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William Colbert - Black History Month, 2004

William Colbert - Black History Month, 2004 Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


This photograph depicts William Colbert speaking at the Fulton Myers Post #153, American Legion. This was on February 28, 2004 during a Black History Month program being held at the Post.

In 1943, during World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and went on to receive his basic training in Mississippi. William Colbert later achieved the rank of Flight Officer at the Tuskegee Army Air Field. This airfield was located on the grounds of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and was the training ground and home of the famous Tuskegee Airmen. Though alerted for overseas duty on two occasions, the war ended prior to his deployment.

Colbert states that although his World War II military experience was generally positive, there were several examples of racism. Most notable among these was a 1945 incident at Freeman Field in Indiana when over 101 Tuskegee Airmen were arrested for trying to enter the Officers Club which had a ban on black officers. It would not be until 1995 that any reprimands or court-martials resulting from these arrests were removed from the Tuskegee Airmen records.

Colbert states that "all my life I wanted to fly", and that the white, and particularly the black flight instructors who had served as combat pilots overseas, at Tuskegee were tough. After a training mission in which his black instructor serving as an enemy pilot "shot him down", Colbert was told that he was "flying with my head up my butt". Prior to his enlistment, Colbert was an enrollee in the Civilian Conservation Corps and also worked in the Baltimore Shipyards.

On Friday, May 15, 2015 Flight Officer William Augustus Colbert, Jr. was presented the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal by United States Senator Benjamin L. Cardin at ceremonies conducted in Cumberland, Maryland.

Mr. Colbert was born in 1920 and passed away on June 1, 2015. His obituary can be seen elsewhere on this website.


Information from Allegany County Veterans of World War II - Through Their Service and an article appearing in the Cumberland Times-News, March 20, 2004


Collection Location:
Allegany County, Maryland

African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.

Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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