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800-564-1856 419-624-1856
Meet Colonel Harold Brown, a resident of Port Clinton,
Ohio—a man who knew in the 6th grade that he would
be a pilot. He is an accomplished man who grew up in an
era when African Americans were severely marginalized.
Despite this fact, he said: “I was certain that all of the
obstacles would be resolved by the time I fnished high
school and I would be selected for fight training.”
After graduating from high school, he applied for military
fight training. He passed the mental exam but funked
the physical because he needed to weigh no less than
128.5 lb for his height. He weighed 128.25. To gain
weight, the doctor told him to drink an ice cream malt
with an egg in it, morning and night before the retest.
“And don’t have a BM,” Brown was told by the doctor. He
weighed-in at 128.75! Four months later, in December of
1942, he reported to Tuskegee Institute for fight training.
Brown successfully completed his training and graduated
on May 23, 1944, receiving his wings and commission as
a 2nd Lieutenant, at 19 years of age.
After graduation, Brown was off to fghter training for
about 90 days, then overseas to join the 332nd Fighter
Group stationed in Ramitelli, Italy. Their job was to
protect bombers on their missions. The Tuskegee Airmen
were extremely successful. “Initially the bombers didn’t
know who was fying
The Red Tails
” (a nickname for
the planes fown by the Tuskegee Airmen). In time,
the bomber pilots were saying things like: “Man, these
guys stick with us, they don’t leave us, they pick up
stragglers, fnd them, and bring them home.” When they
learned who we were, most of the bombers pilots were
happy, but there were a few who would still rather take
their chances than have us. But it was overwhelmingly
Retired Colonel Harold Brown
89 years old, Tuskegee Airman
the other way. They started calling us the
Red Tailed
, because we lost so few bombers.”
On his 12th mission, December 9, 1944, Lt. Brown’s
plane was hit by enemy ground fre; however, he
made it into friendly territory. He blames this on the
“exuberance of youth.” He and his wingman chased
a German ME 262 twin-engine jet. “We should have
broken it off and we didn’t. So the enemy led us over
enemy positions and we got caught in heavy ground
fre.” After reaching friendly territory, Brown experienced
fuel exhaustion. “I began looking for a place to crash
land when I spotted an abandoned air strip.” The plane
was heavily damaged, but he walked away from it.
Brown said, “There is an old saying, ‘Any landing you
can walk away from is a good landing.’” Six days later
he made it back to base.
On his 30th mission—a strafng mission—he was
shot down and captured. His story of capture is a
saga in itself. You can hear it at our website at www. Click the link that says POW
Capture. At age 20 he was a prisoner of war and held
at a POW camp south of Nuremberg. It was here that
he saw a fellow airman, Lincoln Hudson, who had
been beaten almost beyond recognition. During his
two months of imprisonment, Brown, himself, was not
tortured or beaten. His story of imprisonment can also
be heard at our website; click on the link that says
The Americans were advancing and the Germans
decided to evacuate the 10,000 prisoners to Stalag Luft
VII-A at Moosburg (about 30 kilometers north of Munich,
Germany.) The trip would take about 10-12 days and
they were bunched into groups of 200. The prisoners
arrived in Moosburg. In the distance Brown and the
others could hear General George Patton and his tanks
advancing. On April 29, 1945, Patton arrived at the
prison camp. The Germans had pulled out a couple
of hours earlier. Brown said, “There was much hollering
and screaming by the 25,000 prisoners who knew
the war was over for us and we would soon be on our
way home!”
By Marsha Bordman