that also you have seen this in the movies that
tom cruise was not the first top gun that there was. [laughter] >> you are looking at a member of the first team. >> there were three competing and one alternate with the representatives before may 1949. that wears a 20000 feet and then 10000 skip bombing and divebombing. but after ten days of serious competition the winner was announced. yes it turned out to be the tuskegee airmen. [applause]
>> some felt they did not belong there. now there is an interesting story about the trophy because now air force magazine printed a list of the historical winners of this competition in 1949. somebody had to provide documentation who one. >> yes. i was the keeper of the record including the individual scores of the competitions so the former commander of my squadron called me up and said at the time harry hom, have
you seen the article in the air force magazine? to say the winner in 1949 competition was unknown. i said that's not true. i will send you the documentation. so then questions on what happened to the trophy all the way up to the command to ask what happened to the trophy there were reasons given for still note movie and then a historian a young lady had a suspicion about something and went to the air force base in dayton ohio and sure enough to make a long story short found the trophy in a box in the
warehouse when she informed the air force about that whether they knew that or not they took it out and put it on display at the air force base in dayton and it is still on display here today. my daughter and i passed by their last august on our way up from atlanta. we went to take a look in the museum and there it was sitting on the case prominently. >> it was lost but now it is part of the permanent exhibit at the air force museum in dayton ohio. [applause] i personally will go see it
one more thing to circle back , very early we talked about your going to the field and becoming the start and you wanted to become a commercial pilot. when you first left the active air force going into the reserves, 1950, you had hundreds of hours of flight time. you went to two commercial airlines looking to be hired as a pilot because they had advertising running they were looking for pilots they said we do not accept at this time african-americans as crewmembers or pilots for the
airlines. one airline denied outright they were seeking any pilots. even though it was in a section of the employment had. the other manager of personnel decided he wanted to explain or rationalize the airlines position for not accepting blacks or aircrew members or pilots. and he tried to give me the analogy to say imagine yourself as a passenger. not you but a passenger sitting in a seat in the aircraft and a black man walks by and walks into the cockpit
and start the engines you can imagine that person may not want to fly on the airlines again are certainly not this airline. that is the rationale that they used. >> now that at the time was twa they are both long gone now. >> but delta airlines and american airlines that are major us airlines today made good on that. what do they do quick. >> they felt they owed something to the fact that the airlines were prejudice and demonstrated bias in the past so they started to employ pilots and today you have
african-americans flying in the cockpit of every major airline that we have including some of the service airlines like fedex and ups. and to dramatize little but the situation we have today, i was on my way from detroit michigan and delta has a hub in detroit and when i entered the aircraft there, i turned to my left and i look to see who was in the cockpit and believe it or not there were two african-americans in the caulk part one - - the cockpit pilot and copilot even more surprising and it brought tears to my eyes and they were both female. [laughter] [applause]
>> we have come a long way baby. i believe delta airlines first followed by american gave recognition quick. >> they gave me a very nice proclamation and a painting of the airliners in the letter from the vice president of operations thanking me for my past services with the government to say with the air force. that there is nothing they can do about it now and with my age but just as a token of honor and that they would award me a pilots wings for
the united aircraft but the delta aircraft airlines as a captain in the same with american airlines. >> so finally after all those years honorary captain of american and delta. there was so much more to the story. one of the phrases that epitomizes what your life has meant the phrase was used a couple times into winning the double v was victory over totalitarianism abroad and racism at home. and this is a life dedicated to successfully doing both of those. before we open to questions from the audience, what
specific thing would you like to say i specifically like to concentrate or appoint my efforts to the youth of the nation of all races just to give you a little background at 81 years old, for wings were delivered to the tuskegee airmen museum in detroit and they were declared obsolete by the air force school in colorado springs but they wanted to get new aircraft and
they were giving those 13 aircraft that they had to various museums around the country. the tuskegee airmen received four of the aircraft. they were delivered by contract pilots at the airport in detroit michigan. once they sat down - - set down the tuskegee airmen said what do we do with them? i said i use to fly. maybe i can dust off my license and get qualified as a commercial pilot for go which i did. i got my rating and then i started to fly the gliders. 's what i did was take up neighborhood kids to fly them on the weekends to re- indoctrinate them into
aviation hoping this would inspire them to get into that field of aviation and that other fields of aviation. so that's what i did with myself at the time and then trying to help kids aspire higher. for other goals in life. >> at age 81 he started that. [applause] >> i started with the uso the unified flying octogenarians. [laughter]
