Charles McGee Oral History
Charles McGee was born on December 7, 1919 and was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen after enlisting in the Air Force in 1942. He spent his service in World War II with the 32nd combat group and were sent overseas in 1944. McGee flew missions over Italy and southern France until the war’s end. McGee became a career aviator, flying also in the Korean and Vietnam wars. McGee was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio in 2011 and served as a consultant for the 2012 film, Red Tails.
Charles McGee discussed his service in World War II with the Air Force serving as one of the Tuskegee Airmen in the all-black 32nd combat group. McGee had entered the ROTC program at the University of Illinois when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. He applied and was accepted to a segregated colored pilots training program. McGee then went to a combination flight and officers school in Tuskegee, Alabama in November 1942, and received his wings and commission in June 1943. While going through training in the south, McGee describes instances of segregation and challenges that faced African American troops. McGee’s first overseas station was south of Naples, Italy, where he flew P-47s and later P-51s as escort planes for B-17 bombing raids. McGee’s unit had “Red Tails” painted on their planes, and they would protect the B-17 planes if they were struggling or hit. Most of the B-17 pilots, however, never knew until later that the “Red Tail” pilots were African-American. McGee’s longest mission was over six hours long when he escorted bombers in a P-51 to the Ploesti oil fields. After World War II concluded, McGee remained in the service and was sent to the Philippines in 1950 as a flight maintenance officer. When the Korean War broke out, he transitioned back into a combat pilot. During this conflict, McGee describes flying numerous napalm runs. McGee discussed how the integration of the Air Force by President Truman impacted race-relations between soldiers, and how these relationships impacted him, personally. While he admits there were specific instances of racism, McGee never felt overwhelmingly at odds with white soldiers.
Interview by David Overy
St. Cloud State University, "Charles McGee Oral History" (1993). World War II Veterans. 7.