Granville Coleridge Coggs

Granville next to AT-6 trainer, 
summer  1945. Inscription right corner says 'Yours with love, Gran.'

San Antonio, Texas

March 12 and March 14 2006

Caesar Bernal

Palo Alto College

History 1302 - Spring 2006


San Antonio Express News Story



Dr. Granville Coleridge Coggs lives in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Coggs was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. on July 30, 1925. His parents are Tandy Washington Coggs and, Nannie Hinkle Coggs'. In Tuskegee he met Maud Currie and married her on August 20, 1946 in Carson, Arkansas. They have a son, Granville Currie, and two daughters, Anita and Carolyn From 1943-1946 Granville served in the United States Army Air Corps in Tuskegee Alabama. He was an "Original Tuskegee Airman" while in the Army Air Corps. He earned badges as an aerial gunner; bombardier and multi engine pilot. While in the military, in January 1945, Granville earned his commission as an officer, Lieutenant second class. He earned his pilot wings in October 1945. Granville stayed in the Air Force reserves until 1985. Granville earned a Bachelor's of Science in 1949, from the University of Nebraska. He attended Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts and received his Doctorate's Degree In June 1953. After graduating from medical school, Dr. Coggs returned to the Air Force as a Medical Intern. In 1958, At the University of California, San Francisco he completed his three year residency in radiology. In 1958 he was a staff member at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital, San Francisco, California. In 1972 he became a full time Associate Clinical Professor of Radiology at the University of California. In 1975 Dr. Coggs was appointed Professor of Radiology with tenure at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. In 1989 Dr. Coggs retired. In 1990 he returned to practice as a general radiologist, From 1994-2003 at Kaiser Memorial Hospital in Karnes County, Texas. In 2003 he worked full time as a radiologist for the Gonzaba Medical Group in San Antonio, Texas. In December 2004 he joined Civil Service full-time as a radiologist at Brook Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas and still continues working at Gonzaba Medical Group part-time on week-ends. Dr. Coggs is very involved with physical fitness. Since 1997, Granville has participated in the Senior Olympics. He has won numerous gold medals in the 1500, 400, and 200 meter dashes. He swims twenty minutes every morning. I met Dr.Coggs in 1998, when my wife began videotaping him run in the Senior Olympics. I personally have a wonderful relationship with Dr. Coggs, first and foremost as a friend to me and my family. He will always greet you with a warm open hug and smile. Always upbeat and positive, at eighty-years-young Granville plans to live to be over one hundred.



What were you doing before America entered the war?
America entered the war with Japanese intervention on December 7, 1941. And before that I was going through elementary school, and I remembered in elementary school, I took naps lying on the floor, this is in aside. I then went to elementary school at the training school that was called for Arkansas A&M, which is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. I spent one year at Merrill High School in the year 1936-37. In 1937 we moved to Little Rock, and I went to Dunbar High School, an all black high school and all black teachers, who were wonderful people, wonderful motivators and I finished in '42. That's what I was doing…" Before the war… "Um huh.".

Maybe you can tell me a little bit about your name Granville?
 Coggs family 1929, Gran age 4 on dads lap . Oh yes, I like my name. And how it came about, my mother was a unique person; I'm amazed at my mother. I'm the fifth child of her five children, and she had hopes for her children's. And I'm her fifth child and she wanted this child to be a musician. And so much so, if this child was a girl, she was going to name it Marian Anderson Coggs, after the contralto Marian Anderson who sings with Eleanor Roosevelt at the Lincoln Memorial. And from Samuel Coleridge Taylor, who's a black musician, he actually was only half black, but the black people claim him, that's what she wanted to name me. But I'll cut to the chase, at a meeting, an evening meeting, where my father was the speaker and his father was in the audience, he described his family and one in the oven as he described me. And his father got up and called my father, and said, 'Doug, if it's a boy name him after my father. His father was named Granville. And I don't where Granville came from, but his father was a slave and so when I was born my mother got half of her wish and instead of named Samuel Coleridge, I'm named Granville, but um, my middle name, yea, she got part of the musician's name Samuel Coleridge Taylor, my middle name Coleridge, after Samuel Coleridge Taylor. And my mother got part of her wish, it's a part of reality, and hard for me to realize, but tonight is March the 12th, 2006 and on March the 31st this Granville Coleridge Coggs will be singing with the San Antonio Master Singers with the San Antonio Symphony and the San Antonio's Children's Chorus in Carnea Burana, so he's something of a musician.


During the war, many things were rationed. Do you remember doing without anything?
"This particular Granville Coleridge Coggs, is an optimist, we were without things, but I don't remember doing without anything. I don't remember being without anything… well, I know rubber was rationed, gasoline was rationed, but it didn't personally impact me and get into my world." So, it wasn't something that you missed? "No, no, and somebody says, 'you can't really miss something that you never had.' But apparently we had gas and rubber before. But, uh, my daily life didn't change.

Before you joined the military, what were your thoughts on the war?
Oh, this was a war for survival. This was a war for survival. And we were happy that it didn't occur any closer to our shores than Pearl Harbor. But it was no question the Japanese, the Germans and the Italians were out to destroy us, and the whole country was mobilized to prevent our destruction. So the war was in my mind and also because I was approaching draft age and people a few years older than I were already over there fighting in the war, and I soon would be scheduled to fight in the war. So it was a war for survival.

What made you enlist in the military?
Oh, the reason that I enlisted was because I was shortly going to be drafted, and I took an option to volunteer for the Black Army Air Corps, which got underway the first class graduated in 1942. And in 1943 was when I was about to be drafted. One of the first members of the first class, Herbert Clark, was from Pine Bluff Arkansas. And Richard Caesar had finished and was flying, so I knew that there was an opportunity, for shall we say blacks with the talent or capability, to instead of being in the infantry and non-commissioned and low paying person, to possibly be a flyer, as an officer, and as a respected person.

Had you ever thought of being a pilot before?
RNot really, but you couldn't escape it from '42 on. These were heroes, 60 years ago, and certainly even now. They, in particularly, the Tuskegee Airmen that fought overseas, prevented white men bombers from being shot down and also shot down a few German fighters. This was, and the recruitment that went on, that was radio recruitment that says, 'Men of 17, you too can fly' and so when I was 17, yea, you didn't even have to be 18, you could be 17 and enlist and go through the aptitude test and could join the Black Army Air Corps.

What did your family think of you becoming a pilot?
Oh, my mother was a cool person. But basically the environment in our house was, if you can do it, do it. And if you think you can do it, you can do it. (laughs) And 80 years later, that still rings true; I'm encouraged to do things beyond what I feel I can do. And, Maud, my wife, is on the same page, she the encouragement right now. I ran a mile today in 11:22 but my goal is to run it in 11, and her encouragement was, 'You Can Do It.' (laughs) So, I didn't do it, but my trainer coach, who I reached by cell phone, he congratulated me on running 11:22. He said, 'That's good.' But, that was the environment. One, if you think you can do it, you can do it. I think that's so important, yeah, you know the environment was… I understand, it's hard for me to imagine that in some cultures and some home environments they say, 'Oh, you can't do that!' That was heresy in my house. (laughs) Yes, siree.

What were your first impressions of military life like when you joined?
Well I went in on December 18th, 1943 in Camp Robertson, Little Rock, Arkansas. That's also my wife's birthday, December 18th. And I was a private, I got the uniforms. They first sent me to training at Kessler Field, Mississippi, Biloxi, Mississippi. And this was in South America, segregated south America. I went on that base and I was there for six or nine weeks, I forgot exactly how long, but I never left the base because the base was an island amix segregated black Mississippi. So I didn't go off the post for what I felt white Mississippian's might do. And the environment of Black Mississippians who lived, well I stayed six weeks on the post and never left that post. And we were trained. I've forgotten exactly what basic training was, right? But I was with the rest of the people, and coming from a household where I came from, if anybody else could do it, I could do it. (laughs) So, we did it. And after 6 weeks, they sent me to Tuskegee Institute for college training, because my aptitude test had qualified me for training as a flying officer, bombardier, navigator or pilot. And my qualifications were higher to be bombardier. And so, they had accelerated everything, previously to be a, to qualify, for pilot training you had to have a college degree in engineering. At Randolph AFB, here is where cadets out of West Point and cadets graduated from Texas A&M with degrees in engineering; that's who got a chance to go to pilot training, and learned, which was reinforced more recently that the first place that military flying took place was here at Ft. Sam Houston, and that was in March, 1910. In 1910 here at Ft. Sam Houston and Actually Randolph AFB was constructed in 1930 and I saw movies, in 1935 I saw the movie named, West Point of the Air, it was filmed primarily at Randolph AFB, and I saw it in a segregated, in the balcony, a black balcony in Singer Theater in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1935. As a ten or eleven year old black fellow student I could never imagine myself being a flying officer.

Granville with other bombardiers pilots at flight school. Top row 3rd from the left.

