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Robert Friend, Tuskegee Airman who flew 142 World War II combat missions, dies at 99

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Lt. Col. Bob Friend, one of the last original members of the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen, and actree Pauley Perrette stand onstage during the 2nd Annual Heroes Helping Heroes Benefit Concert at the House of Blues in Los Angeles in 2013.
(Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP, File)

World War II pilot Robert Friend, one of the last original members of the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen, has died at the age of 99.

Friend’s daughter, Karen Friend Crumlich, told the Desert Sun her father died Friday at a Southern California hospital.

Born in South Carolina on 1920′s Leap Day, Friend flew 142 combat missions in World War II as part of the elite group of fighter pilots trained at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute. The program was created after the NAACP began challenging policies barring black people from flying military aircraft.

Friend’s 28-year Air Force career included service in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He also worked on space launch vehicles and served as foreign technology program director before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and forming his own aerospace company.

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