SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – Retired Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Cheatham Jr., a member of the World War II-era pioneering black fighter squadron known as the Tuskegee Airmen, has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 89.
Cheatham died May 10, 2005, at his home in Spring Valley, and funeral services will take place at Arlington National Cemetery, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Tuesday.
An aspiring pilot born in Georgia, Cheatham got his chance to fly with the Tuskegee Airmen, formed in July 1941 by the U.S. Army Air Forces with the strong encouragement of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt but amid strong reluctance from many white officers.
One of 992 graduates of the segregated training program, Cheatham earned his wings during World War II and went on to fly 150 missions as a combat pilot in the Korean War, according to the Union-Tribune.
“The Army, the government didn't want us (blacks) as pilots,” Colonel Cheatham told a newspaper in 1991. “We all knew that. But that just made us more determined to succeed. And when they'd try everything they could to knock us off, we'd just (channel) our anger into doing more than it took to get a job done.”
The success of the Tuskegee Airmen, especially in providing safe escort to U.S. bombers sent to drop ordnance on Germany during the war, was instrumental in prompting President Harry Truman to order the integration of all the armed forces in 1948.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1977, Cheatham began a civilian career in civil service as a personnel and equal-opportunity officer at air bases.
He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; a daughter, Barbara Montique of Nashville, Tennessee; sons Eugene Cheatham III of Nashville, Tennessee, and Michael Anthony Cheatham of Spring Valley; and four grandchildren.
CHEATHAM, EUGENE CALVIN JR
WORLD WAR II, KOREA
DATE OF BIRTH: 08/27/1915
DATE OF DEATH: 05/10/2005
BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 699
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard