Howard Lee Baugh
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force
24 August 2008:
RICHMOND, Virginia - Lieutenant Colonel Howard Lee Baugh, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, has died.
Baugh died Saturday at a suburban Richmond hospital after a brief illness. He was 88.
The Prince George County resident enlisted in the Army in 1942 and joined the all-black fighter group that trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
Baugh flew 135 combat missions as part of the 332nd Fighter Group's 99th Fighter Squadron in Sicily, Italy, during World War II. During his career, he won the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. In 2004, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor.
A funeral is scheduled for September 4, 2008,
in Petersburg, Virginia. Burial will be later in Arlington National Cemetery.
Growing up, Lieutenant Colonel Howard Lee Baugh knew he wanted to fly airplanes.
For years, he was told he couldn’t because of his race. But when the Army began accepting applications from blacks who wanted to join, he jumped at the chance.
The Petersburg native enlisted in 1942 and was part of the original Tuskegee Airmen, a fighter group consisting entirely of black men who trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
The first time he was in a plane, he was the one flying. By the time he retired, Colonel Baugh logged more than 6,000 flight hours.
“He fought for this country and helped open some doors,” said a son, Howard Layne Baugh of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “He helped show people the idea of black people as second class citizens . . . was wrong.”
Colonel Baugh, who flew 135 combat missions as part of the 332nd Fighter Group’s 99th Fighter Squadron in Sicily, Italy, during World War II, died Saturday at CJW Medical Center (Johnston-Willis) after a brief illness. He was 88.
According to information from Tuskegee Airmen Inc., there are estimates of fewer than 140 pilots and fewer than 350 support personnel living.
A resident of Prince George County, Colonel Baugh was unassuming about the role he played in fighting for his country and against segregation. He didn’t consider himself a hero.
It wasn’t until his children were older that they learned the importance of the role he played.
For the duration of World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber under their protection—a feat no other fighter unit could match. In all, the Tuskegee program sent 450 black pilots into combat.
In January 1944, Colonel Baugh and his wingman were credited with shooting down a German FW-190 fighter-bomber over the Anzio beachhead.
“He was Dad. He gave me an allowance; he gave me chores. He was like all the other fathers on the base,” said another son, David P. Baugh, a Richmond attorney. “It wasn’t until I was out of college that I realized he was a hero.”
Colonel Baugh, who was an avid golfer and bowler, put others before himself. He paid for his three sons to attend college so they wouldn’t have to take out loans.
The Rev. Grady Powell, who is a retired minister at Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, was pastor to Colonel Baugh and his family for many years. He described Colonel Baugh as a person who readily helped others, even if it was something minor, such as picking up a broken lawnmower to take to the shop.
Growing up, Powell said, he never learned how to swim, but one day Colonel Baugh came to him and told him to set aside some time, because he wanted to teach him how.
Colonel Baugh spoke regularly about the Tuskegee Airmen. He gave talks at high schools, churches, colleges and even prisons. He once made a trip to Germany to speak to other World War II pilots, probably some he fought against, and was welcomed with open arms, Howard Baugh said.
Each time Colonel Baugh spoke, he centered on the same theme—education. He told young children that education can open the doors to let them be anything they want to be, his son said.
Colonel Baugh retired from the military in 1967 as a highly decorated officer. During his career, he won the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. In 2004, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor.
Plans are in place to have a statue of Colonel Baugh created and displayed in Petersburg.
Colonel Baugh was the widower of Constance Baugh. He painted her name, “Connie Jeanne,” on the side of his P-40 plane.
In addition to his sons, Colonel Baugh’s survivors include another son, Richard Baugh of Baltimore; a brother, Herb Baugh of Glen Allen; a sister, Olivette Robinson of Glen Allen; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral will be held Sept. 4 at 1 p.m. at Gillfield Baptist Church, 209 Perry St., in Petersburg. Burial will be at a later date in Arlington National Cemetery.
BAUGH, CONSTANCE LAYNE
Posted: 26 August 2008