Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

2005 2009 2013

Eagle Biography

Charles E. McGee

Charles E. McGee

Colonel Charles E. McGee is one of three original Tuskegee fighter pilots to have fought during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He completed 409 fighter combat missions, the highest three-war fighter mission total of any aviator in the history of the United States Air Force. McGee began his flying career in 1942 when he enrolled in flight training at Tuskegee Field, Alabama. He flew his first combat mission on 14 February 1944, conducting coastal and tactical patrols over Italy. During World War II, he completed 136 combat missions flying the P-39Q Airacobra, P-47D Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang, escorting B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress bombers over Germany, Austria, and the Balkans. Heroically, Charles McGee flew low-altitude strafing missions over enemy airfields and rail yards, with the mission on 23 August 1944 as his most memorable. While escorting B-17s over Czechoslovakia, he engaged German fighters and singlehandedly took out a Focke-Wulf 190. Despite relentless racial discrimination and bias, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 200 bomber escort missions against some of the most heavily defended targets in the Third Reich, compiling an exceptional combat record. In the face of the prevailing discrimination, McGee decided to transition to maintenance officer after the war. However, everything changed in 1950 when he received orders to the Philippines. With the Korean War looming, the newly formed United States Air Force had a renewed interest in pilots who had flown the Mustang, re-designated as the F-51. In spite of a six-year hiatus from the cockpit, McGee jumped into the F-51 and traveled to Johnson AFB, Japan. McGee completed his 100 mission-tour untouched. It took another 13 years for McGee to fight in another war, this time in Vietnam. He transitioned to the RF-4C Phantom to conduct reconnaissance missions, yet found himself in the fight of his life when the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive. From his location in Saigon, only McGee and four other pilots were available to fly escort missions. For three straight days, the Phantom pilots escorted bombers until relief arrived. After 173 missions in Vietnam, McGee returned stateside he accomplished one of the most important moments in his career: he took command of Richards-Gebaur AFB in Belton, Missouri. "I always wanted this task, so on June 24, 1972, I got my opportunity and with it a key to the city of Belton, the same place that denied me housing less than two decades before." McGee has been an ambassador of The Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. for over 33 years and is recipient of the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal.

See the Lithograph
Lithograph Setting

Colonel Charles McGee flew RF-4C Phantom aircraft during the Vietnam War.  During a surprise attack from the North Vietnamese, he and only four other pilots were tasked with escort missions for three straight days until relief arrived. Col McGee flew more than 170 RF-4C reconnaissance missions in Vietnam.

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