By Jacquie Miles
Tuskegee Airman Charles R. Holiday was present last Sunday, September 9, at the New Dimension Christian Center where his daughter, Sherri Williams, is a member.
Holiday, who celebrated his 93rd birthday July 4, was surrounded by an anxious crowd Sunday as many individuals asked the trailblazer for autographs.
Mr. Holiday flew with the Tuskegee Airman Division for two years as a cadet during the 1940’s.
“If I had to do it again, I would do it over again but I would have gone in sooner and not waited to be drafted,” Holiday said. “My biggest challenge was learning to fly. Although enjoyed it, there were times when we had to proceed in various places that proved most dangerous for me.”
“In the overall experience there were over 19,000 people [involved],” Holiday continued. “That included bombardiers, pilots, and parachute packers,” Holiday said.
The Airman flew two types of airplanes, 477 twin engine and 39th single engines. Holiday flew single engine planes.
There are two chapters of the Tuskegee Airman Outfit in Florida; the 10th Daniel “Chappie” James Chapter located in Orlando and the Patrick Air Force Base Chapter located in Coco Beach.
“We still keep in touch,” Holiday said when speaking on various Tuskegee Airmen reunions. “Most times we will rent a hotel and get together there.”
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black servicemen to serve as military aviators in the U.S. armed forces. Although they were subject to racial discrimination both at home and abroad, the pilots, along with the ground personnel who served with the all Black units, are credited with completing 15,500 combat missions and earning over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses for their achievements. The success of the Tuskegee Airman helped paved the way for the integration of the U.S. Armed Forces under President Harry Truman in 1948.