Local veteran among the Tuskegee Airmen to be celebrated at a special trophy unveiling in Detroit
6:55 PM, Nov 11, 2013
8:00 PM, Nov 11, 2013
The Detroit Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen is celebrating its own "Top Gun" on Tuesday.
Lt. Col Harry Stewart and two other Tuskegee Airmen won the first U.S. Air Force fighter gunnery competition back in 1949.
They were pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group and their victory gave them recognition as the top pilots in the Air Force.
"A warm feeling of justification finally arrived. The world .. the country recognizing that African-Americans can perform just as well as anyone else," says Stewart.
Despite winning the competition, Stewart had to fight to be recognized because he later found out they were never officially listed as the winner in the Air Force Almanac.
"It wasn't until many years later the question was brought up .. where is this trophy? The Air Force claimed that the trophy was lost ..that we did not know who the winners were. There was a suspicion on the part then of a number of people that maybe this could have been done on purpose or it could have been a conscious omission," says Stewart.
He is now 89 years-old and lives in Bloomfield Hills, but Stewart joined the Air Force when he was 18.
The Tuskegee Airmen was made of dedicated, determined young black men who enlisted to become part of American's first black military aviation units.
The pilots and their crews gained recognition for their outstanding record of military service during World War II.
The trophy was found in 2004 after a historian searched and discovered it was in a warehouse at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH. The original trophy remains at a museum in Dayton, but a replica trophy will be unveiled in Detroit on Tuesday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American history.
That replica trophy will ultimately be on display at the Tuskegee Airmen Museum at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit. Tours are available by appointment.
Tuesday's unveiling event starts at 5:30 pm with cocktails and a strolling dinner in the Rotunda where you can meet the Airmen. Lt. Col (Ret.) Harry T. Stewart will be the guest speaker.