RSS

Willie Rogers – Last Tuskegee Airman

26 Nov

Rest in peace, Mr Rogers…

Willie Rogers, the last member of the original Tuskegee Airmen, dead at 101

Rogers was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007

Willie Rogers, 99, who is considered one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, reflects on his service and his life at home as he will turn 100 years-old on March 4, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Rogers, the oldest surviving member of the original Tuskegee Airmen, has died at the age of 101. Rogers died Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, said Rev. Kenny Irby, the pastor at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The last member of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Willie Rogers of St. Petersburg, Florida, died Monday. He was 101 years old. The Airmen were members of the first African-American military aviation squadron in U.S. armed forces history.

“He didn’t like a lot of fuss,” said Clinton Glover, Rogers’ nephew. “He was humble. That’s who he was.”

Rogers was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and served as a member of the logistics team in the 100th Air Engineer Squad and the Red Tail Angels. During a mission in Italy, Rogers was shot in the stomach and leg by German soldiers in January 1943. He spent three months in a London hospital recovering from his wounds.

On April 29, 1945, following Germany’s surrender and the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, Rogers, along with other American troops, took inventory of the camp.

Former President George W. Bush welcomed the Tuskegee Airmen’s 300 surviving members to the White House in 2007 and awarded each of them the Congressional Gold Medal. Neither Rogers nor his daughters, Felicia Rogers and Veronica Williams, attended the ceremony, and they didn’t even know about their father’s participation with the group until 2012.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that “part of the reason for that silence, he’d tell his family, was because his work was on the ground in logistics and administration, not in the sky where the heroics took place.”

Six years later in November 2013, Rogers received his Congressional Gold Medal. Besides that award, Rogers’ portrait was placed in the St. Petersburg Museum of History, and he received the keys to the cities of Lakeland and St. Petersburg, Florida.

“He would always say there were many who deserved attention more, but were not here to receive it,” Williams said.

Rogers lived in St. Petersburg after the war and opened his own business — Rogers Radio Sales and Services. He was born in Apalachicola, Florida, in 1915.

From 1942 to 1946, approximately 15,000 men and women participated in the Tuskegee Institute during World War II. The U.S. military trained civilians as part of the Tuskegee Experience, starting in May 1940 when students completed their pilot training program.

The Tuskegee Airmen would turn out to be one of the most successful fighter units in U.S. history — fighting in more than 200 combat missions and never losing a single bomber to enemy fire. No other group can claim that achievement.

Although African-Americans were often discriminated against while serving in the military, Rogers was still able to put that into perspective.

“He could give dates, names, locations of events from the war,” Williams said. “But he didn’t like to give specifics about what occurred to him. He saw things that were bad. And he experienced treatment because he was African-American that wasn’t fair.

“He recognized that we as a people, and he as a black man, have come a long way, but that there is still more to go. But in God’s eyes, there is no color, he’d say. We are all one and he lived by the greatest commandment — to love one another.”

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 26, 2016 in Black History

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: