The death of Willie N. Rogers, one of the oldest surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, severs another historical connection to the Second World War.
Rogers, 101, died from complications of a stroke. A long-time St. Petersburg, Fla., resident, he was a member of the original 100th Fighter Squadron formed during the war.
He was shot in the leg and stomach by German soldiers during a 1943 mission to Italy, spending three months in a hospital before returning to duty.
The squadron’s 300 surviving members were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, presented by President George W. Bush in 2007 at the White House. But Rogers was not among them. His family wasn’t aware that he was in the squadron, the first African-American military aviation unit in U.S. military history.
He didn’t disclose his participation in the unit until 2012, partly because his role was in administration and logistics and not in the sky as a pilot, said family members, Stars and Stripes reported.
He would always say there were many others who deserved attention more than him but they weren’t here to receive it, said one of Rogers’ daughters, Veronica Williams.
After Rogers had disclosed his service record, his family lobbied for him to receive recognition. He received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2013. In addition, he was also given the keys to the cities of St. Petersburg and Lakeland. His portraiture is in the St. Petersburg Museum of History.