Many of those who served with the Tuskegee Airmen came home with fascinating and harrowing stories to tell. War was brutal. And fighting against racial segregation and discrimination was an unjust second battle to endure. The courage it took to persevere in that one facet itself is admirable.
Maj Charles Hall, one of the American heroes, served in the war, and ended up becoming an icon. As a fighter pilot with the 99th Fighter Squadron, Hall was the first Tuskegee Airmen – and African American – to shoot down an enemy aircraft in WWII, earning the group its first aerial victory credit. The kill happened on July 2, 1943. Hall was on an escort mission of B-25 medium bombers on a raid on Castelvetrano in southwestern Sicily, Italy when he shot down the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger. He did so in a P-40.
The mission was his eighth. Hall spotted two Fw 190s encroaching on the bombers after they had dropped their payloads on the enemy airfield. He quickly maneuvered into the space between the bombers and fighters and turned inside the two Fw 190s. He fired a long burst at one of the aircraft, as it turned left. After several hits, it fell off and crashed into the ground.
The win would be the first and only aerial victory in all of 1943 for the Tuskegee Airmen. Hall would go on to down three more enemy aircraft before his time ended in World War II, an impressive record with only a few other Airmen earning four. In his military career, he flew 198 combat missions over Africa, Italy and other parts of Europe and was the first African-American to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Hall grew up in a rural town in southwestern Indiana where his family was most certainly in the population’s minority. He was one of the first of the 43 black pilots who would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen and go down in history for their ability to triumph against adversity.
After serving time in the World War II, Hall went on to attain the rank of Major in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Tinker Air Force Base from 1949 to 1967 before going on to work with the Federal Aviation Administration. As a second career, he became a successful insurance agent in Oklahoma City.
Unfortunately, Hall passed away in 1971 at the young age of 51. The Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Charles B. Hall Chapter in Oklahoma City is dedicated to his legacy and that of all the Tuskegee Airmen. Tinker Air Force Base also honors Hall with its Charles B. Hall Airpark, which is free and accessible to the general public. See it in the CAF RED Tail Squadron Virtual Museum.
We salute Maj Hall for his service to our country, his aerial prowess and the fine example he has set for generations to come. RISE ABOVE!
To learn more about the Tuskegee Airmen’s aerial victories, read “112 Victories: Aerial Victory Credits of the Tuskegee Airmen” Dr. Daniel L. Haulman of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
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.