As a child, William "Bill" Holloman (Lt. Col., USAF, Ret.) dreamed of flying across the Atlantic like Charles Lindbergh did in 1927. Little did young Holloman know that he would do that, and a whole lot more: Most noteworthy, as a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.
Born 21 August 1924 in St. Louis, Holloman successfully completed the Aviation Cadet examinations in August 1942. After waiting months for class selection, he began training with college courses at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama and later graduated in class 44-H from Tuskegee Army Air Field in September 1944.
Nowadays, Holloman speaks to students, sailors, airmen & soldiers about the perils of those first flights, and the benefits they’ve brought to Americans today.
"I tell my story to whoever will listen," he told Veterans Advantage in an interview. "Making sure that whoever listens understands what we went through for this opportunity [in America], and they do not squander it."
And his impact has been broad and deep. Even Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard B. Myers in 2001 – when he was Vice Chairman – credited a 1980s speech by Holloman for grabbing the attention of "one young wavering cadet, uncertain that he had made the right career choice," who later rose to join Myers’s personal staff.
A Successful Experiment
The "Tuskegee Airmen" (named after the Tuskegee Army Air Field—TAAF--in Tuskegee Alabama), made up of all black pilots and maintenance crews, quickly became a mainstay of the Army Air Corps in the European theatre. They overcame the odds of racial divides and flew some of the war’s most difficult combat operations.
"We were the forerunners of the civil rights movement. We opened the door…and it has taken years for people to recognize our contribution to the war," Holloman told sailors at the Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island in Washington in 2001.
The first aviation cadet class began in July 1941 and completed training nine months later in March 1942. From 1942 through 1946, nine hundred and ninety-two pilots graduated at TAAF, receiving commissions and pilot wings. Four hundred and fifty of those pilots served overseas in either the 99th Pursuit Squadron (later the 99th Fighter Squadron) or the 332nd Fighter Group
Image Credit: http://www.redtail.org/profiles-tuskegee-airmen-william-holloman/