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Col. William R. Thompson

Born on January 26, 1916, Lieutenant Colonel William R. Thompson was born in the Wiley Avenue section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of a prosperous caterer. His mother died when he was fourteen days old.

Thompson received his B.S. in business administration from Hampton University in Virginia. During his senior year, he became a licensed pilot and entered the service in 1940 as one of the first African American aviation cadets admitted to the U.S. Army Air Corps. These cadets were later known as members of the 99th Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen. As part of the 99th Squadron, Thompson served as an armament officer under the guidance of Benjamin Davis. He also served as unofficial photographer for the 99th Squadron and parts of his collection now reside in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

After Thompson returned from the war he moved to Chicago and worked for Johnson Publication in the promotions department. Thompson passed away on Saturday, April 15, 2006 at the age of 90.

Accession Number

A2000.039

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/9/2000

Last Name

Thompson

Maker Category
Middle Name

Rufus

Occupation
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsburgh

HM ID

THO02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

Give me the money.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

1/26/1916

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish

Death Date

4/15/2006

Short Description

Tuskegee airman Col. William R. Thompson (1916 - 2006 ) was an armament officer in the 99th Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen. Thompson also served as unofficial photographer for the 99th Squadron and parts of his collection now reside in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Employment

United States Army Air Corps

Johnson Publishing Company

Favorite Color

Black, Red

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - William Thompson shares a joke about the Tuskegee Airmen and enemy radio propaganda in WWII

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Thompson tells about pilot training programs at black schools before World War Two

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Thompson talks about his name and early flyers he admired

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Thompson states his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Thompson remembers his father, an entrepreneur in Pittsburgh

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Thompson recalls a story that NC Mutual Insurance was stared in his uncle Charlie's barbershop

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Thompson talks about how his father came to Pittsburgh and remembers an aunt in Durham, N.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Thompson recalls his father's expanding business in Pittsburgh

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Thompson discusses his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Thompson comments on his childhood in Pittsburgh

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Thompson recalls growing up in Pittsburgh's university area with academic boarders in his family's rooming house

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Thompson describes his personality and interests as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Thompson remembers "wrestling" with a bear at the circus as a boy

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Thompson explains how Lindbergh's Atlantic flight inspired him in his pursuit of aviation

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Thompson remembers discrimination when trying to join the Army Air Corps after high school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Thompson recalls his college years at Hampton University and Lincoln University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William Thompson talks about his surprise at the quality of Southern-educated students at Hampton

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William Thompson reflects on his experiences at Hampton University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Thompson praises Hampton University's aviation and engineering programs

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Thompson talks about being an aviation cadet during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Thompson remembers the 99th Fighter Squadron being sent to North Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Thompson talks about the treatment of their squadron during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Thompson recalls Tuskegee airman pilot Jack Rogers

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Thompson tells a story about racial discrimination in the military

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Thompson explains the different African American squadrons in World War Two

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Thompson talks about the importance of the Tuskegee Airmen in U.S. history

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Thompson remembers Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Thompson recalls Tuskegee airmen Hannibal Cox and Lee Archer and black Spanish Civil War ace Jimmy Peck

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Thompson talks about Tuskegee Airmen commander George S. 'Spanky' Roberts

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Thompson discusses his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Thompson details his postwar move to Chicago and promotional work for 'Ebony' magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Thompson talks about his sons

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Thompson gives examples of his family's successful socio-economic status

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Thompson discusses the Air and Space Museum's Tuskegee Airmen exhibit with photos he shot as unofficial archivist of the group

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Thompson talks about people's continued recognition of him as a Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Thompson expresses concern about the image of theTuskegee Airmen organization

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Thompson calls for individual mentoring and advises youth who want a military career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William Thompson hopes for more voting from the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - William Thompson advocates some form of national service for all youth

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - William Thompson comments on his personal legacy

The Honorable John Rogers, Sr.

John Rogers, Sr. was born on September 3, 1918, in Knoxville, Tennessee. His mother died when he was four and his father died when he was twelve. Rogers and his sisters moved to Chicago, Illinois, to live with an uncle, Henry Tanner, who was very benevolent and proved to be a great role model for Rogers.