i did that and i flew those kids until i was 88 years old and then i thought it is time for me to pack it in i felt i shouldn't go any further than that. so that's what i did but there's one that like to tell you about for go there it was more of pleasure of mine to take the kids up than their pleasure. i remember i would take as many as six or seven up in one day for about 15 minute rides or 20 minute rides. one of the tricks i would do on the knot last student anywhere from nine years old at that 15 years old sometimes. so in the plane side-by-side
to cedar the kids was sitting on my left because i flew on the right seat because of the way to balance. but anyway, what i would do is the last kid i take it back to land i would say i'm kind of tired. [laughter] it's been a long day. you are something because you are handling the stick very well. in fact you are holding a straight and level. you just hold it straight and level like that and i'm gonna take a nap. [laughter] their eyes would get just like that. [laughter] and then i get them on the
ground and they go up to their parents he let me fly the plane by himself and he went to sleep up there. [laughter] so that is the fund that i had. >> let's do a couple of questions from the audience. [applause] >> one quick note you may have noticed the set up off to my right we will move this up to the front lobby. books are for sale to my left here and up in the museum store. i'm holding in my hand a
beautiful model that one of our guests brought. it really is a beautiful model. i have never been so close to the one but can you tell us about what it is like for that transition for the training it's a very powerful aircraft that has a maryland engine in it anywhere from 1500-horsepower up at 2000. the plane weighs about 7500 pounds and goes up to close to 10000 pounds. for airpower it has 650
caliber machine guns and a squeeze of the trigger if you hold it down all rounds can be spent within 30 seconds. you don't have much time to fire. the aircraft from 40000 feet about 450 miles per hour program i've never been that fast or close to 400. i flew 43 missions in that aircraft. all i can say dislike getting from the trading plane into that was my arms and legs became an extension of the
aircraft. my feet became the runners it was like the aircraft and i melded into one. i had very much the honor of again flying at the past year. i was down in atlanta about six months ago with my daughter and was given the offer to go up like you see their. and it had built-in control it wasn't the single control. they had modified it so there was another sea and another set of controls. so when i went up with the pilot he had me take it off and let me time to altitude than the first thing i had to do do a slow roll and then a
loop and by that time that knocked me out enough and i said take me back. [laughter] >> first question from the audience. >> how do you be such an outstanding shot quick. >> i don't think so. i think i was lucky. i am serious. for me to grasp that i fired rather than shooting at it idle and to lead into the aircraft and to put my sights on it and with las vegas and again are like top gun. i think i was just having a
good day. [laughter] >> i think we all know better than that. it doesn't happen that well that often. [applause] >> is it true after the united states military but the tuskegee airmen in charge of defending the bombers that united states did not lose one bomber? >> we did lose some bombers we lost 27 bombers. but it was the best record loss in the air force and we lost far fewer than any other fighter group. >> if i recall the average was 36 and they lost about half. >> as far as the other
question they would escort for the b-17 and be 24. each of these bombers had ten crewmen aboard to navigate with volunteers and gunners. we felt a tremendous responsibility to protect these bombers the best that we can from intrusions by enemy fighters and it's our job to stay with the bombers and if any fighters would try to intercept it was our job to interdict those fighters and keep him from getting the bombers they are. our job was to protect those ten men on each aircraft to the best of our ability. >> to add on to that, they did
rapidly earned their reputation for their extreme success to protect those bombers to the point the bomber groups were requesting specifically the 332nd to be there escort. lieutenant colonel benjamin who was the commander actually repainted the nose on his aircraft to say i request. [laughter] >> he was a toughie. he graduated from west point 1932 and in a class of 300 something i don't know the exact number but all the time he was at west point he was in the silent treatment and roomed alone that he could come out as a sapir - - superb individual they tagged him as the commander of the tuskegee
airmen with that fighter group from where it was formed. he was tough but fair but i remember when he chose the three of us to fight the gunnery in 1949 he called us into his office and said with his magnificent commanding voice gentleman. i think this is a splendid opportunity for the 352nd i wish you godspeed for your participation out at the air force base and if you don't win don't come back. [laughter] >> there is a great story in the book you have to read about the air force base in
ohio. >> we have time for one last question. >> thank you for your service. i've always been curious of the nickname red tails originated. >> all of the aircraft in world war ii had distinctive markings and that was to promote or enhance radio silence. the enemy could always pick up your intercoms. and possibly use that to your detriment. so in the 15th air force the seven fighter groups that we had were all charged with painting curtails a distinctive color. the tuskegee airmen were read.
the 52nd group was yellow 31st fighter group was candy striped 25th was checkerboard and so one. the bomber groups also had those on their aircraft's you could easily tell what bomber group they were from and what position they held hurco it wasn't something we did. it wasn't a disgrace that simply for recognition purposes. >> excuse me colonel, thank you very much let's give him a round of applause. [applause] by the book. soaring to glory please join us in the lobby and get the book signed. good night. [applause]