by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
2/25/2015 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Airmen, Sailors, retirees and local community members witnessed history Feb. 20, 2015, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
Two men wearing suits with faces worn by time walked out onto the stage
and sat side-by-side one another in classic red leather chairs.
As the crowd settled into their seats the two men sat quietly looking
out among the crowd of young faces they would be speaking with shortly.
"It's my honor and pleasure to introduce these two gentlemen who have
been instrumental in paving the way for African Americans serving in the
military," said Ann McGill, a WCSC Live 5 News anchor. "Today we will
hear from both retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel James III, second
generation Tuskegee Airman, and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Enoch
Woodhouse, an original Tuskegee Airman during our discussion panel.
The two Tuskegee Airmen passed the microphone back and forth
effortlessly telling their stories of struggle and triumph while serving
in the military.
"VV was a symbol all of us Tuskegee Airmen carried," said Woodhouse. "It
stood for Victory over the Nazis and Victory at home against racism."
Tuskegee Airmen served during a time when the United States was at war;
not only against other countries, but also at war against itself for
When the war had ended and troops were heading through France, a Victory
Parade to honor the men's courage and sacrifice while defeating the
Nazis Army was held.
"We weren't even allowed to march in the parade celebrating the victory
over the Nazis, even though we played a key role in the war, it was once
again our skin color that people saw, not our sacrifices," said
Woodhouse brought up more stories of how media documenting the war would
make sure to not release any video or photos with African Americans in
"You'll never see a black face on screen during the D-Day landing, but
we were there," said Woodhouse. "We were there bringing oil, ammunition,
supplies and even removing dead troops from the battlefield."
James, the son of retired Air Force Gen. Chappy James, a documented
original Tuskegee Airman, took the microphone and discussed the role his
father played in his life and what he learned from him.
"I remember when I was young, my father was developing his speaking
skills," said James. "He would take me to all of his speeches and I
would do homework before and after, but I always listened to him speak.
He was an amazing public speaker."
James followed in his father's footsteps and commissioned in the Air Force and later became a three-star general.
"I didn't understand why he put so much emphasis on developing his
public speaking, but one day he sat me down and told me," said James.
"He said he was not only speaking for himself, but for all African
American commanders and he wanted to show them how well-spoken he was
and show what position he held, so people would believe more in African
James learned several lessons and values from his father while growing up.
"He always held his family to the highest standards, pushing us to do
our absolute best," said James. "He expected excellence in all we did,
but if we told him we gave it our all he would accept that."
James excelled in school and sports while growing up.
"I remember being on the field getting ready for a game and then seeing
my dad in the crowd and I became very nervous," said James. "He couldn't
come to all my games, but he came as often as he could. I later found
out why he put so much effort into seeing me play. His father never once
saw him play a single game, because he was always working and there
were several kids to take care of.
James also discussed how Col. Jeffrey DeVore, Joint Base Charleston base
commander, was his exec at one time and shared a few stories with the
"When we arrived at bases or events, Maj. DeVore at the time, would walk
to the trunk and get the luggage, and by the time he turned around I
was gone," James jokingly said. "I did this to him more than once to say
the least. Maj. DeVore was the master of anticipating my next move
[and] always keeping me on track and looking good, which is what great
After James and Woodhound spoke about their experiences, the floor was
opened to Airmen, Sailors, retirees and civilians to ask questions. The
questions ranged from how they got through the rough times of being a
Tuskegee Airman and what do they believe the future will look like for
the Air Force and military in general.
"There is always new advanced technology coming out all the time, so I
see the Air Force growing and continuing to lead the world in flight and
space endeavors," said Woodhouse.
Once the discussion panel was over, members of the crowd were able to
come on stage and get a photo with the two Tuskegee Airmen and have any
books, posters or other historical items signed.