The histories of Haiti and the United States have been linked for more than 500 years, even before each nation existed in its current form. One of the most fascinating links is the military training that Haitians received at the Tuskegee Army Air Field during World War II. Beginning in February 1943 until the following year, Haitian military officers were selected for special service, training alongside their American counterparts for pilot missions. The first group were Raymond Cassagnol, Alix Pasquet, and Philippe Célestin, eventually followed by three more, Eberle J. Guilbaud, Nicolas C. Pelissier, and Ludovic F. Audant. This profile explores the path that lead Ludovic F. Audant from Jérémie to Tuskegee.
Born October 12, 1911 in Jérémie, his father was General Chenier Audant and his mother was Marguerite Lestage. From his father, Ludovic learned the value and challenges of military service. From his mother, he learned the importance of education and an appreciation of music, becoming a piano player because of her. Ludovic was only three years old when he, his seven siblings, and parents witnessed the invasion and occupation of Haiti on July 28, 1915. Because of concerns of German influence in the unstable political region, President Woodrow Wilson authorized the occupation of Haiti, which lasted until August 15, 1934. The occupation meant that Ludovic’s father was no longer a General, and his mother became responsible for earning the money to support the family, which she did primarily as a piano player. The family would eventually move to Port-au-Prince. Ludovic became a student at the Collège du Petit Séminaire St-Martial and helped support the family by playing piano at the Ciné Varietes, accompanying the silent films that played with music. When he had free time, Ludovic played tennis.
After a six day journey on the SS Colombia, on May 10, 1937, Ludovic arrived in New York. The reason for his travel was that he had been accepted as a student at the Brooklyn Floyd Bennet Field, earning his private pilot’s license during 1939 which had been his dream and for which he helped pay for by working at local fast food restaurants peeling potatoes. Ludovic also utilized the skills his mother taught him and played jazz piano at Harlem and Brooklyn nightclubs.
Both to aid its relationship and the stabilization of Haiti, and because of its need for good, trained pilots, the United States Army Air Force began running notices in Haitian newspapers looking to recruit 40 pilots for the Tuskegee Army Air Field training program. The U.S. had established the Aviation Corps of the Haitian Guard with that goal in mind. Wishing to be a combat pilot and to serve, Ludovic returned to Haiti with the hopes of joining the Haitian military and then becoming part of the Aviation Corp. December 31, 1941, Ludovic and other Haitian officers arrived in the United States to become aviation mechanic students at the Newark, New Jersey Casey Jones School of Aeronautics. On February 15, 1942, while a student at the Casey School, Ludovic registered for service with the United States military. He was accepted to the Tuskegee training program, graduating on February 8, 1944, with class 44-B-SE.
After earning his military wings, 2nd Lt. Audant returned to Haiti and given patrol service, flying on the Haitian coats. He also helped train new pilots for the Aviation Corps. During this service, instrument failure on an airplane he was flying caused Ludovic to crash into a Léogane mountain. Luckily, he survived, but had a scar that lasted his entire life because of it.
After the war, now Lt. Audant continued to serve as an Aviation Corps pilot. He met Mireille Dévieux and the couple was married May 28, 1955. They had two children, Richard and Pierre.
While serving under what scholars call the totalitarian presidency of François Duvalier’s (President from 1957 to 1971), Lt. Audant was ordered to use his airplane guns on an area which had civilians. Refusing to obey the order, he fired his guns into the sea, returning from the mission without committing what he considered to be a war crime. He retired from service because of these kinds of events during the early 1960s. Future work included being a radio operator for Pan American Airways, an air traffic controller, and the administrator of a social and sports club.
Ludovic Audant passed away September 23, 1974 at the age of 62. He did not live long enough to receive honors and recognition that all Tuskegee pilots who served deserve. However, he has an undeniably unique place in American and Haitian history, and his years of service, along with his acts of conscience and compassion, continue to inspire new generations.
This profile would not have been possible without the work of our volunteer Nicholas Tenuta and Giles Hudicourt who wrote about Ludovi Audant in the Genèse, journal virtuel de l’Association de Généalogie d’Haïti. Many of the details provided here are from that work.
- Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1957. Provo, Utah.
- Hudicourt, Giles. Genèse, journal virtuel de l’Association de Généalogie d’Haïti
- L’Union Suite.
- The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New Jersey, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 20
- National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Miami, Florida, 1930-1942