From a young age, Rogers wanted to fly. After receiving his pilot's license, he got the chance of a lifetime when he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force. He was shipped off to Tuskegee, Alabama, where he became part of the legendary 99th Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen. As an Airman he excelled, gaining a reputation as a combat pilot and flying more than 100 missions. By 1944 Rogers gained the rank of captain.

Upon his return to Chicago, Rogers decided he did not want to be a teacher and applied to law school at the University of Chicago. While there, he met and married Jewel Stradford, the daughter of a prominent family and a fellow law school student. Rogers served on the bench in Illinois as a Juvenile Court judge for twenty-one years. During that time, he developed a strong reputation as a justice who was both committed and fair.

Accession Number

A2000.034

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

2/22/2000

Last Name

Rogers

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Schools

Frances E. Willard Elementary School

Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School

South Side Junior College

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Knoxville

HM ID

ROG02

Favorite Season

None

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cruises

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/3/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

1/21/2014

Short Description

Juvenile court judge and tuskegee airman The Honorable John Rogers, Sr. (1918 - 2014 ) is a decorated fighter pilot of 99th Squadron, Tuskegee Airmen. After serving in the United States Air Force, Rogers moved back to Chicago, finished law school at the University of Chicago, and eventually served as a judge for twenty-one years in Illinois Juvenile Court.

Employment

United States Army Air Corps

Illinois Juvenile Court

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:372,9:2232,50:5212,86:5516,91:6504,107:11216,198:11824,208:12280,215:23768,425:26564,459:27020,466:31182,539:37008,599:37477,608:37946,617:38683,636:39889,663:40626,683:40894,688:48082,750:48447,756:53456,834:55496,903:57418,914:57714,919:58084,930:58380,935:58676,940:59046,946:59638,955:70923,1127:80018,1274:80428,1280:87370,1372:102578,1576:104528,1615:106556,1663:109754,1735:117144,1785:118232,1807:125544,1925:129432,1973:134000,2024$0,0:4470,118:6758,177:9310,235:12566,308:13182,316:14590,343:15030,349:44920,605:47352,667:48948,723:49328,729:52672,797:53584,812:54876,841:70170,1040:71955,1084:75865,1160:78920,1168:79224,1173:82500,1216:82900,1222:83620,1233:85300,1280:90005,1332:106064,1673:108949,1685:109533,1709:110920,1723:114716,1788:117490,1886:126027,2014:126422,2020:128318,2068:128634,2077:128950,2082:133069,2129:134743,2155:137140,2187:138466,2203:139168,2219:148830,2354:150774,2400:151350,2413:152070,2427:160557,2532:165108,2577:172420,2688:174310,2730:180638,2813:185524,2876:185852,2881:188120,2912
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - John Rogers, Sr.'s favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Rogers, Sr. recalls his childhood environs, Knoxville, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Rogers, Sr. describes his family life

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Rogers, Sr. recalls segregated Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Rogers, Sr. remembers his school life

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Rogers, Sr. reflects on his early interest in aviation

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John Rogers, Sr. recounts his early employment in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John Rogers, Sr. remembers his uncle

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John Rogers, Sr. discusses his college prospects

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - John Rogers, Sr. describes his experience as a teacher in Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - John Rogers, Sr. remembers segregation at the time of his military enlistment

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Rogers Sr. recalls training with the Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Rogers Sr. relates instances of discrimination in the army

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Rogers Sr. describes being a combat pilot in World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Rogers Sr. recounts his experiences in North Africa during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Rogers Sr. remembers flying over Sicily as a World War II combat pilot

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Rogers Sr. recalls other flying experiences in World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Rogers Sr. discusses what made him a good combat pilot

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Rogers Sr. recalls his return to the U.S. after World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Rogers Sr. relates why he went to law school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Rogers Sr. describes his law school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Rogers Sr. remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Rogers Sr. recounts his early marriage and career

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Rogers Sr. discusses changes in the social and legal environment from the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - John Rogers Sr. recalls his work to end discrimination

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Rogers Sr. remembers Walter White and Thurgood Marshall

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Rogers Sr. discusses his wife and son

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Rogers Sr. describes his work as a juvenile court judge

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Rogers Sr. reflects on his life and career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John Rogers Sr. shares his opinion of Dempsey Travis

