Leo Gray is a veteran pilot of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, 15th Air Force, and first all-black flying group to see combat. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Gray volunteered for the Army Air Corps shortly after high school and began his aviation cadet training in 1943. After graduating from cadet training at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, Gray went on to complete combat training at Walterboro Army Air Field in South Carolina. In March of 1945, he joined the100th Fighter Squadron and was stationed at Ramitelli Air Base, Italy as a fighter pilot in the P-51 Mustang. He completed 15 combat missions while escorting B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, as well as photo reconnaissance aircraft over Germany, Austria, and northern Italy. Alongside so many other Tuskegee Airmen, Gray performed with courage and valor while fighting a war on two fronts. The first was against the Axis Powers in the air over Europe and the second was against racial discrimination and segregation in the United States. Despite these obstacles, the Tuskegee Airmen flew 313 combat missions against some of the most heavily defended targets in the Third Reich. In the battle domain, they were called the Schwartze Vogelmenschen, or Black Airmen, by German adversaries who feared and respected them. The 332nd Fighter Group’s successful combat record, which included destroying 112 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and 150 on the ground, was a principal factor in President Truman’s 1948 decision to integrate the armed services. With many of his own individual successes, Gray flew his last combat mission on 7 May 1945. He left military service in December 1946 but remained in the United States Air Force Reserves until May 1984, accumulating 41 years of military service and 750 flying hours. Gray earned the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster and the Mediterranean Theatre of Operation Ribbon with three Battle Stars. In addition, the Tuskegee Airmen were collectively awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2006 in recognition of their unique military record, which inspired revolutionary reform in the Armed Forces. Gray’s second career was spent at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where he served as an agricultural economist. In his civic life, Gray is committed to the advancement of civil rights and served as the founder and president of the Miami Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. In 2008, he was named as one of the “Top 101 Industry Experts” in Cambridge’s Who’s Who Publishing, Inc. Currently, Lieutenant Colonel Gray is the proud father of seven children and four stepchildren, the grandfather of ten children, great grandfather of 20 children, and great great grandfather of four children. He lives in Florida with his wife Dianne.
Years Honored: 2016
Aircraft/Specialty: P-51 Mustang
Lieutenant Colonel Leo R. Gray is a veteran pilot of the 332nd Fighter Group, the first all-black flying unit. Soon after his graduation from the Tuskegee Army Air Field he was stationed in Ramitelli, Italy as a combat fighter in the P-51 Mustang. He completed 15 combat missions over German-occupied territory while escorting B-24 and B-17 bombers as well as aerial reconnaissance aircraft. After logging 750 flying hours, Gray left military service in 1946 but remained in the USAF Reserves until 1984, totaling 41 years of military service.