Class 45-E-SE 8/4/1945 Flt. Officer T70223 Detroit, MI
Unit: 302nd Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group
Pilot roster listing
Based on an interview with Mr. Fuller Oct. 22, 2012
William Fuller was born in Detroit in 1924, he registered for draft at age 18 and received induction papers but in the meantime had heard of Tuskegee program so took a special intelligence test and got a high grade. When he was drafted, he took those test results to the draft board. He was told by draft board that the Army Air Corps could have him.
He was sent to basic training at Keesler Air Field in Mississippi. It was his first exposure to the segregationist policies of the Army. When a superior officer called him “boy,” Mr. Fuller took exception and as a result spent the first ten days there washing pots and pans for 10 hours/day as punishment.
Fuller moved on to train at Tuskegee. It was his first time close to an airplane. After graduation, he was assigned to the 332nd at Ramitelli Air Base in Italy where he flew fighters. When the P-51 Mustangs were delivered, all pilots and crew members had to learn about them in the field – there was no formal classroom training. The pilots had to pass the “blindfold” test – they were blindfolded in the cockpit and had to point to the different gauges when asked about their positions. Knowing where those gauges were had to become second nature.
Post war and career:
Mr. Fuller attended Wayne State University. After the war, he went to work for Chrysler Corporation and held a management position in the training department. One of his jobs there was to work with disadvantaged kids, to prepare them for life in the working world. His team would start at the beginning – helping the kids choose the clothes to wear the following day, how to work an alarm clock, how to be on time, etc. Many of these young people ended up working at Chrysler but some did not meet the standards so Chrysler helped to place them outside of the company.
Mr. Fuller said, “The days of the desirable unskilled jobs are gone. The corporate job training programs are pretty much gone, too. A solid education is key to success now, along with good work habits. Work habits are something you have to learn. Only some of the Tuskegee Airmen had exposure to airplanes before coming to train at Tuskegee. The rest of us had to learn everything there was to know about airplanes and develop the discipline to fly them or we would wash out. I appreciate what the CAF Red Tail Squadron is doing with our story – helping today’s youth see that it is possible to meet challenges head on and by working through them and never giving up, move forward toward a goal.”
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to educating audiences across the country about the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots and their support personnel. Learn more at www.redtail.org.