Could you maybe describe a little bit of what your training was like at Tuskegee?
Well here is the training program, and I can tell you what my training chronologically involved. They sent me first to several months of college training at Tuskegee Institute, so we lived on the campus, in what was called the Emory's. The Emory's are still there. And I took mathematics and swimming, and a few other things. But after a few months of college training they sent me from Tuskegee Institute, Alabama to college to Tyndall Field, Florida for Aerial Gunnery Training and I sent six to nine weeks qualifying as a Aerial Gunner, 50 caliber machine guns, because I was slated to become a bombardier, but before you could go into bombardier training you had to qualify as an aerial gunner. So, after six or nine weeks at Tyndall Army Air Field as an aerial gunner, I was sent back to Tuskegee awaiting assignment for bombardier school. This is a little aside, but, I developed appendicitis, had appendectomy, went home to Little Rock for a convalescent leave. Some of my other classmates had been sent elsewhere for bombardier school, but I came back to Tuskegee and during that time is when a new co-ed (His future wife Maud.) had come from Arkansas and I met her. This is a short story, but before I left there they sent me out to Midland Army Air Field for bombardier training and I guess this was from the fall of 44 to January 1945. That's when I was commissioned as a bombardier. And things were at that time, that the experiment, "Can blacks fly fighter planes?" was all settled. And so the military hierarchy decided to go to the next place. Let's set up a medium bomber, a black medium bomber outfit. So, we're going to train a black medium bomber outfit and they had trained more bombardiers than they needed and more navigators, but they needed more pilots and if you had the qualifications for pilot, you could go leave bombardier and go to pilot training, and that's what I elected to do. As a matter of fact, my instructors at bombardiering were Purple Heart survivors of World War II in Europe. I saw those purple hearts and those bombardiers had nothing between them except Plexiglas between them and the flack. So I was glad, instead of being put on a B29 going to the Far East, when the war was still going on, I was sent back to Tuskegee Institute for primarily flying sponsored by the Tuskegee Institute, three months of that roughly, three months of basic training flying an AT-6 at Tuskegee Army Airfield. In my last three months advanced training flying B-25s at Tuskegee Army Airfield, and I finished advanced training in October 1945, this is three months or so after the war in the far east ended. So my war time experience for me was spent in training. But I was a commissioned officer and earned flight pay, and earned respect being a flying officer, and in this case with two ratings.

When did you get your flight wings?
The first flight wing was at bombardier, well, first wings were as an aerial gunner, but this is enlisted people that were aerial gunners; that was in the fall of '44. In January, I got the exact date, 1945, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant at Midland Army Air Field, and so I had new gold bars and new bombardier wings. And I was twenty at the time. (laughs) I really felt on top of the world. That was sixty years ago, and that's gone by real fast.

Granville and Nicholas Nubley Officer of the day, Granville wearing his 45 pistol.


Whenever you were in Tuskegee, was there anyone you stayed in touch with, wrote letters or anything like that?
Tonight! And tonight because it just happens one of the people who went through bombardier with me and pilot training with me is Arthur Carroll Harmon and I'm going to write him and send him a copy of the newspaper article that was in the Fort Sam Leader last month. And another fellow who's is in the video, Nicholas Nubley. When I'm wearing my 45 pistol, officer of the day, he's with me. I've stayed in touch with him.

Are you in contact with any of the pilots from Tuskegee?
There are two, and I've been writing to one, over this weekend I've got one in the mail. One who's on the photo montage there is Nicholas Nebulan, he's in Cincinnati, Ohio and I call him on his birthday. And another fellow, Arthur Carroll Harmon, he flew B-25, and he settled in the San Francisco Bay area. So, I kept in contact with him. Those are the main two people. Plus, an original, what I call an original Tuskegee Airman, one who went overseas and fought, was Richard Caesar, and he's now a retired dentist, in San Francisco. And I talked to his sister the other day and I'm sending him an article that came out in the newspaper about me. He identifies being a Tuskegee Airmen.


Granville gets flight wings Oct '45: 
L to R: Mrs. Nichols, his mom, Gran and Maud.

Who did you write to in flight school, and what news were you getting from them?
It's very brief. I'm glad you asked a focused question because the one person that wrote to me was significant, after I finished aerial gunnery and came back to Tuskegee in waiting on to be assigned to bombardier school, that's when I met Maud, she was just there for maybe a month before I was shipped out to Midland, Texas. And when I was out in Midland, Texas at Bombardier school she wrote to me and when I got a chance to go back to pilot training it was her letters that made a big impression on me, at this point in my life I don't remember my mother writing to me, however I must say that my mother came to my graduation and it's on that picture with a, uh, her minister's wife. I must have written to my parents but I don't recall it. (laughs) The only letters that were significant were the letters Maud wrote from Tuskegee and that put her in a top position when I went back.


Tell me about the experiences with discrimination that you had to deal with on and off the base?
Well, I've recounted this before, when I finished bombardiering at Midland, Texas I was a flying officer, a second lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps. I went to Little Rock on leave, and I was being assigned to Tuskegee for pilot training, and to get to Tuskegee from Little Rock, and basically I was in a segregated area in Little Rock, Tuskegee Institute was primarily all black; at that, the Tuskegee Air Field was predominately black. So for me to get from one black ghetto in Arkansas to Tuskegee I had to ride a Jim Crow Train, I had to ride in the car set aside for blacks. And that's when I really felt that this was not right. This was not right, so, I remember that. I've mentioned in other articles, I went to the University of Nebraska, which you wouldn't think of as a liberal state. At the University of Nebraska in 1946 black students couldn't live in the dormitory and this became more aware in retrospect when I got to Harvard in 49. I was allowed to stay in the dormitory with the other people for the first time. And so I've mentioned that, when I got to Harvard was the first time that I felt like I was treated as a person, and not a black person.

Were you aware of what people were saying about black men training to become pilots?
Yea, I was aware, I'll even share this with you: the National Tuskegee Airmen, Incorporated doesn't like this term to be used, but at Tuskegee we called ourselves, we were part of the Spook Wafer. There was the elite German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, and we were the black army air corps, the elite black army air corps, and a so called derogatory term for blacks is 'Spooks' and so we called ourselves the 'Spook Wafer' cause we knew we were in an elite part of the black population, that constituted this group. We knew we were black and yet I've looked at this video that we were a part of proving to the rest of the world we could fly planes as well as anybody else.

Were you involved in any action or fighting while in the Army Air Corps?
No, I finished bombardiering and I never dropped a bomb in anger. And when I finished pilot training it was a few months after the war in the Far East ended, so I never shot at anybody or was shot at in combat. And so my military experience was primarily training to be fighter. But I could look ahead and see because it was in the news and I was in this pipeline of fighters and it's amazing to be trained to kill and that it is all right, but I never got there and I'm glad that I didn't now because ones that took on battle stress is a real syndrome that happens and so as in fact as I am at 80 going on 81 that I didn't have the added stress should I say of battle combat, uh, battle casualties.

What was it like the first time you flew, I don't know if you actually flew solo, or actually in control of a plane?
Oh yes, that is a memorable occasion that nobody forgets. (laughs) Nobody forgets, because first of all, you had training with your instructor and you are flying together and you know that you had to have learned it well enough that the instructor has to have enough confidence in you to believe that you will take the plane off and bring it on back. And so, I soloed at this school sponsored by Tuskegee Institute primary flying training in a PT-13 that's a biplane, with a propeller and so that was the first solo, but again at basic training we flew the AT-6, and you too had to learn how that plane flew, and where the controls were and I soloed in that but I don't remember soloing in basic like I did in primary flying training. And then in advanced training we had to fly in a B-25 for practical purposes, I didn't solo, because it was manned with a pilot and co-pilot , but things that I can remember in advance training you had procedures, like flying the plane, it's a twin engine plane with one engine and the instructor could do things like when you were landing on the approach he could cut off the gas to one engine so you had an emergency procedure. I can remember those. But you trained over and over how to do it until it was automatic.

B-25 Bomber Granville flew during WW II

Do you think that your training was as good of training as you could have gotten?
Oh yeah, yeah. As a matter of fact, that training helps me as a driver on our freeways today. I'm looking around and seeing where things are before you move or make a move.

What did you do when the war ended?
Well, I wanted to stay in the military and I wanted to stay at Tuskegee and so I got a job as a weather observer at Tuskegee but they didn't have anything really to do. So by the summer of 46, I was being forced out, out of the military. I didn't have any advance degree. I had not had combat experience. They didn't need anybody to drop bombs on anybody anymore. So basically, however, this was the good aspect that my three plus years, currently five years of GI bill, five academic years of GI bill, is what changed my life.

You used the GI bill for what?
I used one year in going through one year of the University of Nebraska, which I did in three years. And also the University of Nebraska gave me 18 hours of credit in military science for my military experience as a bombardier pilot. This helped me to really complete a four year curriculum in three years., and so I used year of my GI Bill in college but saved the other four for medical school. And at that time the GI Bill paid $500. in tuition and your books and the tuition at Harvard Medical School was $830. (laughs) for a year. But Harvard Medical School gave me a scholarship for the $330. So it paved the way. I wouldn't have gone to Harvard Medical School without the GI Bill.

