On Monday Richard Hall, a veteran of the famed Tuskegee Airmen who went on to serve as a master chief sergeant during the Korean and Vietnam wars, died at the age of 97.
A native of Winter Park, Florida, Hall was a student at Xavier University of Louisiana when he was called to active duty in 1942, according to the U.S. Air Force.
As a member of the renowned “Red Tails” — referred thusly because of the distinctive deep red paint on the tails their aircraft — Hall was trained in munitions and aircraft maintenance and served as a mechanic at Ramitelli Airfield, Italy, with the 332nd Fighter Group during World War II.
Flying P-47s and later P-51s, the 332nd Fighter Group became a part of the 15th Air Force, escorting American heavy bombers flying missions over Italy. Between May 1943 and June 1945, Tuskegee Airmen flew an impressive 15,000 sorties. According to the National World War II Museum, of the roughly 1,000 Black pilots trained during the war, 62 died in combat — the lowest loss record of any escort fighter group.
Hall’s distinguished career spanned three decades and three wars, yet his service was often punctuated by harassment and racial discrimination.
Despite the integration of the Air Force in 1948, Hall recalled that his unit, once flying an operation from South Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico, had “to divert because they were not allowed to fly over Georgia or arm their weapons until they were across the Gulf of Mexico because they were black.”
Retiring from the Air Force in 1973, Hall was present in 2007 as the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by then-President George W. Bush for valor and flying with distinction during WWII.
In 2015 Hall was forever memorialized in his hometown of Winter Park with a statue erected in his honor outside the Hannibal Square Heritage Center.