Charles Bailey; a Tuskegee Airman in World War II
Charles Bailey, 82, who helped break racial barriers as one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Bailey was one of the 1,000 members of the highly decorated all-black squadron of the Army Air Corps. The first black pilots to break racial barriers and fly in combat, the Tuskegee Airmen escorted U.S. bombers on missions during World War II and never lost a single plane. Bailey found the route to his dream of becoming a pilot while a student at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla., where college founder Mary McLeod Bethune arranged his transfer to the training center at the Army air base at Tuskegee, Ala. He flew 133 missions over Europe and North Africa, and received an Air Medal and a Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, Bailey worked as an educator and undertaker. A victim of Alzheimer’s disease, he was missing for a few days last year when he wandered from his home. Searchers called his name in the nearby woods but got a response only when one of them shouted, “Do you know anything about the Tuskegee Airmen?” Bailey, dehydrated and hungry but otherwise all right, replied, “Yes.” On Monday in Deland, Fla.