Tuskegee Airman Attends AirVenture 2017
Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart (Ret.) stopped by AirVenture this year to sign autographs and share his story as a Tuskegee Airman. Stewart is currently 93 and fought in World War II with the United States Army Air Corps and Air Force.
Stewart finished his military training at the age of 19. He trained in various airplanes, including a PT-19, a BT-13 and an AT-6. After training, he flew a P-40 known for its iconic tiger shark teeth paint scheme, as well as a P-47. In combat, Stewart flew a P-51 in escort bomber missions. He flew 43 missions total and often escorted bombers from Italy to Europe.
He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross after shooting down three German aircraft with the all-black 332nd Fighter Group.
After the war, Stewart attempted to get a job as an airline pilot but was turned away because of his race. In 2015, Delta Air Lines' chief pilot awarded Stewart the title of Honorary Delta Captain, and he was given his Captain Wings.
He went on to New York University’s College of Engineering where he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He held various engineering jobs, and ended his career as vice president of American Natural Resources.
Stewart has seen the popular movie Red Tails, as well as HBO’s The Tuskegee Airmen. He confesses that he prefers HBO’s telling of the story, as he thought Red Tails was “too fantasy” and had too many “elements of Hollywood.”
Stewart flew to AirVenture for the first time six years ago in a motorglider and landed where the Warbirds are stored today. He didn’t fly much after the war, and didn’t really start flying again until he was 82. Stewart gave up flying at the age of 87.
Today, Stewart travels to do public speaking events and to spread his story of perseverance and dedication. “Don’t let difficulties discourage you, and keep your aim high,” said Stewart. “Do your best at anything you decide to do. Education is necessary to progress and make your stay worthwhile.”