Tuskegee Airmen to visit campus for Veterans Day ceremonies

Author: William G. Gilroy


The University of Notre Dames Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC units will hold a series of ceremonies Thursday and Friday (Nov. 10 and 11) to mark Veterans Day.

Three former Tuskegee AirmenU. S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lucius Theus and Lt. Cols. Alexander Jefferson and Washington Rosswill speak at3 p.m.Friday in the Hesburgh Librarys Carey Auditorium.

The ROTC units will hold a silent 24-hour vigil at the Clarke Memorial Peace Fountain on campus beginning at4 p.m.Thursday.

The annual Veterans Day Retreat Ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. Friday adjacent to the Clarke Memorial. Marine Corps Maj. Jason Frei will be the guest speaker and Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of Notre Dame, will deliver the invocation. The Tuskegee Airmen also will participate in the Retreat Ceremony, as will U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, R-Ind.

Area veterans and the general public are welcome to attend all ceremonies.

The name Tuskegee Airmen refers to those involved in the so-calledTuskegee Experiment,the Army Air Corps World War II program to train African-Americans to fly and man combat aircraft. The airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II. They never lost a bomber to enemy fighters while serving as an escort fighter wing during the war and their achievements paved the way for full integration of theU.S.military.

Theus was on active military duty for more than 36 years and moved through the ranks from a private in the Army Air Corps to become the commanding general of the Air Force Accounting andFinanceCenter. He was the first African-American to be promoted to general and currently is the principal director and chief operating officer of the Wellness Group.

Jefferson flew in bothFranceandItalyduring World War II, completing 18 long-range escort missions for B-17 and B-24 bombers, before being shot down three days before the invasion ofFrance. He spent nine months in German POW camps before being liberated by American forces. Following the war, he became an elementary school teacher inDetroitand retired from education as an assistant principal.

Ross flew 63 sorties and missions during the war and served in the U. S. Air Force Reserves for 25 years. In his civilian life, he was a teacher and department head with the Detroit Board of Education for 25 years.

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