Photography by Ian L. Sitren

Tuskegee Airmen Heroes Of WWII

Off in the distance you see them, a P-40 Warhawk and a P-51 Mustang closing fast. No, not an old photo I found, but this last Saturday in the sky at the Palm Springs Air Museum.

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P-40 Warhawk and P-51 Mustang

A celebration of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II and the 96th birthday of Lt. Col. Bob Friend, the oldest living Tuskegee pilot, having flown 140 combat missions over Europe. This is the Colonel sharing his times with some of the many visitors to the Air Museum. Tom Nightingale, the pilot flying the P-40 and often flying partner with the Colonel says that he remembers names and times and places of almost every photo that people can bring up to him. And that the Colonel can go hours on end, over and over talking to people, doing photographs and signing autographs.

Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Bob Friend

Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Bob Friend on his 96th birthday

The P-51 here is an airplane that has been restored in commemoration to the Colonel’s P-51, nicknamed “Bunny”, that he flew over Europe during the war. But this Saturday “Bunny” had another very special guest, Tuskegee Airman Rusty Burns! At 90 years old I can personally say this man got in and out of that airplane like a 25 year old. Even after a number of high speed passes down the runway, he was all smiles as he left the airplane off the front of the wing, not the closer to the ground back of the wing. Just like he said he always did!

Tuskegee Airman Rusty Burns

Tuskegee Airman Rusty Burns getting ready to fly in the P-51 “Bunny”

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