Escorted pilot tells how Tuskegee Airmen “Rise Above” Featured

First Lieutenant Clyde Gilbert and Dr. Harold Brown.

The CAF Red Tail Squadron “Rise Above” Traveling Exhibit was at the Liberty Aviation Museum May 15-17. The exhibit offered a great opportunity to educate the young and the seasoned about the Tuskegee Airmen. It serves as not only an education tool, but as a venue for veterans to meet and share stories about their military service.

B-24 pilot Melvin Shafer of the 15th Air Force was at the exhibit on Saturday. Shafer served three years in the Air Force and currently resides in Fremont. “I was escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen on many occasions; they would always be right there where you could see them.”

Shafer was in Italy and would go through Hungry and Austria and took comfort in being escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen. He said that other escort squadrons would stay far ahead when the Tuskegee Airmen would hang close.

Another veteran, Clyde Gilbert, an F-86 pilot, was also at the exhibit on Saturday. “I’m so glad I came today; my heart’s been beating heavy since I walked through the door,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert was a junior at Bowling Green State University when he got accepted into the pilot program. He applied because he knew the draft was coming. His number was pulled for the draft two days after he was accepted into the program. Gilbert was sent to Korea for nine months where he completed 100 combat missions. After that time, he was sent to Las Vegas, where he became a pilot instructor.

During his time as an instructor, Gilbert had the pleasure of training Benjamin O. Davis Jr., who became the first African American Air Force General and Commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. Gilbert said that he trained Davis for three months in Las Vegas.

Gilbert and Tuskegee Airmen Dr. Harold Brown were happy to meet. “There were 450 of us fighting and less than 30 of us are left,” said Dr. Brown. “We don’t get to meet many other people.”

Dr. Brown not only got to meet veterans, but got to meet area school children at the exhibit. On Wednesday Put-in-Bay and Danbury schools attended the exhibit. On Thursday Hancock Elementary and Oak Harbor students attended and on Friday Bataan Elementary visited. Dr. Brown made paper airplanes and talked with the students.

“We want to motivate and inspire the children to succeed and stay in school,” said Dr. Brown.

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