Gone West: Howard Baugh

I got news today that Howard Baugh, one of the members of the 99th Fighter Squadron in World War II, had passed away. Howard flew a P-40L called “Connie Jeanne,” he knocked down an Fw 190 over Anzio, and he racked up more than 6000 hours before retiring from the Air Force.

He was also a Tuskegee Airman.

I say that because too often we treat the Tuskegee Airmen as sociological phenomena and forget that they were damned good pilots. That was the reason I was excited to write a combat history of the group – not only did it do credit to what they achieved in the air, but it was the book they wanted to read themselves!

That’s what I heard from my friend Woodie Spears, who, like Col. Baugh and Charles Dryden, also passed away this year. Woodie’s brother George followed in his brother’s footsteps and paid the ultimate price during the Korean War.

One of the down sides of writing these books is that so often your primary sources pass away so soon after you talk to them. Luckily, Woody and Chuck Dryden spoke to me while I was working on the book and their stories are saved. But how many stories are never saved?

If you know of an aviator who’s story has yet to be documented, sit down with him and get it down on tape – or call me! I’ll do it!

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