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
John Rogers, Sr. reflects on his early interest in aviation
John Rogers Sr. describes being a combat pilot in World War II
Transcript
What I'm wondering as a youth. 'Cause we as, you know, young people always sometimes have some dreams and aspirations. I mean, what type of child would you sort of describe yourself as? And were there any things that you sort of dreamed about or, you know, fantasized about? Or--.$$Well, I wondered what's was gonna happen to me. I'm twelve years old going into a completely new environment. And you'd wonder what would happen to you. But I had a good, stable uncle [Henry Tanner]. And we didn't mo--I lived there in his house, one place till I went out on my own. And it wasn't like moving from one place to another. That you have with so many kids. I guess I have to say that because I experienced it as a judge in juvenile court. I had every opportunity. If I didn't do better, it was my fault. Now I know some people like to hear you say you liked flying and wanted to fly. Well that's true. And this movie that they have about Tuskegee Airmen and having a kid out in a field in an airplane coming in. And he says--he makes some expression about flying, I've forgotten what. But I wanted to fly. I remember when I was in Knoxville [Tennessee], walking with a friend of mine, all the way to the airport. Just to be able to say, I touched an airplane. I never expected to fly one. What was the name of that book? It was a book with (pause). God I'm getting old and can't remember. You would know the name of the book, I'm sure. But this was about--I can't think of the name at the moment. But they--the fella writes the story about the troubles that kids had. And one of the things was a plane was flying overhead and he was looking at that airplane and said, gee, some of these white boys sure can fly. He never had--he had no hope of ever flying. Bigger Thomas was one of the characters in that book ['Native Son']. I forgotten it. It was a long time ago.$$So you did have--You had dreams of sort of flying then.$$Well, I wanted to fly. I always wanted to fly. But I never expected to fly.$But, I don't know where we were. You asked--$$We were, we were talking about you flying as a combat pilot. You said that you, you're really, you know, you're glad you had the experience. And I would like you to talk about what that experience was. Where you were stationed and--$$Well, we were stationed various places. We started out in North Africa. And we first hit combat flying off of Cape Bon. And we would dive-bomb Pantelleria [Italy] which is a little island between Africa and Italy. And we used to, really Sicily, 'cause it's part of Italy. But we used to dive-bomb there. And well, nobody wants to get shot at. But once you're going down--see when you dive-bomb, you're going down. and when you're going down, you're trying to hit what you're going there for. You aren't going there to play. And you get a certain exhilaration I guess out of it. They're shooting at you sure, but you're shooting back, (chuckle). And you can see the tracers. Every fifth bullet is a tracer. And you see those tracers going out there. It would be--sometimes depending on what the target was, it would be so bad it would look like rain coming up. Because when they explode the fifth bullet, it's like a black smoke, and like a table top down there. And you're going down through that stuff. But they couldn't hit you because there was no way in the world a guy was gonna know where I'm gonna be, like they say, if you're flying at 10,000 feet. It's gonna take a bullet to come up there something like ten seconds, I may be off on the timing, but ten seconds. But no way in the world they're gonna know where I'm gonna be when that bullet gets up there. Because you didn't go straight in a straight line like the guys in the bombers. They were scared to death. Well, anybody would be scared. But in the bombers they had to hit--they'd go to the bomb line and from that bomb line to the target they flew in a straight line. They could anticipate where you were gonna be. But with us, you're going down, up, over any kind of way. You just don't keep the same altitude and don't go in a straight line. And what we did was trying to figure out to get to the target that you didn't want to be in a straight line where they would have a good chance to shoot at you. And I don't know. I don't think that there were so many guys shot down in dive-bombing. Even in strafing. Now that was the thing I hated most and strafing was down on the ground. That means at bases they got you going out there to shoot the people who are going in to protect the, our soldiers. They have you going to station a road or something like that, you see. Well, I was told along with others by more experienced pilots who had been there, don't go down the road. Go across the road. So you're there and gone before they got a chance to get their guns on you. So you got some exhilaration out of doing that.

Roy Chappell

Decorated World War II Air Force veteran and Tuskegee Airman Roy M. Chappell was among a group of African American aviators in the Tuskegee Airmen division that led the way to integrating the armed forces. Born in Williamsburg, Kentucky to Lionel and Flora Chappell, Roy Chappell grew up in Monroe, Michigan, where he was in the top 10 percent of his high school graduating class. In 1940, he left Monroe to attend Kentucky State University, majoring in chemistry. In 1942, during his third year of studies, he was drafted into the armed forces.

