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WWII Tuskegee Airman Colonel Charles McGee Packs Them in at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor

Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and 400 guests paid tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen and the vital role they played during World War II with a special “WWII Tuskegee Airman Hangar Talk” by decorated WWII Tuskegee Airman Pilot Colonel Charles McGee. The event commemorated African American History Month.

Colonel McGee fought in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and holds a record for one of the highest three-war total of fighter combat missions of any pilot in United States Air Force history. Colonel McGee began his military service as one of the Tuskegee Airmen in the 332nd Fighter Group. The Tuskegee Airmen were pioneers who fought racial prejudices to fly and fight for their country during WWII. His career in the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force spanned 30 years and three wars, where he flew 409 aerial combat missions. During his military career, Colonel McGee was awarded the Legion of Merit with Cluster, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star and the Air Medal (25 times).

Also honored at the Hangar Talk was WWII Tuskegee Airman Philip Baham. Baham served as a crew chief for the 337th Composite Group at Tuskegee Army Air Field. Baham is a dedicated volunteer at Pacific Aviation Museum, sharing his story with visitors as a greeter in the lobby of Hangar 37.

The day before, on Friday, February 3, more than 250 Honolulu students in grades 6—12 were invited and attended another Museum presentation geared towards youth entitled, “In His Own Words,” presented by Colonel McGee.

“It was such an honor to have a veteran pilot of Col McGee’s stature and distinction speak with us,” said Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor Executive Director Kenneth DeHoff.

Prior to 1940, African Americans were prohibited from flying for the U.S. military. Even in light of extreme racism, African Americans fought to defend their country, which led to the formation of an all African-American pursuit squadron based in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941. They became known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of WWII. Their dedication to defending the freedom of all Americans and their acts of heroism paved the way for full integration of the U.S. military. Tuskegee Airmen completed more than 1,500 missions.

Commentary – Serious Roadway Safety Issues on Highway 11

There are serious roadway safety issues on Highway 11 between Kuakini Highway/Queen Kaahumanu Highway Extension intersection and Hawaii Ocean View Estates. First and foremost, the asphalt pavement is in dire need of being resurfaced for most of this highway. Both the HDOT and Hawaii County are responsible for maintenance, which they’ve done a poor job over the years.

The poor condition of the pavement of pales in comparison to a much larger issue though. There is serious roadway design deficiencies on the Highway 11 between Captain Cook and Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. These design deficiencies are amplified by a serious speeding issue  that has resulted in many car accidents and fatalities.

I believe HDOT, and to a lesser degree Hawaii County, need to take action to improve Highway 11. Firstly, both departments need to evaluate the condition of the asphalt pavement, and formulate a multi-year plan to resurface this highway. The HDOT also should evaluate what safety improvements are possible between Captain Cook and Hawaii Ocean View Estates.

There is a lot of sharp turns in between Ho’okena and Miloli’i, a distance of 15 miles, that will require the reconstruction of this segment of Highway 11.  These safety improvements should include an expanded shoulder pull off areas. This will aid the police in enforcing the speed limit, especially since there is a lot of people who drive
like they’re on the Indy 500.

There is a underlying issue to the chronic speeding though. These scofflaws are stuck are in traffic between Henry Street and Kamehameha III Road, so they speed to get home quicker. This why these safety improvements won’t be complete unless the widening of Queen Kaahumanu Highway Extension/Kuakini Highway proceeds.

These safety improvements won’t come cheap. This is why the legislature needs to allocate enough funding to the HDOT, so they can maintain their existing inventory of roads and add capacity.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona