A hero in our midst continued
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Apr 24, 2014 | 1233 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
World War II Army Air Corps Captain Les Williams is one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen, an all black Fighter and Bomber unit. The squadron is credited with helping break segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces and helped the Civil Rights movement two decades before it reached a fever pitch. Pictured is Capt. Williams with a fellow minority fighter pilot sometime in the 1940s.
World War II Army Air Corps Captain Les Williams is one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen, an all black Fighter and Bomber unit. The squadron is credited with helping break segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces and helped the Civil Rights movement two decades before it reached a fever pitch. Pictured is Capt. Williams with a fellow minority fighter pilot sometime in the 1940s.
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Captain Les Williams with his wife of almost 70 years Elsie and his daughter Penny standing.
Captain Les Williams with his wife of almost 70 years Elsie and his daughter Penny standing.
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Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts about new Pattersonite Capt. Les Williams a Tuskegee Airman, who served during World War II. As he hopped on a train leaving the West Coast for his duties, Capt. Williams said he came to the realization that he was still a relative newcomer in the Air Corps who had been “getting away with something.” Capt. Williams had parlayed his zeal, education and talents into becoming an acting Sergeant Major in his unit and had been entertaining officers. But at this point, he said he felt a bit unsettled.

“I began to realize I wasn’t as special as I had been treated in Seattle,” he said, talking of his arrival in Tuskegee, Ala. in 1943 to train as a pilot. He wasn’t in Seattle anymore and he was a black man in the deep south before the Civil Rights era.

“It’s hard to believe people can be so mean,” he said of the discrimination, which included black officers treating other black officers poorly or what would be considered severe hazing today.

The black officers were trying to “re-socialize” the young black aviators and “teach them their place in society.”

In his book “Victory” Capt. Williams recounted going into town when he had scarce free time. Capt. Williams said he seldom went into stores or was seen much on the sidewalks in the town of Tuskegee. But he said he went to a single screen movie theater to see a movie.

Capt. Williams recounted having to sit in the theater on the “black” side with a curtain separating blacks from whites.

“White Tuskegee had nothing for me,” he wrote.

When he was first checked out to fly an airplane, he said he felt there might be trouble.

A white officer named Capt. McGoon was known for “washing out” or failing black students for what many thought were racial reasons.

It was known around campus that “McGoon has got him a coon,” Capt. Williams said.

It was considered the end of your flight career if a black aviator was assigned McGoon for a checkout flight.

“He was harder on black guys and prejudiced. But he was my door opener,” he said. It is believed the hard-nosed officer’s approval of Capt. Williams after the check off flight was the first for a black man.

“To this day, I don’t know why he passed me,” Capt. Williams said, noting once the flight was over, McGoon wouldn’t even taxi back with Williams one mile down the runway after they landed, choosing instead to walk.

Soon, however, being trained as a fighter pilot became a problem for Capt. Williams. He began to have black outs during loop to loops where fighter pilots famously turn upside down hard. But they were causing him to lose consciousness.

Because of this he was made one of the first bomber pilots in the Air Corps and was soon checked out on a B-25 Mitchell.

Soon, however, the war in Europe was winding down and the focus of World War II was shifting to the War in Asia, and Capt. Williams’ time in the military expired.

Capt. Williams career may not have seen action in a theater, but was profound nonetheless. He fought a separate, quiet war at home. He helped forge the way, helping break the color barrier and integrate the military as a Tuskegee Airman. He also became friends with and served with many distinguished flyers as Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr., who in 1975 would became the first black four-star general in the American Armed Forces.

to have black outs during loop-to-loops, where fighter pilots famously turn upside down hard. But they were causing him to lose consciousness.

Because of this he was made one of the first bomber pilots in the Air Corps and was soon checked out on a B-25 Mitchell.

Soon, however, the war in Europe was winding down and the focus of World War II was shifting to the War in Asia, and Capt. Williams’ time in the military expired.

Capt. Williams career may not have seen action like the theaters suggest, but it was profound experience nonetheless. He fought a separate, quiet war at home. He helped forge the way, helping break the color barrier and integrate the military as a Tuskegee Airman. He also became friends with and served with many distinguished flyers as Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr., who in 1975 would became the first black four-star general in the American Armed Forces.

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