2022 | News

Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee of Bethesda dies at age 102

He was a veteran of three wars

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Charles McGee, right, who served with the Tuskegee Airmen, is shown with his great-grandson Iain Lanphier in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4, 2020, during President Donald Trump's State of the Union address.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Charles McGee of Bethesda, one of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, has died at age 102, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III posted on Twitter.

McGee was a veteran of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

During a State of the Union address in 2020, President Donald Trump announced that McGee had been promoted to brigadier general. McGee met with Trump in the Oval Office at the White House earlier that day.

“Today, we lost an American hero …,” Austin wrote in a tweet. “While I am saddened by his loss, I’m also incredibly grateful for his sacrifice, his legacy, and his character. Rest in peace, General.”

Besides the tribute by Trump in his State of the Union address, McGee was recognized for his service in many ways in recent years, particularly as he turned 100 years old.

He flew in a private jet round-trip from Frederick Municipal Airport to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

An aviation terminal in Kansas City was named in his honor.

A line of sneakers was created to honor him, with a design meant to resemble a P-51 Mustang fighter bomber that he flew. He was part of a Super Bowl coin toss.

The Tuskegee Airmen were “the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC), a precursor of the U.S. Air Force,” according to a summary posted on the History Channel website. They flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II, the summary says

A profile of McGee posted on The National WWII Museum website says he was a pilot in the 332nd Fighter Group and was deployed to Italy in 1944.

McGee “saw action both escorting heavy bombers on missions to Europe, and engaging enemy fighter aircraft,” the profile says.

“Charles McGee ended his service to his country having flown more combat missions in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam than any other Air Force pilot,” the profile says.

President George W. Bush presented McGee and other Tuskegee Airmen the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.

In 2011, McGee was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.