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  The Tuskegee Airmen

Part 4

A native of Westfield, NJ, James O. Plinton has always had a love for aviation, explaining in a 1976 Ebony magazine article: "When I was at Lincoln (University), a big Saturday night would be a trip to the theater in a nearby town. As we all piled into a friend's car, most of the guys avoided the rumble seat because it was so windy back there. But I loved it, because I had brought myself' a helmet and some goggles, and I would sit back there and pretend that I was flying."

This love would aid him in receiving his commercial pilot's license and a flight instructor's rating in 1942 from the University of Newark. Right after Mr. Plinton became one of the first Black flight instructors of the 99th Pursuit Squadron during the early 1940s.

He, C. Alfred (Chief) Anderson and others, helped mold the Tuskegee Airmen into a fighting unit that performed admirably in the European theatre of the second world war. After the war he helped to re-organize ANDESA, Ecuador's national airline, and then was invited to assist Haiti in developing Haitian International Airlines. During his stay on the island in the 1950s, he established the nation's first dry cleaning plant.


Pinton was one of the first 
Tuskegee Airmen instructors
In 1957, Plinton returned to the Unites States and joined Trans World Airlines to become director of personnel and industrial relations, the first Black executive of a major U.S. airline. He was encouraged to apply to TWA through a childhood friend and TWA captain who wrote him that "race had nothing to do with it, and age is but a detail" in response to Plinton's concern about the two issues in being hired by a major airline carrier Fourteen years later, he was named a vice president and corporate officer of Eastern Airlines, the first Black in aviation history to achieve this position. A Miami resident, he later became executive director of the Metropolitan Fellowship of Churches of Southeast Florida.

Watson fought the German elite Luftwaffe in World War II.

A Howard University graduate in mechanical engineering, Mr. Watson became one of the original pilots which made up the 99th Pursuit Squadron during World War II.

A Tuskegee Airman, Watson was primary manager of flight operations for the squadron, and was one of eight P-40 fighter aircraft pilots to engage the German Air Force elite, Luftwaffe, in combat in 1943. His military aviation service spans 24 years with approximately 5,000 hours of flying time.

He held various military positions overseas and in the LTS., retiring as an Air Force Lt. Colonel in 1964. Following his military career, Mr. Watson worked for the Federal Aviation Administration in several areas, including service in the Airspace Section which relates to the control of high-speed military aircraft operating in the national airspace.

The first African American inductee as an Elder Statesman of Aviation by the National Aeronautics Association (1991), his tireless efforts to assist others in aviation has paid off in the hiring of numerous Blacks for various government and private aviation industry positions.


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