This Independence Day, the nation lost one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. Capt. Roscoe C. Brown Jr., of New York City died at the age of 94 on Monday.
Brown visited Montgomery last year for Maxwell's annual Gathering of Eagles event. He was a World War II fighter pilot with the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots in U.S. history. He flew 68 combat missions and later commanded the 100th Fighter Squadron.
Brown grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from the Tuskegee Flight School in 1944.
At that time, African-Americans were deemed unfit both physically and mentally to fly something as complex as an aircraft.
Brown and hundreds of other black men would prove the myth wrong with the help of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who authorized a group of black pilots to fight in WWII. They celebrated their 75th anniversary earlier this year.
"Many of us rushed to join, because we wanted to fly," Brown told the Advertiser during last year's event. "After we learned to fly, we became good combat pilots. As history goes on, we get better."
In 1,578 total combat missions, the Tuskegee Airmen, nicknamed the "Red Tails" destroyed 150 enemy aircraft on the ground and 112 in air-to-air combat.
Brown flew 68 combat missions over Germany and shot down two enemy fighters.
"The mission we are best known for is the mission to Berlin in March 24, 1945, when we escorted bombers from the Southern Italy 15th Air Force for the first time over Berlin," Brown said. "I shot down the first jet plane from our group, and we shot down two others."
From that mission, the Red Tails' reputation grew.
"Unlike some of the other pilots, we would stay close to the bombers to protect them from the enemy fighters," Brown said. "By the end of the war, many of the bombers groups said they preferred the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tails to protect them."
Brown was proud of the role he and the Tuskegee Airmen played in influencing Harry Truman to eliminate segregation within the military. His one hope was that others continue his fight for equal opportunity.
This article was written by Rebecca Burylo from The Montgomery Advertiser and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.