On August 23, 1944, while escorting B-17s over Czechoslovakia, Mr. McGee, then a captain, broke away to engage a Luftwaffe squadron and, after a fierce fight, shot down a Focke -Wulf Fw 190. On the front of the fuselage of his P-51, his wife’s nickname, “Kitten”, had been inscribed.
When not escorting bombers, Captain McGee’s party flew targeted missions of opportunity, bombing and strafing enemy airfields, rail yards, factories and other installations. Of the 992 black pilots trained at Tuskegee during the war, 355 were deployed overseas, 84 were killed in action, a dozen died in training and non-combat missions, and 32 were taken prisoner after being shot.
The Tuskegee Airmen’s bomber protection record was excellent, losing only 27 bombers on seven of its 179 escort missions, compared to an average of 46 bomber losses among all other P-51 escort groups in the 15th Air Force. Tuskegee airmen also destroyed 112 enemy aircraft in the air and 150 on the ground, along with 600 railcars, 350 trucks and other vehicles, and 40 boats and barges.
Captain McGee flew more than 130 combat missions during World War II and returned to the United States in December 1944 to become an instructor for another Tuskegee Airmen unit, the 477th Bomb Group, flying B-25 Mitchell bombers off American bases. This group never entered the war. Mr. McGee served at Tuskegee Field until 1946, when the base was closed.
He decided to stay in the Air Force. President Harry S. Truman officially ended segregation in the armed forces in 1948. The order barely ended discrimination in the services, but the captain loved to fly and saw his best opportunities for the future in as a career officer in the age of jet aircraft.
At Lockbourne Air Field in Ohio, he became an operations and training officer, flying Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star and Northrop F-89 Scorpion fighter jets. While the F-80s saw much combat in the Korean War, Captain McGee flew his 100 combat missions during the Korean War in P-51s. He was promoted to major.
As a lieutenant colonel during the Vietnam War, he flew 172 combat missions in a McDonnell RF-4 photo reconnaissance aircraft and commanded the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, near Saigon.