Lt. Richardson was a charter member of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen
The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded to Dr. Richardson and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen by President George W. Bush in the White House in 2007 and he’s still very proud to wear it
Eugene J. Richardson Jr. was born on September 18, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio.
His early education took place primarily in Toledo, Ohio. Dr. Richardson served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. He was a member of the group that became known as the TUSKEGEE AIRMEN. Eugene was living in Camden, NJ, when he earned the status of Pre Aviation Cadet in the Army Air Corps. He entered active duty in October 1943, at Keesler Field, Mississippi for basic military training. In February, 1944 Eugene went to Tuskegee, Alabama for pilot training and subsequently received his pilot’s wings and officer’s commission on March 11, 1945, with class 45A.
Richardson had a dream of flying ever since attending an Ohio air show starring black stunt fliers in the 1930s. When he turned 17, he left his Camden home for Tuskegee University in Alabama, where he completed combat training a month before the war ended in May 1945.
Qualified to fly fighter planes, he was not deployed because the war in Europe ended two months after he was commissioned. Richardson takes great pride in the achievements of his fellow Tuskegee men in Europe, where they gunned down 112 enemy aircraft in their signature red-tailed P-47s and P-40, P39, and P51 aircraft, and provided aerial protection for the bombers flying through the clouds over Germany. The Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first black fighter pilots to see combat, did more than risk their lives for freedom in World War II, the outstanding combat record of black pilots shattered pre-war stereotypes and set the stage for historic changes in civil rights during the 1950s and ’60s.
“The fantastic functioning of black pilots in World War II inspired desegregation,” Richardson said. “That’s what it says on my medal.”
The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded to Dr. Richardson and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen by President George W. Bush in the White House in 2007 and he’s still very proud to wear it.
The Tuskegee Airmen are frequently referred to as the men who changed our nation. Long before the marches of Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights advanced in the jet stream of such African-American aviators as Benjamin O. Davis Jr. and Eugene Bullard.
“The performance of black pilots in World War II,” Richard stated, “proved that high levels of performance wasn’t the province of guys with light skin.”
A former teacher and principal, Richardson recounted the history of blacks in flight. The first black fighter pilot, he noted, was not a Tuskegee Airman. Eugene Bullard, a young Georgia man, flew with the French Foreign Legion during World War I.
Citing a report by the Army War College at Carlisle, Richardson said blacks who wanted to fly ran up against systemic prejudice before World War II. The report concluded, he said, that blacks had no leadership qualities.
Although Tuskegee Airmen flying distinctive red-tailed P-47 fighters shot down 111 German planes, three German jets and sunk a destroyer, they faced continued discrimination upon returning home. When they got off the gangplank upon returning home, there were signs saying blacks this way and whites this way, it was the same as when they left. The airmen’s performance, however, was not in vain. We wanted to do whatever we could to prove the color of our skin had nothing to do with what was in our hearts.
The dedication of the Tuskegee Airmen led to President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 executive order ending segregation in the military. It also set the stage for landmark legislation, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.