Who do you look up to as a hero in your life? Seems like you've accomplished so many things you could be a hero to many people.
Okay, mention my heroes. Well, this is factiously, but I've said it before, people said, 'How do I, how did I achieve what I achieved, whatever I have achieved?' And my answer is that I picked the right parents. I selected the right parents. And because of the environment I came up in, they created it, and I guess my mother nurtured it. I was telling somebody that my mother and my father said that if you want to do something, go do it. They didn't say, 'You can't do that, you know, you black as…,' whatever you thought you could do… 'That you could do it.' And I don't know exactly where that fitted in, yeah, but that's about it. I came up in a nurtured environment. And just did whatever challenges or opportunities presented as daily problems. You know, what are you going to do? Oh, I know, what have I achieved? Yeah, my hero, that's what you asked. And this is going to be a surprise. But the hero that I'm following the most is Larry Lewis, and I will tell you briefly about Larry Lewis, I have newspaper articles about Larry Lewis. In 1967, in San Francisco, Larry Lewis turned a hundred, and he was big news in the San Francisco papers. And he was big news on his birthday for the next six years. He died when he a hundred and six. But the thing that stood out about Larry Lewis, is that he'd been an assistant to Houdini who's the magician, but basically he worked as a waiter in San Francisco. And what he did every morning was run through Golden Gate Park, like six and a half miles in thirty-six minutes. Six and a half miles. Thirty-six minutes. They had a special when he was 101, they had a special race for him. And he ran the 100 yard dash in 17 seconds. When he was 102 he ran it in a little faster than that. And basically though, he had run all of his life, his advice was get up from the table hungry and people got to know him, and of course, after running he walked to work to the Saint Francis Hotel and people would meet him and say, 'Larry, did you run today?' And he would say, 'Did the sunshine?' (laughs) And his wife died, and she was maybe thirty years younger when he was 104. He died when he was 106, but he was still running 6 miles a day when was 106. So, the running I do is nothing compared to Larry Lewis. Nothing that I do compares to Larry Lewis. And my father, I talk about him, he was president of Arkansas Baptist College. He was a teacher, and a leader, and a speaker, and I recognize, well, we went over how my mother named me, because basically, she wanted her children to, shall we say, be somebody. And it was out there: be somebody. But, I'm still just vaguely trying to, but Larry Lewis gives me impetuous to keep on doing what you're doing. (You've done a lot.) Yeah.

What are your thoughts on accomplishments made by Tuskegee Airmen during WWII?
They're justified... they're justified. When I saw the movie, 'The Tuskegee Airmen' the fact that those Tuskegee Airmen accompanied two hundred missions escorting white manned bombers and the German Air force never shot down one of those planes. And 66 Tuskegee airmen Gave their lives, but they had a leader, Colonel Benjamin Davis Jr, his father was the first black general in the Army, he came out of West Point, and they were disciplined. At the time in WWII, he was Colonel B.O. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. His father was Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was a Brigadier General in the Army. And so the Tuskegee Airmen were disciplined. One, they were disciplined, don't leave your bombers and try to shoot down some German fighter plane. You stay here and protect those bombers. And as it turned out… and of course, there record of not losing anybody became well known so they were desired to be the escort of the bombers. And at the end of the war, to have not lost a single bomber is the statistics that is almost unbelievable, but except it's true. But except its true! This is what I'm indebted to. And one reason that when people want me to talk as a Tuskegee Airmen about the Tuskegee Airmen, I feel my duty, I'm obligated to not let this heritage go by the wayside. It came about in a special time, and it won't happen again. And so, that's the legacy. It has been the movie, 'The Tuskegee Airmen' that made so many people aware, until now the Tuskegee Airmen, don't many people care that I went to Harvard Medical School or that I won a gold medal. (laughs) But you're a Tuskegee Airmen. And so that identification and I feel in my own case that they are identifying with the Tuskegee Airmen that were portrayed in the movie. You know, escorting the bombers and shooting down German planes and sinking German submarines and destroying German railroad trains and so forth. That I didn't do that, and I don't feel that I'm a fraud, but I'm another definition of what is a Tuskegee Airmen, a broad definition. Yeah, make these two categories. A broad definition of a Tuskegee Airmen is that that's anybody whoever served at Tuskegee Army Airfield between the time it was constructed in 1941 until it was destroyed, you know, razed in 1948. And that total number of people may be 15,000 or 19,000, something like that. Now, another group is Tuskegee Airmen who earned, were flying officers, were commissioned officers, there were just a little under 1,000. Like 990. A more select group of Tuskegee Airmen and this is what is created shall we say the aura or the mystique is some 480 Tuskegee Airmen that served overseas. And so I didn't serve overseas. But I think that, like you mentioned, there were a lot of people that supported them. Absolutely. And that, I think, is part of the legacy. Yes, exactly. That is something that is part of the legacy also. Yes, and actually winning those wings, that's a minimum statement of qualification. You had to go through training, and as they pointed out the group of pilots, they had a quota of how many pilots as to how many could graduate, so they washed out quite a few, started training and didn't finish, so just finishing the training and earning their wings is an accomplishment.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
This is from the heart. I like your interview technique, I'm glad it's been recorded. I spoke from the heart. The truth as I have… one of the places that I went, Harvard Medical School, the motto of Harvard is veritas is Truth. I am a stutterer. When I was in elementary school I stuttered so badly. I even stuttered when I was in the Army Air Corp. When I was at the University of Nebraska I took speech to help with stuttering. This is a long story, but I'll make it short. I still occasionally stutter, if I haven't had enough sleep or I'm really excited and so forth. But basically one of the things that happens when I stutter is because I haven't decided for sure exactly what I'm going to say. I getting around to saying it, I haven't stuttered during this interview. (laughs) So if its anything, I didn't stutter while doing the interview. Thanks. I think you did great!


