Marshall and Tuskegee Part II

friendfrontTomorrow we will be honored to host Lt. Col. Robert Friend, who is one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen. It should be a remarkable afternoon.

As Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall was directly involved in establishing the military program for aviation at the Tuskegee Institute. Correspondence between Marshall and Frederick D. Patterson, Tuskegee president, shows that Marshall expressed an interest in developments at the Tuskegee Institute throughout the war and offered whatever support he was able to provide to help the program succeed, wrote our archivist Jeffrey Kozak in a blog post dated January 30, 2015.

The Marshall-Patterson correspondence further reveals that General Marshall’s contributions to the Tuskegee Institute extended far beyond being the head of the Army when the program was initiated. Marshall’s support of the Tuskegee Institute in the form of training equipment, words of encouragement, and personal contributions reveals his deep commitment to the program and his desire for its success.

To view information about the Tuskegee Institute found in our research library and archives, visit the library’s subject guide.

Connecting the past to the present, Lt. Col. Robert J. Friend, USAF (Ret.) will talk about his experiences as a fighter pilot during World War II beginning at 3:00 pm in the Pogue Auditorium. He is the last surviving member of the 332nd Fighter Group of the Tuskegee Airmen. He flew 142 combat missions over Europe during World War II, many of those as the wingman for Col. Benjamin Davis, the squadron commander, who became the first African American general in the U.S. Air Force.


Four hundred and fifty of the pilots who were trained at Tuskegee served in North Africa, Sicily and Italy from April 1943 until July 1944 when they were transferred to the 332nd Fighter Group in the 15th Air Force. Robert Friend was one of those pilots.

After leaving the Army, Col. Friend began a career with the Air Force and served as assistant deputy of launch vehicles, Foreign Technology Program director and director of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Program.

Col. Friend’s talk is a part of the All Who Want to Serve sequence of the Marshall Legacy Series that is being presented in partnership with the U.S. Army Women’s Museum.

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