WWII Quote of the Day Archive
Colonel Charles McGee - United States Air Force
"Well, race indeed was a factor. Also, the experience that I had in the early years all through the end of the war and still the United States Air Force was separated from the ground forces. There was segregation. But it begins with the 1925 War College study determining how this one-tenth of the population, now called black, would be used if America got involved in another war. Paragraph four of their report says, facts baring on the problem: Physically qualified, yes. Mentally inferior, morally inferior. In other words, second class citizens if you will. That report came to Washington to say, yes, use in service roles. In other words, cook food, dig ditches, build roads, fine. Do anything technical, impossible. So, that was the attitude and Washington bought that as far as policy was concerned. So, when World War II broke out, civilian pilot training program was established to have pilots for our military units and initially did not include black colleges, but it subsequently did. But there a graduate, in fact from Howard University's program here in the Washington area, went next door and said, 'I want to be an army pilot.' The Army said, 'We don't have any black mechanics, so we can't use a black pilot.' Also, there was a young man who graduated from West Point in '36, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. who, when he graduated pretty well up in his class, but segregated through his training years said he wanted to be a pilot. And they said sorry, they don't have any black aviation units. So, he was denied that. So, it took World War II action in our country willing to help our allies in Europe and pressure. The army said we've studied the issue and we know it'll fail, but you keep pressing us, we'll authorize a squadron, the 99th Pursuit Squadron. But segregation was the name of the game. Segregation went overseas, it came back home. It took our United States Air Force to make a decision."