Gran and me at his home, March 16, 2006.  Wearing gold medals from Senior Olympics in 400m  1600m.


I have learned so much doing this interview with Granville in his home here in San Antonio. The Tuskegee Airmen have earned their place in history. For blacks during the war, white America was still segregated. Blacks were fighting for equality during the war and on the home front. Much of America was not in favor of racial equality for black Americans. They were not allowed to join the Marines; the Navy only allowed them to serve as servants, and the Army Air Corps was a segregated service. In 1925, the Army War College did a study and concluded that because blacks lacked the intelligence and were cowardly under combat conditions, blacks would never have what it takes to fly aircrafts of any type. It would take men such as Granville twenty years to change this ill-conceived notion. The Tuskegee Airman accomplishments were on the same parallel as all fighter group during the war and this fact is more outstanding with the knowledge that they were told they would never make it as pilots. These men were catalyst toward integration in the Armed Forces; they had proven to a nation and a world at war that the color of their skin had little at all to do with the skill and ability of the pilots and their ground crews. After fulfilling his tour in the Army Air Corps, Granville used the G.I. Bill to help further his education. I did not know how he paid to go to Harvard Medical School or the fact that without the G.I. Bill he would not have been able to afford to go to Medical School.
Throughout the interview Granville laughed at himself and the answers he gave, this is typical of his open, candid, nature. Granville never seemed bothered by my questions and was eager and ready to answer each topic I presented. We touched upon many topics and I think Granville's thoughts and feelings toward the legacy of the Tuskegee Airman are very dear to his heart. As he said in the interview they were justified. He knows that he has an obligation to share the Tuskegee Airmen's many accomplishments with others before time lets them be forgotten forever.
The word perseverance stands in the forefront when I think back upon all that I have learned in the Oral History Project. Without This type of determination, all Americans black or white could not have won World War II. This attitude, that you can do it, was instilled in Granville by his family. His success today is due in large part to this perseverance he was taught as a child. All of the Tuskegee Airmen's groundbreaking achievements were made because Granville and other men like him never listen to the people telling them they could not do it.
As I searched for links to some of the places and people we talked about in the interview, I was amazed at how accurately he had recalled the facts. Granville was honored that I asked him to do the interview, not everyone has accomplished as much as he has thus far in life and it was hard to stay on one specific topic throughout the interview. I'm sure not everyone has this drawback; the good thing was that he was able to give me so much wonderful information on the subject. For Granville his story is documented by several sources besides mine, but by doing the oral history with Granville, I hope it gave him the opportunity to express things he had not said before.
Historians tell us that to forget the past is to repeat it, but what does this say to the many stories in our past that are never told? Everyday people make decisions that affect and change their lives and that of others. The Oral History Project gives students the chance to ask questions that probably would never be asked and would most likely be forgotten in time. I feel this project helps develop the minds of new generations to become aware of the past, to ask questions and to take an interest in history.



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Mc Rae, Bennie J.Least WE Forget. African Americans in World War II. A history of Black Americans in the military. An online source of African Americans in World War II. (2006) Last updated: April 25, 2004

Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.-National Web. Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Giving History a Future. Honoring the accomplishments and Perpetuating the history of African-Americans who participated in air crew, ground crew and operational support training in the Army Air Corps during World War II. (2006)

The Handbook of Texas Online. Copyright © The Texas State Historical Association. The Handbook of Texas Online is a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history, geography, and culture sponsored by the Texas State Historical Association and the General Libraries at University of Texas at Austin. (2006) Last updated: May 16, 2005.

