As Black History Month draws to a close, so does the mystery of U.S. Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, a Tuskegee Airman declared missing in action after his plane crashed in Europe in December 1944.
Dickson’s remains were identified in November 2018 using the latest DNA tests, making him the first to be identified out of more than two-dozen Tuskegee Airmen declared MIA during World War II.
Brig. Gen. Twanda E. Young, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command, recognized Dickson’s service Feb. 24 during a ceremony at the Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, N.J.
“I stand before you deeply honored and humbled to represent the United States Army, as well as all African-American service members across all military services and those who have long served before me, to commemorate and acknowledge the honorable service rendered by Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson in service to a grateful nation,” Young said.
“Capt. Lawrence Dickson shaped my future, which affords me the distinct honor of being one of a few African-American female general officers serving in the United States Army,” she added.
During the ceremony, Young presented Dickson’s Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal, American Campaign Medal, Europe-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Honorable Service Lapel Button to Marla L. Andrews, Dickson’s daughter.
“I feel happy that we’re able to do this this morning here with you, because the things that are most important to us are better shared,” said Andrews, who as two years old when her father died.
“These medals represent a part of our history, along with the Tuskegee Airmen’s perseverance and determination, coupled with the courage and legacy of Capt. Lawrence Dickson,” Young said. “The country called, and Capt. Dickson answered.”
In December 1944, Dickson was a pilot with the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, in the European Theater, according to a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency news release. On Dec.23, 1944, Dickson departed Ramitelli Air Base, Italy, on an aerial reconnaissance mission toward Praha, Czechoslovakia.
During his return, Dickson’s P-51D aircraft suffered engine failure and was seen to crash along the borders of Italy and Austria. Dickson’s remains were not recovered and he was subsequently declared missing in action.
Seventy-three years later, an excavation of a crash site was conducted and recovered remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. To identify Dickson’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used DNA analysis as well as anthropological analysis, and circumstantial and material evidence.
“The men and women who have given their lives in service to this nation are indisputably heroes,” Young said.
Dickson is scheduled to be buried March 22, 2019 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.