In 1944, Chappell underwent navigator training in Hondo, Texas and bombardier training at Randolph Field, Texas. Upon completion, he served as a B-25 bombardier/navigator with the 477th Bombardment Group. In 1945, Chappell was one of the 101 black officers who were arrested for trying to integrate a segregated officers club in what became known as the Freeman Field Mutiny. That same year, Chappell married his wife, Lucy, with whom he had two daughters, Camille and Kathy.

After the war, Chappell completed his education, receiving his B.S. degree in psychology. He went on to become an educator, working as a teacher and guidance counselor in Chicago, Illinois for thirty years, retiring in 1985.

After retiring, Chappell served as the Chicago "DODO" Chapter Tuskegee Airmen President and as the Chairman of the Friends of Meigs Field Board of Directors. On July 25, 2001, Chappell was awarded the Phillips 66 Aviation Leadership Award, recognized as one of the most prestigious civilian aviation awards. Chappell coordinated the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles Program and received a Humanitarian Award from the EAA for his efforts. He was also involved with the Chicago Youth in Aviation Project and the Black Star Project of Chicago.

Chappell passed away on September 23, 2002 at age 81.

Accession Number

A2002.073

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/14/2002

Last Name

Chappell

Middle Name

M.

Organizations
Schools

Kentucky State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Roy

Birth City, State, Country

Williamsburg

HM ID

CHA01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Kentucky

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mexico

Favorite Quote

I Believe I Can Fly.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/16/1921

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken (Roasted), Barbeque, Macaroni, Cheese

Death Date

9/23/2002

Short Description

High school teacher and tuskegee airman Roy Chappell (1921 - 2002 ) was the president of the Dodo Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen. In addition to his work as a teacher, Chappell was also a youth volunteer.

Employment

United States Army Air Corps

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
0,0:4224,104:20784,357:21152,362:38902,617:48262,817:58766,963:59702,1014:60404,1024:69200,1125:73840,1256:93980,1456:97020,1524:104667,1591:107736,1660:115318,1741:120856,1862:123898,1922:138252,2107:144684,2249:158791,2470:159501,2491:163122,2559:167940,2639:182742,2987:191908,3043:197364,3157:208666,3346:211130,3404:226213,3644:232009,3786:232354,3792:244554,4042:248294,4159:250674,4229:255075,4257:259580,4326$0,0:7754,148:13086,254:16354,316:24415,401:42484,671:44668,758:46540,833:61024,1029:63394,1109:70680,1149:74692,1240:84525,1380:99225,1600:107425,1675:107767,1682:117900,1813:124690,1958:128120,2036:133605,2072:139552,2150:141580,2186:146260,2287:146728,2295:154555,2407:159355,2535:163780,2658:174582,2770:175429,2896:196829,3299:209807,3466:211795,3509:212221,3644:245865,3997:255667,4104:258839,4363:259876,4415:260303,4423:262740,4454
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Roy Chappell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Roy Chappell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Roy Chappell lists his parents and siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Roy Chappell describes his elementary school in Williamsburg, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Roy Chappell talks about his parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Roy Chappell describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Roy Chappell recalls memories of his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Roy Chappell describes participating in sports at Monroe High School in Monroe, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Roy Chappell recalls his social life at Monroe High School in Monroe, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Roy Chappell talks about attending Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Roy Chappell recalls the start of World War II

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Roy Chappell remembers facing racial discrimination in the 1940s

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Roy Chappell describes his training for the U.S. Army Air Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Roy Chappell describes the movement to improve opportunities for black servicemen in the 1930s and 1940s

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Roy Chappell describes cadet training at Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Roy Chappell recalls being lost while learning how to fly a plane

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Roy Chappell tells the story of Chief Anderson's flight with Eleanor Roosevelt

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Roy Chappell describes two of his fellow Tuskegee airmen

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Roy Chappell talks about the casualties during training at Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Roy Chappell talks about continuing his flight training in Hondo, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Roy Chappell describes training to be a navigator

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Roy Chappell talks about the treatment of black officers during training

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Roy Chappell describes his family's reaction to his military success

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Roy Chappell talks about the respect his community showed when he returned home from military service as a Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Roy Chappell reflects upon race and self-image