Tuskegee Institute. Spartacus Education. This Website will help you learn about The Tuskegee Negro Normal College Institute. It opened on July fourth, 1888. Booker T Washington's conservative views helped establish and gain acceptance in white controlled Macon County. By 1915 Tuskegee Institute had a staff of 200 and a student body of 2000. http://www.spartacus (2006)

Second World War Encyclopedia.Spartacus Education. The online information from The Second World War Encyclopedia contains links to subject matter dealing with WW II from the beginning to the end. Background to War, Political and Military Leaders, The Home Front, Chronology of The War, The Holocaust, Women of War, and much more. (2006) Last updated: March,2006

Stearman PT-13D,Kaydet. National Museum of the United States Air Force. The PT-13 was typical of the biplanes used as the primary trainer used during the 1930s and WW II. (2006) Last updated: April 27, 2006

AT-6 Texan. Copyright 2005 Cavanaugh Flight Museum. All rights reserved. This was the advanced trainer of WW II, testing pilots' abilities and skill. The AT-6 Texan was the last step before a pilot took controls of a fighter. (2006) Last updated: May 23, 2005

North American B-25 Mitchell.Pacific Coast Dream Machines. Evaluation and performance of the B-25 Mitchell Medium Bomber was part of the flight school curriculum. The B-25 is most famous for the raids over Tokyo By Doolittle off the carrier Hornet. (2006)

G.I. Bill of Rights. The GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details). Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. The G.I. Bill of Rights Provided returning veterans from all branches of the armed services with low interest home loans. It paid for a G.I.s entire education, and gave unenployed former servicemen, $20 once a week for 52 weeks. Known as the 52-50 Clause. (2006) Last updated: April 15, 2006

Henderson, Joe. Lasting. All Contents © 2003. All Rights Reserved. Running Commentary. Long Run Solutions. Author and runner Joe Henderson talks about keys to living along time, and what that involves. Talks about Larry Lewis, San Francisco runner kept running until his death at 106 years. (2006)

David,Jr.Benjamin O.© The Aviation History On-Line Museum. All rights reserved. Barred initially from flight training because of color, the leader of the Tuskegee Airmen became a major force for full integration in the Air Force. (2006) Last updated: April 8, 2006

Pike, John Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Copyright 2000-2006 Global all rights reserved. Named after a WW I flying ace, Tyndall opened Dec 7, 1941, with 40 gunnery students, thousands would pass through Tyndall's gates throughout World War II. Today it is home to the 325th Fighter Wing. http://www.globalsecurity .org/military/facility/tyndall.htm (2006) Last updated: April 5, 2005

Kortegarrd, Bert. .50-caliber M2. Copyright Kortegarrd Engineering Copyright. 50-Caliber M2 Heavy Barrel Air Cooled Heavy Machine Guns. Mounted on half track WW II AAA vintage. (2006) Last updated: April 26, 2006





Unimaginable: Tuskegee Airmen to witness history

By Scott Huddleston -
San Antonio Express-News, January 11, 2009 (cover story of Sunday's front page)


At his church on Sundays, John Miles towers over the children, passing out candy from weathered hands that made him a legend.

For years, the old gentlemen known to the children as the “Candy Man” has told them to reach for their dreams.

Tuskegee airmen James Kelly, left, John Miles and Granville Coggs, all from S.A. and members of the first black aviation squadron of World War II, will see the nation's first African-American president take oath.

Soon, he'll have another inspiring thought to share with the little ones who look up to the former baseball star.

Miles, a 1940s power hitter in the Negro American League, is one of two local members of the Tuskegee Airmen, pioneering black aviators and crewmen of World War II, who will see the nation's first African American president take the oath of office.

As someone who helped open doors for minorities, Miles is one of the select few invited as a special guest to President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration.

“I was thinking, ‘This couldn't be happening. It couldn't be me,'” Miles said. “It's something I never thought I'd see in my whole life.”

For people born after the era of segregation, it might be hard to understand why the inauguration is such a breakthrough. But to Miles, 86, and Granville Coggs, another local Tuskegee Airman set to attend the event, it's as if all Americans of color finally are being rewarded for enduring decades of privation. “It's almost unbelievable, but I'm beginning to accept it as reality,” said Coggs, 83.

Black Americans have fought in U.S. wars since the American Revolution. But in the early 20th century, many in the War Department felt they lacked the intelligence, courage and patriotism to fly in combat. In 1941, with an all-out world war looming, Congress authorized formation of an all-black Army Air Corps unit.

Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama produced nearly 1,000 black pilots. They flew missions over Germany, Austria, Italy and North Africa, and had an impressive record of protecting bombers. They destroyed hundreds of German planes, sunk a destroyer and wiped out 950 rail cars, trucks and vehicles.

They had 66 pilots killed in action or accidents, and 32 were shot down and taken prisoner, according to Tuskegee Airmen Inc., a group that promotes the history of the airmen. The airmen sometimes were denied entry to officers' clubs, in contradiction with Army rules. Some who tried to enter were charged with insubordination. But after the Air Force was created in 1947, the first integrated aviation classes at Randolph Field ushered in an era of desegregation in the military.

