An American hero was denigrated Wednesday as a “political prop” by one co-host on “The View” who objected to the fact that President Donald Trump honored retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, during the State of the Union address Tuesday night.
“I saw reality TV being produced, and I don’t think that’s the place for the State of the Union, and I saw him touting his accomplishments with the black community, and I was offended by the fact that he was trying to use a Tuskegee Airman as a prop, as a political prop,” co-host Sunny Hostin said.
During Trump’s speech, he singled out McGee for praise. McGee then saluted America’s commander in chief.
Hostin claimed that despite Trump noting the fact that black unemployment has reached unprecedented lows, Trump has failed black America.
“I didn’t like it, and I think, when you think about this administration and what it has allegedly done for the black community, you have to think that — and the federal judges that he has appointed, they’ve been 90 percent white,” she said. “He has gutted the civil rights division at the Department of Justice. He has gutted the EPA agency, which has protected black communities from plagues like Flint, Michigan.
“So don’t tell me what you’ve done for the black community because you haven’t done anything for the black community.”
According to the National WWII Museum, the man Hostin described as a “prop” had been an Eagle Scout and engineering student at the University of Illinois before enlisting in 1942. After graduating from the Tuskegee program, “McGee was assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group in February 1944 with the 301st Fighter Squadron escorting heavy bombers of the 15th Air Force over targets in occupied Europe. By the time McGee returned to the United States following the completion of his tour of duty, he had flown 137 combat missions.”
In comments written for the Smithsonian National Air Space Museum, where he was honored, McGee said, “The Tuskegee Airmen, along with millions of other Americans, fought heroically to defeat Hitler’s Germany. But the Airmen really fought two wars — one against the Nazis overseas, the other against segregation in the Armed Services as well as in everyday life.”
He said prejudice in the time of World War II was such that “the idea of an all African American flight squadron was radical and offensive to many. The prevailing opinion was that blacks did not possess the intelligence or courage to be military pilots.”
The unit painted its P-51 Mustangs with distinctive colors, and its pilots were known — and feared — as the “Red Tails,” McGee wrote.
“The ‘Red Tails’ were so successful, in fact, that many refused to believe we were African American. In over 15,000 combat missions, 66 Tuskegee Airmen died in combat; 32 became POWs. They also earned hundreds of awards including 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 8 Purple Hearts, and 14 Bronze Stars,” he wrote.
McGee had a message for the future.
“I am pleased that America has put segregation and other forms of racial discrimination behind us,” he said. “But I am bothered that so few young people understand World War II history, including the unique contribution of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“It’s important for our young people to not only know where our country is going, but also where it’s been. And, in the case of the Tuskegee Airmen, their hope of being allowed to fly and fight for their country, their goal of training to be the best fighter pilots while overcoming unbelievable odds, and their example still ring true today.
“I am often asked why the Tuskegee Airmen were so successful in combat. I would say it was because of our courage and perseverance. We dreamed of being pilots as boys but were told it was not possible. Through faith and determination we overcame enormous obstacles. This is a lesson that all young people need to hear.”
Congratulations Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee on your promotion to Brigadier General. https://t.co/v9JGRDrxVM
— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) February 5, 2020
“At first I would say ‘wow,’ but looking back, it would have been nice to have had that during active duty, but it didn’t happen that way,” McGee said. “But still, the recognition of what was accomplished, certainly, I am pleased and proud to receive that recognition and hopefully it will help me carry on as we try to motivate our youth in aviation and space career opportunities.”
In 2007, McGee received the Congressional Gold Medal. In 2011, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
“Charles McGee is a genuine American hero whose courage in combat helped save a nation, and whose legacy is felt to this day across the entire U.S. Air Force,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “It was an honor to witness his promotion and to thank him yet again for paving the way for today’s Air Force. The Tuskegee Airmen continue to inspire generations of Americans.”
McGee offered a message to future generations.
“I’d like to pass on what I call my four P’s — perceive, prepare, perform, persevere — dream your dreams but get the good education to accomplish the desires and needs of the country,” he said. “Always seek excellence and always do your best in things that you do. Finally, don’t let the negative circumstances be an excuse for not achieving.”
100-year-old Brigadier General Charles McGee, one the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, prompted laughter from the crowd after being asked about his recommendations for longevity during an @NASA ceremony honoring him earlier today pic.twitter.com/bczZHbcQDN
— Aris Folley (@ArisFolley) February 5, 2020
On Wednesday, McGee was honored by NASA as part of its Black History Month celebration.
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