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Roy Chappell describes finishing bombardiering school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Roy Chappell describes the protests of the segregated Officers Club at Freeman Field in Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Roy Chappell talks about receiving a reprimand for protesting the segregated Officers Club at Freeman Field in Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Roy Chappell describes how the Tuskegee Airmen led to the integration of the U.S. Airforce

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Roy Chappell talks about Commander Benjamin O. Davis

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Roy Chappell talks about outside pressure to allow the Tuskegee Airmen to go into combat

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Roy Chappell describes the planes used by bombers during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Roy Chappell talks about the heroism of black units in WWII and how it was unrecognized

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Roy Chappell recalls discrimination in the commercial airline industry following WWII

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Roy Chappell talks about being discharged and life after his service in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Roy Chappell describes teaching at Carnegie Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Roy Chappell talks about how the Tuskegee Airmen eventually gained recognition

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Roy Chappell talks about determining who is classified as Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Roy Chappell remembers Tuskegee Airman, Mayor Coleman Young

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Roy Chappell describes his involvement in youth outreach programs, pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Roy Chappell describes his involvement in youth outreach programs, pt.2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Roy Chappell talks about women in aviation

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Roy Chappell describes the sights, sounds, and smells of being a Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Roy Chappell talks about his children's involvement as Heritage Members

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Roy Chappell talks about the costly nature of training young black people as pilots

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Roy Chappell talks about his church involvement and hobbies

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Roy Chappell talks about lasting friendships from his military career

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Roy Chappell reflects upon the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Roy Chappell talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Roy Chappell talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Roy Chappell advises young people to join the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Roy Chappell comments on The HistoryMakers organization

Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Roy Chappell talks about his leadership

