Remembering General James and others


There was a hush over the audience. The Air Force men and women had assembled to hear a general officer speak -- one with Korean War and Vietnam War combat missions. A granite figure of a man with what appeared to be a galaxy of stars on his shoulders walked to the front of the assembled group.

He was Daniel “Chappie” James. Anybody who served in the Air Force in the 1960s knew about General James from the air war in Vietnam. He had an aura about him that set him apart from others. And when he spoke, you could hear half a pin drop. For a young captain, it was an opportune time to be assigned to the Pentagon.

The general talked of patriotism and Americanism. You could feel the emotional vibes building inside. And when he finished, we gave him a standing ovation. We walked out standing taller and even more ready to defend our country.

General James certainly left a legacy as a true American and an Air Force leader. It’s appropriate to remember him during African-American History Month.

Other African-Americans have made their contributions to the defense of our country in all branches of the armed forces. And they join still others who have made their contributions to our society in scientific fields, in the diplomatic corps, in human rights advances -- the list goes on.

In fact, you can put African-American history into two words -- American history.

Now, how good is your knowledge of African-American heritage? Try your hand at answering these questions.

1. Among the first American military members decorated for bravery in World War II was which African-American mess steward?

2. In World War II, which infantry regiment first broke through the German lines to reach the Rhine?

3. On the U.S. western frontier during the late 1800s, what were the African-American cavalry members called?

4. What order integrated the armed forces and when?

5. Who was the Air Force’s first African-American general?

6. Who was “Blackman” of the legendary Vietnam flying team, “Blackman and Robin?”

7. Which African-American officer won two gold medals in the 1984 Olympics?

8. Who is the only African-American to serve as chief master sergeant of the Air Force?

9. Who was the first African-American astronaut to fly in space?

10. Who was the first African-American selected to join the U.S. Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron?


1. Dorie Miller. With no formal gunnery training, he managed to down four enemy planes attacking Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and was awarded the Navy Cross. 

2. The all-African-American 369th. 

3. They were nicknamed “buffalo soldiers,” with many awarded Medals of Honor. 

4. Executive Order 9981, July 26, 1948, signed by President Harry S. Truman. 

5. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. His father, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., was the first African-American regular general officer in the Army. 

6. “Blackman” was Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, then a colonel, and “Robin” was then-Col. Robin Olds of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. 

7. Second Lt. Alonzo Babers, an Air Force Academy graduate. 

8. Thomas N. Barnes served in the position from 1973 to 1977. 

9. Guion “Guy” S. Bluford, Jr., who was a part of the STS-8 space shuttle Challenger mission launched on Aug. 30, 1983. 

10. Gen. Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton, who later in his career served as commander of the Air Education and Training Command.

Rating scale: 10 correct, Ph.D. granted; 8-9, master’s degree; 6-7, bachelor’s degree; 4-5, high school diploma; 1-3, no degree -- hit the history manuals again; 0, sleep at night using a history manual as a pillow and hope for osmosis.


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