CAPT WINDELL O. PRUITT MEMORIAL AMERICAN VETERANS (AMVETS) POST 41
2200 St. Louis Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63106
Virgil Wilson - Commander
Wilbert Easter - 1st Vice
Lester William - Adj
George Marion - Finc Officer
Tommie Noble - Judge Advocate
Herman Wise - Provost Marshal
MEETING IS 2ND AND 4TH SUNDAY @ 6:00 P.M.
UP COMMING EVENTS AS OF AUGUST 1, 2003
August 31, "Downtown Day" (15th St. Park) All Day
SPOT LIGHT ON "CAPT WINDELL O. PRUITT"
The fighter pilot is a distinct breed of flyer because the plane he files is a unique breed. It is designed with more speed, more maneuverability, more versatility, and capable of more havoc than any other plane. The pilot of such a machine must be an extraordinary operator.
Wendell Oliver Pruitt was a fighter pilot - extraordinaire. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, June 20, 1920, the youngest of ten children to Elijah and Melanie Pruitt. He was educated in the public school systems of the city and state. He began his education at Simmons and Marshall Elementary Schools, continuing and graduating from Sumner High School in 1937. After high school, he attended Stowe Teachers College a year before enrolling in Lincoln University at Jefferson City, Missouri.
The usual student may have been satisfied with the academic development Wendell attained. However, for Wendell this was simply the means to an end: his interest carried him to activities in varying and diversified areas. While at Sumner he was a member of the Glee Club, the A Cappella Choir, the Robeson Dramatic Club, and the Spanish Club. His church membership was at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. On the other end of the spectrum, he had an inclination for mechanics; he built radios, repaired bicycles and automobiles. He had a strong desire and an eagerness to become educated in many disciplines and a wiliness to work at any project until the job was completed. This attitude toward meeting and welcoming challenge sounded the keynote to his later accomplished success.
It was at Lincoln University that Wendell was introduced to the airplane in a manner other than just a spectator. Lincoln University being one of three Negro colleges conducting civil pilot training provided the beginning of the Wendell O. Pruitt flying career. He learned to fly and secured his private pilot's license. Being one who could not wait, with a flair for adventure, and the nerve to try, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Cadet Flying Program and accepted the challenge of the sky.
All of his life he had been building for the freedom of flight. The war now going on merely opened another door - the door to opportunity of becoming a fighter pilot.
Pruitt was accepted into the United States Army Air Corps Flying School at Tuskegee, Alabama. With his zeal, aptitude and flying skill, he had no trouble finishing one of the most rigorous and demanding courses in the military service. After two months of pre-flight, two months of primary flying, two months of basic flying, two months of advance flying and gunnery school, Wendell Pruitt was commissioned second lieutenant in the class of 42k on December 11, 1942.
He was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group stationed at Selfridge Air Base in Michigan, where fighter training was conducted until the group was shipped to the Mediterranean theater for combat.
It was during this tour of combat that Pruitt developed into the "number one" fighter pilot - colorful in every respect. He was one of the first to complete the seventy missions required for rotation back to the United States. He left a legacy in Italy - a record that was the envy of all and a list of accomplishments to be remembered by those who served with him and a goal of aspiration for those who serve after him.
The city of St. Louis welcomed one of her highly decorated heroes with great pride. He received the Key to the city amid pomp and ceremony. The largest public housing project and the elementary school, which served that community, were named in his honor.
If the memory of Pruitt has become dim, it is only because he was one of the trail blazers of a path that has since become a well traveled highway for so may Black youths who possess that rare quality of character and personality - the unique combination of adventure, daring and ability that created the fighter pilot - WENDELL OLIVER PRUITT.
SPOT LIGHT ON "THE TUSKEEGEE AIRMAN"
TUSKEGEE AIRMEN, INC. (TAI)
Due to the rigid pattern of racial segregation that prevailed int
THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN
They were call the "Schwartze Vogelmenschen" (Black Birdmen) by the Germans who both feared and respected them. White American bomber crews reverently referred to them as "The Black Redtail Angels" because of the identifying red pain on their tail assemblies and because of their reputation for not losing bombers to enemy fighters as they provided fighter escort to bombing missions over strategic targets in Europe.
The 99th Fighter Squadron which had already distinguished itself over North Africa, Sicily, and Anzio was joined with three more Black squadrons; the 100th, the 301st, and the 302nd, to be designated as the 332nd Fighter Group. From Italian bases they also destroyed enemy rail traffic, coast watching surveillance stations and hundred of vehicles on air to ground strafing missions. Sixty-six of these pilots were killed in aerial combat while another thirty-two were shot down and captured as prisoners of war.
These Black Airmen came home with 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, Legions of Merit and The Red Star of Yugoslavia.
Other Black pilots, navigators, bombardiers and crewmen who were trained for medium bombardment duty were formed along with 332nd combat returnees into the 477th Composite Fighter-Bomber Group (B-25s and P-47s). This group never entered combat because of the surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945. Significantly, the 477th's demands for parity and recognition as competent military professionals combined with the magnificent wartime record of the 99th and the 332nd led to a review of the U.S. War Departments racial policies.
For every Black pilot there were ten other civilian or military black men and women on ground support duty. Many of these men and women remained in the military service during the post-World War II era and spearheaded the integration of the armed forces of the United States with their integration into the U.S. Air Force in 1949. Their success and achievement is evidenced by the elevation of three of these pioneers to flag rank; the late General Daniel "Chappie" James, our nation's first Black Four-Star General; Lt. General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., USAF, retired; and Major General Lucius Theus, USAF, retired.
Major achievements are attributable to many of those who returned to civilian life and earned positions of leadership and respect as businessmen, corporate executives, religious leaders, lawyers, doctors, bankers, educators and as political leaders.
Nearly thirty years of anonymity were ended in 1972 with the founding of Tuskegee Airman, Inc. at Detroit, Michigan. Organized as non-military and non-profit national entity, Tuskegee Airman, Inc. exists primarily to motivate and inspire young Americans to become participants in our nation's society and its democratic process.
TAI's National Scholarship Fund and its Detroit Museum Project are currently the National Organization's high priority programs. $30,000 in scholarship grants are being awarded across the Nation, in 1985, to 26 young men and women who are pursuing careers in aviation or aerospace. The Detroit Chapter Museum Project, funded by a grant from the City of Detroit, and matching funds from TAI's 26 chapter network, will be located at historic Ft. Wayne and will serve as TAI's repository for it archives and memorabilia.
With twenty-six chapters located in major cities throughout the United States, Europe, and in Japan the membership of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. is make up, principally of armed forces veteran and active duty personnel representing all the branches of the military. It also includes a growing number of civilians who demonstraic sincere interest in enhancing the goals and objectives of the organization. All officers and directors of the organization serve without salary or fee.
Three Tuskegee Airman, al retired USAF Colonels, share the distinctions of having flown combat missions as fighter pilots in World War II, the Korean War, and the War in Vietnam; CHARLES COOPER, HANIBAL COX, AND CHAARLES McGEE. Three other Tuskegee Airmen, Lt Col. John "Mr. Death" Whitehead, USF Retired; Lt. Col Bill Holloman, USA Retired; and Lt. Col George Hardy, USAF retired; flew combat in Vietnam in other type aircraft.