By Breanna Edwards, The Root
Two members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the renowned all-black group of military pilots who fought bravely in World War II, passed away the same day, both at the age of 91, the Associated Press reports. Clarence E. Huntley Jr. and Joseph Shambrey, longtime friends who had enlisted in the legendary group together, died Jan. 5 in their Los Angeles homes, relatives confirmed earlier this week.
The two friends enlisted in 1942, serving as mechanics who kept the combat planes up and running, AP notes. They were deployed to Italy in 1944 with the 100th Fighter Squadron.
According to AP, Huntley serviced P-39, P-47 and P-51 planes and was also the crew chief who was in charge of squadron commander Capt. Andrew D. Turner’s aircraft.
“The life of his pilot was in his hands, and he took that very seriously,” his nephew, Craig Huntley, told AP.
Shambrey’s son, Tim Shambrey, recalled the racism his father faced, even after serving his country the way he did. He said that his father had told him about getting off a train in Alabama and seeing a hospitality station welcoming returning white soldiers, giving them handshakes and free coffee.
“When he and his buddies came off, dressed in their uniforms, of course they didn’t get any congratulations,” Shambrey told AP. The airmen were even asked to pay for their own coffee.
Shambrey’s father didn’t make a fuss, though, his son remembered. “The thing about those men is that they were very proud,” he said. “They were already used to so much discrimination.”