Veterans

November 14, 2012

Original member of the Tuskegee Airmen dies


Retired Lt. Col. Herbert Carter, 93, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, died Nov. 8 at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Ala., according to Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford.

Carter was a member of the original cadre of the 99th Fighter Squadron, the first black aviatiors in the U.S. military.

Born Sept. 27, 1919, in Amory, Miss., Carter enrolled at Tuskegee Institute, Ala., with plans to become a veterinarian.
“I wanted to be a pilot for a completely different reason than the Air Corps,” said Carter in October. “At Tuskegee, I was majoring in animal science. My plan was to finish and take veterinary medicine. I would get my private license, go out to Texas, and practice my veterinary medicine, flying from ranch to ranch tending the animals. I did not know that the Air Corps was going to bite me.”

In the 1940s, African-Americans were prohibited to serve in combat areas of the Army Air Corps. Solely based on their race, they were deemed unfit both physically and mentally to fly. This, however, intrigued Carter.

“That was not only an insult, that was a dare,” said Carter. “It was the fact that we had been told that we did not have the smarts or the ability to operate something as complicated as an aircraft.”

Taking the dare, Carter obtained his private flying license while enrolled in Tuskegee Institute. Then, he applied for a newly formed program in which the U.S. Army Air Corps would train black men to become pilots.

Upon earning his pilot wings, Carter was sent overseas as the engineering officer with the original 99th Fighter Squadron. His unit, and other squadrons of the 332nd Fighter Group, compiled an outstanding record of performance in tactical air and ground support of allied armies. Carter himself flew 77 combat missions and 200 tactical air-ground Allied support missions over North Africa, Sicily and Italy, crash-landing only once.

Despite the stresses of military life, Carter remained with the newly formed Air Force even after the war ended.

“The pleasure that I got out of flying with the Air Corps made me volunteer for regular service, and I stayed in for 27 years,” he said.

He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1969 and became associate dean for student services at Tuskegee University and served in several other important capacities during his time there.

With their contribution to the war effort, Carter and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen shattered the widely held myth that blacks were not capable of serving their country in the arena of flight.

Ford said Carter was a local and a national hero and has ordered all U.S. flags in Tuskegee to be flown at half-mast for Carter, “who so valiantly fought fascism abroad and racism at home, and of whom all in Tuskegee are so justly proud.”

The funeral service is slated for Nov. 15, at the campus chapel of Tuskegee University.

Editors Note: Changes have been made to the article Nov. 14, 2012. The article was written with quotes from an Air University Public Affairs article.




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