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American Veteran: This Black World War II aviator first experienced racial integration in a POW camp

 Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Harold Brown, member of World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen, U.S. Air Force.
Ronan Killeen
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Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Harold Brown, member of World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen, U.S. Air Force.

When he was 11 years old, Harold Brown decided he wanted to be a pilot. He flew 30 missions during World War II as one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black aviators in the U.S. Military.

To commemorate Veterans Day, the American Homefront Project collaborated with the PBS documentary series American Veteran and the companion podcast, American Veteran: Unforgettable Stories, to profile men and women who have served in the U.S military.

Harold Brown made up his mind at age 11 that he wanted to become a pilot. He flew 30 missions during World War II as one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black aviators in the U.S. military.

His unit, the 99th Fighter Squadron, flew P-51 Mustangs to protect bombers on raids over Germany. “They nicknamed us the ‘Red Tail Angels’ because we never went off and left them,” he recalled.

During a mission targeting German trains, Brown's plane went down. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war until his camp was liberated by General George Patton in the spring of 1945.

An earlier version of this story included an incorrect date for the liberation of Harold Brown's POW camp. It was 1945, not 1944.

Harold Brown was recorded by Insignia Films for GBH Boston. For more on American Veteran, visit pbs.org/americanveteran.

This excerpt was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Elizabeth Friend