The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Joseph Gomer

Retired United States Air Force Major Joseph Philip Gomer served as a fighter pilot with World War II's famed Tuskegee Airmen. Gomer was born on June 20, 1920 in Iowa Falls, Iowa. From the time he was a small boy, he dreamed of flying airplanes.

Gomer and his brother attended school in a town where there were never more than three black families. The only black in his class, Gomer graduated from Iowa Falls High School with honors in 1938. He completed two years of study at Ellsworth College in Iowa Falls, where he took a class in flight instruction. When he enlisted in the Army in 1942, Gomer signed up for pilots' training. His previous flying experience at Ellsworth qualified him to be sent to Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama to participate in President Roosevelt's new program to train black pilots. Gomer received his wings in May of 1943. He was assigned as a Second Lieutenant to the segregated 332 Fighter Group and sent to Ramitrella, Italy, to join the 301st Fighter Squadron.

The 332 Fighter Group served as escorts for the 15th Air Force, running bombing missions in Germany. Engaging German fighters and attacking enemy positions, they fulfilled their mission to perfection-never losing a bomber to the enemy. The white bomber pilots called their guardians the "Red Tailed Angels" after the distinctive markings on their planes. Many of these white bomber pilots did not know that their guardians were black. In Italy, the Red Tails flew over 1,500 sorties, downing 111 enemy aircraft and sinking one German destroyer as 66 black pilots were killed in action. Joseph Gomer shared a tent with three other airmen, but within eight months all of them were killed, leaving him the sole survivor. He crash-landed a P-39, lost his canopy, and was bullet ridden in a P-47, but fought with skill and valor in over 68 sorties with the enemy. Fighting racism as well as the Germans, Gomer remained with the Air Force after the war and was still in service on July 26, 1948, when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 integrating the United States Armed Forces.

After retiring from the Air Force, Gomer worked for the United States Forestry Service where he earned meritorious recognition for his work in providing equal opportunities for minorities. He currently lives with his wife, Elizabeth, in Duluth, Minnesota. He volunteers in the schools and at church and keeps the name of the Tuskegee Airmen alive.

Gomer passed away on October 10, 2013.

Accession Number

A2002.140

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/12/2002

Last Name

Gomer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Iowa Falls High School

Alden High School

Ellsworth Community College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Joseph

Birth City, State, Country

Iowa Falls

HM ID

GOM01

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

Iowa

Favorite Vacation Destination

Birch Lake, Minnesota

Favorite Quote

Once you've been shot at by real bullets, pop guns don't bother you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Minnesota

Birth Date

6/20/1920

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Minneapolis/St. Paul

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish

Death Date

10/10/2013

Short Description

Tuskegee airman Joseph Gomer (1920 - 2013 ) was a fighter pilot in 99th Pursuit Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Employment

United States Army Air Corps

United States Forestry Service

Wright Aircraft

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue, Brown

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joseph Gomer's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joseph Gomer lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joseph Gomer describes his parents' family histories

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joseph Gomer describes the sights, smells, and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joseph Gomer talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joseph Gomer describes his childhood in Iowa Falls, Iowa

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joseph Gomer talks about his parents and his early education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joseph Gomer talks about his grade school years

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joseph Gomer describes his high school years

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joseph Gomer talks about his experience at Ellsworth Junior College

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Joseph Gomer talks about his effort to enlist in the war

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Joseph Gomer talks about racial discrimination at Ellsworth Junior College

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Joseph Gomer describes his journey to Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joseph Gomer talks about pre-flight training in Tuskegee, Alabama under instructors like Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joseph Gomer describes the P-40 aircraft

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joseph Gomer talks about the U.S. Army's resistance toward deploying black pilots and a training accident

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joseph Gomer talks about being sent into combat under Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joseph Gomer talks about running strafing missions

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joseph Gomer shares a story about being caught alone in enemy territory

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joseph Gomer explains the origin of the Red Tail Angels

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joseph Gomer talks about being grounded and the emotional toll of war

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joseph Gomer talks about V-mail and a near death experience

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joseph Gomer describes the psychological trauma of war and his return to the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joseph Gomer talks about racial discrimination on his return trip to the States

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joseph Gomer talks about working as a training instructor, leaving the military, and reenlisting

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joseph Gomer describes the integration of the Armed Forces

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joseph Gomer talks about integrating Langley Air Force Base and the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joseph Gomer describes the legacy the Tuskegee Airmen created for African Americans including HistoryMakers Guion Bluford and Colin Powell

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Joseph Gomer talks about Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Joseph Gomer talks about life in Duluth, Minnesota and his work in the U.S. Forest Service

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joseph Gomer reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joseph Gomer talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joseph Gomer narrates his photographs, pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joseph Gomer narrates his photographs, pt.2