Former member of Tuskegee Airmen to speak at Penn College

A member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the popular name for a group of African-American military pilots who served during World War II, will share his experiences during a free lecture this month at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Eugene Richardson, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., will speak at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium. The public is welcome.

Driven by a pure interest to fly, Richardson decided when he was 17 to join the Army Air Corps and become a pilot. He was sent to Keesler Field in Mississippi a year later for three months of basic training, and, from there, went on to a 40-week stint at Tuskegee Army Air Field – the only source of black military pilots in World War II.

After Tuskegee, he went to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for gunnery school and then to Walterboro, South Carolina, for combat training. At Walterboro, Richardson learned to fly P-40 and P-47 aircraft.

While he and 37 others finished their flight training in March 1945, the war ended in the European Theater just two months later. The airmen never saw any combat – and Richardson is not sorry about that.

“I didn’t want to go kill anybody or get killed,” he recalls. “I just wanted to fly.” Of the 38 pilots in his class, 23 (including Richardson) graduated as fighter pilots and 15 as B-25 bomber pilots. His most memorable experiences as a pilot were his first solo flight, the first formation flight and the completion of his first simulated combat mission.

Discharged in July 1946, Robinson returned to Philadelphia and finished his high school education at then-Temple High School. He completed his undergraduate work at Temple University and earned a master’s degree and doctorate in education from Penn State.

Retired from a successful career in the Philadelphia School System, Richardson resides in the West Mount Airy section of Philadelphia and regularly relates the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to schoolchildren in the United States and Canada.