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Roy Chappell narrates his photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Roy Chappell narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Roy Chappell describes cadet training at Tuskegee, Alabama
Roy Chappell describes the protests of the segregated Officers Club at Freeman Field in Indiana
Transcript
Now, this takes us to, I guess, the next step is Tuskegee [Alabama] itself.$$Right. We got shipped out from Biloxi [Mississippi], and they sent us to Tuskegee [Alabama] to start our cadet training. And the first thing that they did where we were shipped, and they put us in a unit--and we had to go to, like, a day school for about eight or ten weeks, to take some more math and all the basic kind of subjects of that kind. And one of the teachers I remember was Wilkins, I don't know if you're familiar with him or not. But I think Wilkins got his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago when he was about 16 or 17 years old. He was one of the instructors. He instructed us in math. One of the fascinating things about him is that he could be writing--he would write with each hand on the board and be working a different kind of arithmetic problem. You know, and he wasn't but about 18 or 19 years old then. But it was the kind of thing that they had for that. And we went through that. And we stayed in something called the (Emerys?). It's at Tuskegee. Then they moved us over to the base, and we went through a little basic training there. Then they moved us into the--really the flight training program. And the flight--the pilot training program is divided into three parts; a basic, a primary--and the primary, basic, and advanced. And each phase runs about two--two and a half months of training. So we went over and we went into the primary part of the training. And the primary part of training was leased out to the Tuskegee University, and we flew out of what was called Moton Field (ph), which was a ways from Tuskegee. It was all close together. And we flew in a Stearman, where the plane is bi--two wings and things, and that's when I first had a chance to--I know nothing about airplanes. I had no idea. I didn't know anything about them. I had no idea I wanted to fly or anything like that. But this was getting me around what I wanted to get around in the military, so I did. And my instructor, we started flying and we had a number of hours (in about?) it's an open cockpit plane. And after you get a few hours in, you would get the idea that, you know, you're young and you got all this energy and halfway crazy, too. So I decided this particular day, like everybody else, to loosen up my seatbelt and making it very loose, you know, so I'd be real comfortable, I could move around in the seat and everything back there. And they always tried to tell us keep that belt tight. So he flipped this plane over on its back, and here I come sliding up out of this seat. And you talk about somebody having a conniption fit. I said, "Oh, Lord, what am I going to do?" 'Cause I never wanted to jump without a parachute. And he looked--turned around 'cause he's in the front seat. He turned around and looked at me and grinned and said, "Ha-ha-ha-ha." And I said, "Ha-ha-ha," something my mother told me not to say anymore in life, and he, and I said "Turn this thing back over." And he did. But the message was given to me. I learned it, and that was the end of that. No more of that kind of stuff. But it was interesting. And then one day we went up, we came back down, and we landed and we taxied up to where we, you now, go in and they used to pull in off and everything. He said, "Well, we'll stop here for a minute." He stop it. He jumped out. He said, "Okay. It's yours." And so that means I had to go up in solo. So that was the first time that I went up and soloed an airplane and thing. Then we went on through the primary phase of the training and everything, and I got through that in good shape. And, you learn how to do a lot of things. It's amazing what you can do with an airplane and amazing when I look now and think that you can take an airplane and flip it over on its back, you can take it and make it do a loop, and you can do what they call a snap roll, and then snap roll it over quickly and that kind of thing. And you do stalls, 'cause they teach you how in case the plane stumble, what you're supposed to do? And that--and, you know, all those kind of things. And I had no idea about I could ever learn how to do all these things. And it was interesting. And we helped each other, and we got to a real wonderful shape. So I enjoyed that.$So we came in and in a couple of days, they shipped us up to Godman Field, too--not to Godman Field--the Freeman Field. And when we got there, you know, we found out about these two officers clubs, and they had taken the enlisted men's club and made it into an officers club. And the commanding officer was saying that, one club was for instructor personnel, and one was for trainee personnel. And that translated, black and white, because we had some guys there--we had a chaplain there, we had doctors there, and some other--about five--about eight or nine people--about six or seven of them, weren't really in the training program. And we even had some guys there that were back from a tour of duty of the three-thirty-second (3-32nd). And they came back. And so guys started going to the club. And they get there, the man that was in charge of the officers club would tell them that they couldn't come in--they couldn't come in there. The guy was going, he said--and he told them you have to leave or he'll place you under arrest in quarters. So everybody had to go back (unclear) and then go in your quarters and things. And they had hundreds of guys went in there that way. And so the commanding officer there was deciding that this wasn't working. And one of the things that was going on we found out later from the Freedom of Information Act is that he was in contact with the people over him in Washington, D.C., and they were talking about what was going on, what was happening. And so we decided to put out--now, in the military, there was an article of one of the rules said that "any officers club is open to all officers on that base." And he was saying that they could get around this by saying this thing was for officers and trainees. And they told him to write up this memorandum that certain facilities on the base were for instructors and for officers. So and then they did this. He wrote up his personnel. He had a big meeting and read it to everybody and told them, you know, that this thing was coming up. And then he heard again that guys were going to start coming back to the thing. And then he had them come in and had everybody said they would either sign this thing and they understood it and sign it, and read it. Once you do that, you have to comply with it. And so some of us said that we didn't want to do it. We didn't want to sign it. So then they decided to--everybody that hadn't signed it, they had something almost like a little court-martial. Our commanding officer was there, the man who was going to do the questioning was there, and three or four of the officers were there, and the person that was taking the testimony. And they come in, they ask you first thing, "Have you seen the thing? Have you read it?" "Yes." "Will you sign it?" "No." "Well, you could cross out what you don't like and sign it." "No." Then they would read us the Articles of War that has to do with, you know, if you don't obey your commanding officer, and you can get shot and all these other kind of things that can happen. So they finally come down to, say, "Well, scratch out what you don't want and sign it." We says, "No. I won't do that." And so then, finally, they said, "Well, let me read the Articles of War to you again." They read that to us again. And, "A commanding officer gives you a direct order to sign it," to Harry. He says, "I'm not going to sign it." He says, "I'm not going to sign it today. I refuse to sign." So then he was placed back under arrest in quarters. And so that there's a conversation was still going on in the thing. So they decided to ship us back to Godman Field. So we got shipped back; 101 of us got shipped back to Godman Field. The bags were there, they had puts lights up all around the barracks and things, and a fence around barracks and things, and we were all there. And the strange thing about it was, German POWs were able to walk through the barracks, and there was a gas station across the street; they were doing that, and things were going on. See. And these are the kind of things that were going on. And they (simultaneous) (unclear)--$$There were German POWs were at Godman Field.$$At Godman Field. You know (simultaneous) (unclear)--$$They had liberties (simultaneous)--$$--liberties. Right. You know, after they come there so long, they get these kind of liberties. They work in the filling station and that kind of thing.