One of the famed "Tuskegee Airmen," Colonel Charles E. McGee, served as a fighter pilot during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He achieved the highest three-war fighter mission total of any Air Force aviator. In 1942 and 1943, McGee attended flying training at Tuskegee Field, Alabama, and Selfridge Field, Michigan. McGee flew his first combat mission on February 14, 1944, conducting coastal and tactical patrols over Italy. He completed 136 combat missions flying the P-39Q Airacobra, P-47D Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang, escorting B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress bombers over Germany, Austria, and the Balkans; and conducting low-altitude strafing missions over enemy airfields and rail yards. The mission on August 23, 1944, stands out as a highlight of his World War II career. While escorting B-17s over Czechoslovakia, he engaged a threatening formation of German fighters and downed a Focke Wulf 190. During World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen demonstrated exceptional tenacity and courage while fighting a war against both the Axis powers in Europe and racism in the United States. In the face of discrimination and bias, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 200 bomber escort missions against some of the most heavily defended targets in the Third Reich, and they never lost a single bomber to enemy fighters. This accomplishment provided compelling evidence leading to the integration of all US armed forces and stands today as a convincing testament to their perseverance and aerial prowess. Due to discriminatory policies that still existed after World War II, McGee faced an uncertain future upon his return. He decided to try for the maintenance officer school, but in 1950, he received orders to the Philippines. With the Korean War looming, the newly formed United States Air Force had a renewed interest in pilots who had flown the Mustang, which had been redesignated as the F-51. After nearly a six-year hiatus from the cockpit, McGee jumped into the F-51 and went to Johnson Air Force Base, Japan, where he flew 100 interdiction missions. In 1967, he was ordered to Vietnam to fly reconnaissance missions in the RF-4C. After 173 missions in Vietnam, he returned stateside. He culminated his 30-year active duty career by taking command of Richards-Gebaur AFB in Belton, Missouri in1972. For his achievements in combat, Colonel Charles McGee was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal. With a motto of "do while you can", McGee's post-military career includes serving as Director of the Kansas City airport and as a member of the Aviation Advisory Commission. For over 33 years, he has been an ambassador of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. He has received numerous accolades including the National Aeronautical Associations "Elder Statesman of Aviation." He continues to "do while he can" and attends events worldwide to share his experiences and knowledge of the Tuskegee Airmen. McGee currently resides in Bethesda, Maryland, near one of his three children.
On August 23, 1944, Colonel Charles McGee spotted a formation of German fighters while escorting B-17s enroute to the target. After an intense dogfight, McGee successfully maneuvered behind the Focke Wulf 190. He fired a burst that disabled the enemy aircraft's controls, and the aircraft crashed and exploded on the airfield below.