Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr., Tuskegee Airman, and a Tribute to His Colleagues

By Timothy P. Wood, EAA 188045

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is always quite memorable for me. My son and I have flown my restored Taylorcraft three years to join the fun, but we outgrew the bird. It had to be sold, but has a great new caretaker.

For years, two Rolleicord Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) film cameras have been used, one of which is a true WWII veteran (liberated by Dad), along with a 35 mm film camera, and a pocket digital (last resort for the “quick “shots). My father was a proud veteran of the 26th Infantry, better known as the “Yankee Division,” hence the WWII appeal.

Our first stop after breakfast is the warbird flight line, where many exceptionally restored types come to roost. Supper at a local establishment had a PA call for anyone who knew about the warbirds area to meet with a new arrival with limited event time.

I volunteered and met Mamie Silverton from the New York City area. She is involved with helping inner city youth experience aviation and the STEM program. Her interest was with Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr. who was at AirVenture to sign his book, Soaring to Glory, and discuss his WWII and subsequent service. I not only got his book personally signed, but a few photos too!

Sunrise had me touring the grounds starting with warbirds, heading south, with cameras ready, and opportunities abounding. Slightly after noon, the reenactors had a young man of color, Marty, appear — who had just minutes before arrived from Alabama to join their ranks to do what he could. He had to leave that same evening to return home. Bummer, no time to waste!

Uniform bits and pieces were assembled to lend credibility to his persona and he was quite anxious to participate as an RCAF pilot. Returning to the reenactors, I met Marty in full RCAF pilot kit and eager to join the fun. He was uncertain what to do, so I suggested a quick photo tour of the RCAF and Tuskegee aircraft for photo ops while waning light allowed.

We both laughed out loud as he jogged with his equipment and me with cameras toward the warbirds. I captured his images with the RCAF trainers through advanced aircraft, and, for a finale, we did the Tuskegee Airmen P-51 Mustang.

Online research has no reference to pilots of color having flown for the RCAF during WWII, though a Maj. Stephan Blizzard flew for them post-WWII — perhaps during the Korean War or shortly thereafter.

Lt. Col. Stewart has a significant book, and was very patient with my photo shoot at his booth. Soaring to Glory is a great read and is a permanent part of my aviation library.

God bless the USA and EAA.

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