A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Tuskegee Airman provides firsthand narrative at Boone County Public Library Burlington branch

Hear the firsthand narrative of Tuskegee Airman Les Edwards and learn more about the history of the Airmen from James Shaw, Retired Master Sergeant and President of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Edwards (provided photos)

Edwards and Shaw will be at the Boone County Public Library Main branch, Thursday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m.

The Tuskegee airmen were the first black servicemen to serve as military pilots in the U.S. armed forces, flying with distinction during World War II. Despite facing racial discrimination both at home and abroad, the all-black units would be credited with some 15,500 combat sorties and earned over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses for their achievements.

Edwards was born on August 9, 1924 in Memphis, Tennessee.

His father died when he was 5 years old. In order to provide for his family, most of Mr. Edwards’ life was characterized by hard work.

Edwards was a high school dropout when he entered the military during World War II. When he took a battery of tests he felt “opportunity knock.”

He scored well enough to be assigned to engine mechanic’s school at Sheppard Field Training School in Texas and later attended additional training at Selfridge, Michigan.

He was then assigned to the 617th Bombardment Group Flight Squadron “A”, Godman Field, Kentucky. He became a Staff Sergeant and Flight Chief and his unit had one of the best safety records in the military where his planes were always mission ready.

He was a part of a team hand-picked by Benjamin O. Davis Jr. to go to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to maintain planes that would be used in night flight operations to train navigators. His unit was scheduled to be shipped to the Pacific operation instead his unit was relocated from Godman Field to Freeman Field at Seymour, Indiana. It was there he witnessed the so-called “Mutiny at Freeman Field” in April 9, 1945.

After the military, he continued his education earning a Bachelors Degree in Commerce at Salmon Chase College. He worked many years at Kahn’s Meat Producer’s and later in his career became a Federal Government meat inspector for about 3 years in Dayton, Ohio.  He returned to Cincinnati as an Ohio State Meat Supervisor and is credited with helping to improve the quality of the meat packing business in the State of Ohio.

During his 30-year career, Shaw performed myriad duties, including as Superintendent of Aircraft Maintenance, where he managed a force of 400 in 18 different Air Force Specialties.

The Boone County Public Library Main branch is located at 1786 Burlington Pike, Burlington. For more information, call 859-342-BOOK (2665) or click here. https://www.bcpl.org/

Greater Cincinnati Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

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