Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviation squadron in U.S. Armed Forces history. The late Willie Rogers was one of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Born in Apalachicola, Florida, in 1915, Airman Rogers was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. He served as a member of the logistics team in the 100th Air Engineer Squad. Rogers was not a pilot. He did important logistics work on the ground.
In January, 1943, during a mission in Italy, Rogers was shot in the stomach and leg by German soldiers. He spent three months convalescing in a London hospital. Germany surrendered and the Dachau concentration camp was subsequently liberated. Rogers, along with other American troops, took inventory of Dachau on April 29, 1945. We cannot even begin to imagine what he witnessed at Dachau that day.
J.L. Vaughn Jr., veteran of the Korean War
A native of Rome, Mr. Vaughn graduated from Rome Colored School in 1949. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1951. He subsequently completed training at Fort Lewis, Washington. Trained as a carpenter, his job was building bunkers and bridges. He was sent to Korea with the 25th Engineer Combat Battalion.
In early spring of 1953, Vaughn’s battalion was repairing a road when an enemy mortar shell fell in their area and he was hit by shrapnel. He went by ambulance to an Army hospital. Later on he had some other health problems for which he was sent to the hospital in Pusan, then to the Swedish Red Cross Hospital for 15 days. He was then in a hospital in Japan before being sent to the U.S. to a hospital in South Carolina and finally home to Rome in April, 1953.
Life after World War II
Rogers lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, after the war and opened his own business, Rogers Radio Sales and Services. On Nov. 18, 2016, at 101 years of age, Willie passed away, at which time he was the last surviving member of the original Tuskegee Airmen.
Life after the Korean War
Vaughn attended Knoxville College, where he completed his undergraduate education in 1957. He subsequently attended the University of Georgia, where he earned his Master’s degree. Over the course of his 30-year career in education, he taught in Bremen, Summerville, Stockbridge, Rome City schools and Floyd County schools. In 1988, he retired.
Veterans of different eras
J.L. Vaughn and the late Willie Rogers did not know each other. Their paths never crossed. Rogers certainly never imagined he’d be shot by German soldiers. J.L. Vaughn probably never dreamed he’d be in Korea, injured by shrapnel while repairing a road in the middle of nowhere, way too far from home. Nevertheless, with courage these veterans of the armed forces answered our country’s call to service and bravely carried out their orders. Vaughn was awarded a Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars and the United Nations Service Medal.
Today is Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. What a delightful day on which to pay tribute to these African-American veterans. We esteem the service and memory of the late Airman Willie Rogers. With pride we honor the service of J.L. Vaughn. Thank you, Mr. Vaughn, for your service to our country. We are so thankful to have you in our community and we appreciate you.
Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal and welcomes your email to her at email@example.com.