Two Tuskegee Airmen Die on Same Day in Los Angeles

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tags: obituary, Tuskegee Airmen, Clarence Huntley Jr., Joseph Shambrey



Clarence Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey were born within six weeks of each other and grew up in the same Los Angeles neighborhood in the 1930s. In 1942, both enlisted in the U.S. Army and entered the Tuskegee Institute, the training program established by the Army Air Corps to train African Americans for service in World War II; both went on to do their wartime duty in Italy as mechanics for the elite squadron’s fighter planes. After the war, Huntley Jr. and Shambrey returned to Los Angeles, where they remained lifelong friends. Their parallel lives came to an end on January 5, when both men died at home at the age of 91.

As many as 19,000 pilots and other personnel are believed to have participated in the so-called “Tuskegee Experience,” which trained African-American men and women for military service from 1941 to 1949 at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Though the exact number of Tuskegee Airmen—as those in the program were dubbed—is unknown, members of the pioneering group took part in a total of some 15,000 combat missions, earning more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, while combating racism and prejudice at home and abroad.

The fighter groups most closely associated with the Tuskegee Airmen, especially the 99th and the 332nd, are considered among the most proficient Army Air Corps squadrons to have served in World War II. Among the most famous Airmen was Benjamin O. Davis Jr., one of the original 13 Tuskegee cadets, who would become the Air Force’s first black general.




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