Tuskegee Airman Les Williams
Tuskegee Airmen is the term used to describe the black fighter pilots of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, later incorporated into the 332nd Fighter Group, who fought during World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps that were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field, Tuskegee, Alabama. The Tuskegee Airmen consisted of pilots, navigators, mechanics, staff and other personnel.
Saturday March 10 - 11AM
Les Williams is one of only a few original Tuskegee Airmen. He trained in Tuskegee for nine-months. While he was training the Department of War expanded the Tuskegee Airmen role from just flying fighters to flying bombers. Mr. Williams was one of nine in the first class of black bomber pilots commissioned by the US Air Corps.
Mr. Williams was born in San Francisco and raised locally in San Mateo. He graduated High School at 14 years of age and learned to be a professional dancer. His dancing is what ultimately led him to Tuskegee and flying. After the war he returned to San Mateo, opened a dance studio (it's said famous NFL star Lynn Swann got some of his moves there) and went to Stanford University to receive his law degree.
"Victory: Tales of a Tuskegee Airman" is a book that Mr. Williams wrote about his experiences. On Saturday March 10 at the Hiller Aviation Museum Les Williams will share some of his stories and also sign his book.
996 pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941 to 1946, approximately 445 were deployed overseas, and 150 Airmen lost their lives in accidents or combat. The casualty toll included 66 pilots killed in action or accidents, and 32 had fallen into captivity as prisoners of war.
The Tuskegee Airmen were credited by higher commands with the following accomplishments:
Awards and decorations awarded for valor and performance included:
- 15,533 combat sorties, 311 missions
- 112 German aircraft destroyed in the air, another 150 on the ground
- 950 railcars, trucks and other motor vehicles destroyed
- One destroyer sunk
- A good record of protecting U.S. bombers losing only 25 on hundreds of missions.
- Three Distinguished Unit Citations
- 99th Pursuit Squadron: 30 May-11 June 1943 for the capture of Pantelleria, Italy
- 99th Fighter Squadron: 12-14 May 1944: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy
- 332d Fighter Group: 24 March 1945: for the longest bomber escort mission of World War II
- At least one Silver Star
- An estimated one hundred and fifty Distinguished Flying Crosses
- 14 Bronze Stars
744 Air Medals
- Eight Purple Hearts