April 10, 2013
By Julie Summers Walker
Retired Lt. Col. George E. Hardy of the New England chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. was among honored guests at the thirty-ninth annual Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In & Expo on April 10. Before the singing of the national anthem and the start of the 3 p.m. airshow, Hardy shared memories of his 25-year career in the U.S. military, which began when he was a 19-year-old pilot flying a B-25.
But it wasn’t until 1973 that black servicemen in the U.S. were referred to as “Tuskegee Airmen.”
“Many people never knew we’d served,” remembered Hardy. “Even those in the black community. It feels good knowing that people now know we were there.”
Hardy was also a maintenance officer on the B-29, and left the service after the end of World War II. He re-enlisted several years later and had a full career flying tours in Korea and Vietnam—70 combat missions in all.
Hardy is proud of the films that have featured the Tuskegee Airmen and attended Sun ’n Fun as a guest of the Commemorative Air Force and the Red Tails Squadron. Of the recent Red Tails movie, Hardy has some criticism: First, he says, his commander would never have tolerated the alcoholism depicted in the film, and, of the romance of the young pilot and the Italian girl he spies on a rooftop, he scoffs. “I didn’t think much of the romance, but I liked the movie.”
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
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