"I am a living witness"

Miles, who grew up in San Antonio, remembers having a sugar sandwich — bread with butter and sugar — stolen from him at school one day. “I cried all day,” he said. “My mother told me to put it where it wouldn't get stolen.”The next day, he sat on his sandwich. It was flat by lunchtime. But at least he didn't have an empty belly. Whoever took his sandwich must have been hungrier, he thought.

Miles always has made do with what he had. After pumping gas at his dad's service station, he got a civil service mechanic's job at Kelly Field. In 1942, he went to Tuskegee and learned aircraft maintenance skills no man of color ever had known, and was part of the Tuskegee ground crew. The expertise he acquired at Tuskegee helped him raise five kids while working in aircraft maintenance at Kelly AFB for 20 years. But first, the end of the war gave him a chance to pursue a love of baseball. He led the Negro League with 27 home runs in 1948 and took his team, the Chicago American Giants, to a league title in 1949.

While white ballplayers made good money and stayed in nice hotels, Miles and his colleagues lived out of their rickety bus. He played alongside Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson but faced bigotry even after baseball was integrated in the 1950s. As the first black player with the Laredo Apaches, Miles was refused service at a Corpus Christi restaurant, then allowed to dine in the kitchen after his white teammates started to walk out. One night in Harlingen, someone yelled, “We're gonna have n----- night tonight,” when Miles was at bat. But it didn't shake him. And on Jan. 20, when he'll see Obama take office, those hurtful words won't matter at all.

“I am a living witness,” Miles said. “I'm proud to be part of a group that struck a blow to discrimination.”

Thirteen Years Early

Coggs, an Arkansas native, will attend the inauguration with his daughter, Anita Coggs Rowell of California. As a Tuskegee Airmen, he trained as an aerial gunner, bombardier and pilot.

The war ended before he could fly in combat. He used the GI Bill to earn a degree from Harvard Medical School, where he was exposed to a world without segregation. He practiced in California in an era with few black doctors in the 1950s and '60s, and was a tenured professor of radiology at the University of Texas at San Antonio and chief of radiology at Audie Murphy VA Hospital. His specialty was detection and treatment of breast cancer.

Coggs always has been athletic, and has won gold medals in the 400- and 1,500-meter run at the Senior Games. In August, he'll run the 400 at the National Senior Games in California. He's determined to live past 100, like his father, who died at 105.

This week, Coggs is resting up for an early rise on Jan. 20. The Tuskegee Airmen are to be in place by 7 a.m., five hours before Obama takes his oath. “I'm not a morning person, but this is a spectacular event,” Coggs said. “I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime.”

Somehow, his granddaughter, Angela Rowell, had envisioned such a fate. A few years ago, in an essay she wrote at age 11, she imagined herself being cited at the White House in 2022 for finding a cure for diabetes. The president in her essay was her cousin, “and he's quite black,” unlike Obama, who is biracial, Coggs said. So, in the mind of an 11-year-old girl who never faced 20th-century discrimination, Obama might be breaking the color barrier 13 years early, he said.

Massive Crowds

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies invited the Tuskegee Airmen and the “Little Rock Nine,” who successfully resisted school segregation in 1957, to join about 30,000 others on a terrace below the podium where Obama will take the oath at the Capitol. But those invited civil rights pioneers are traveling on private funds.

In Texas, a hospice care provider has donated $10,000 to cover the travel costs for Coggs, Miles and four Tuskegee Airmen from the Dallas area, as well as a family member or companion for each of them. “Having the privilege to journey with so many veterans at the end of their life reminds us how important it is to recognize our veterans' inspiring service,” said Kathy Phoenix, veteran and community liaison for VITAS Innovative Hospice Care.

Marv Abrams, local chapter president of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc., said about 300 registered Tuskegee Airmen still are living, down from the original 15,000. About 225 plan to attend the inauguration, he said. There are seven in the San Antonio area, but most aren't up to the inauguration, he said. About 2 million people are expected to gather in Washington. Aside from lodging and transportation, Abrams is worried about getting the aging veterans through the tight crowds. But they deserve to be there, Abrams said. “These gentlemen were some of the first proponents of hope and change. This is a culmination of everything they fought for,” he said. “There will probably be tears, but most will be tears of joy and tears of accomplishment.”

Miles, who will fly out with his son, Ralph Miles, said he wants an aisle seat so he can stretch his 6-foot-3 frame and worn-out knees. He has buried two of his five grown children, but still has a lot at stake in the future — 28 grandchildren and 16 great-grandkids. Although America faces a new set of problems — two wars overseas and a faltering economy — he said he sees a nation that's evolved far beyond sugar sandwiches and segregation.

“We've come a long way.”



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