Veteran of the Day | U.S. Army Air Force Veteran Lawrence Dickson

Lawrence E. Dickson was born in May 1920, in South Carolina, and later moved to the Bronx, N.Y. He joined the Army Air Force and graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in March 1943. He became a pilot in the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, according to a U.S. Army story.

Dickson was part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of over 900 primarily African American pilots who served in World War II. They were the first African American pilots in the armed forces, and like many African Americans at the time, were segregated from the rest of the armed services.

Dickson was sent to Europe and was stationed in Ramitelli, Italy. He held the rank of captain, and on Dec. 23, 1944, was flying his 68th combat mission heading toward Prague. An NPR article details how Dickson started to experience engine problems an hour into the mission and turned his plane around to return to base. However, the troubles worsened, and he was forced to find a place to crash land or eject. When Dickson’s wingman on the mission, Lt. Robert Martin, tried to locate Dickson, he couldn’t see a parachute or any remnants of a crash. Dickson was declared missing in action (MIA).

Decades passed without any official alterations to his MIA status. In recent years, archaeologists and researchers have been in Europe investigating World War II crash sites, and they came across a crash on the then Austrian-Italian border, around where Dickson crashed. They also found the remains of a P-51 aircraft, the same type that Dickson flew. After DNA samples were taken from the ashes in November 2018, they discovered they belonged to Dickson.

A ceremony was held a few months later honoring Dickson’s service. His daughter, Marla Andrews, received on her father’s behalf a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Purple Heart and other awards, according to the U.S. Army article. Dickson was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in March 2019.

We honor his service.

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