Intrepid Museum Memorial Fulfills Tuskegee Airman’s Unusual Last Wish

Roscoe C. Brown Jr., a Tuskegee Airmen and former squadron commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron, attended the Eternal Light Ceremony during the New York City Veterans Day Parade here Nov. 11, 2015. Brown served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II afterward receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross medal.
U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Williams

Roscoe Brown, the last of the Tuskegee Airmen pilots known to live on Long Island, told his family he did not want an elaborate church funeral. He wanted a jazz band to play instead, and for people to get together over shared stories and maybe a cold beer.

“He wanted the music to carry the story of how Roscoe Brown loved life and all of his various families — his friends, his political family, his educational family,” said his son, Dennis Brown, 65, of Sag Harbor.

Roscoe Brown, who died July 2 at the age of 94, got his wish Friday at the Intrepid Museum, where a band played C Jam Blues and other jazz favorites, and a cross-section of New Yorkers gathered on the deck of the massive aircraft carrier to remember the pilot, educator and activist.

The memorial ceremony was punctuated by an aerial demonstration when planes from the Alabama-based 100th Fighter Squadron that Brown once commanded streaked down the Hudson River and over the carrier’s flight deck in a “missing man” formation shortly before 5 p.m.

“The music was outstanding, which is what Roscoe would have wanted,” said Congressman Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), one of several current and former government officials, educators, community activists and longtime friends who attended. Former Gov. David Paterson, former New York City schools chancellor Dennis Walcott and former Mayor David Dinkins, all personal friends of Brown, were among them.

Brown, who had homes in Riverdale and Sag Harbor, is credited as the first American pilot to shoot down a German jet during World War II. He later earned his doctorate in physiology and became a college professor, first at New York University and later at the CUNY Graduate Center.

With a trademark grin, he was known as a consummate networker. Several said it was fitting that the tribute drew such a cross-section of society.

Ed Small, a retired social worker, said Brown was the first black teacher he ever had when he enrolled in a class at NYU.

“It was inspiring when I saw what he had achieved,” said Small, who traveled from his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to attend.

The Tuskegee Airmen were black aviation personnel whose success during World War II helped persuade the White House to end segregation in the U.S. military.

The Tuskegee program was organized in 1941, after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People pressured President Franklin Roosevelt to end the U.S. Army’s ban on African-American pilots.

The program eventually trained thousands of pilots, navigators, bombardiers, gunners and other air and grounds crew members at Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama. The success of the program, which had to overcome racist opposition among Army officers, is credited with persuading President Harry S. Truman in 1948 to sign Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the U.S. armed forces.

Brown’s passing is indicative of how quickly the last of the Tuskegee Airmen, whose post-war activism helped usher in the civil rights era, is disappearing.

5 Lessons About Life And Business From All-Black Military Units In World War II »

Yesterday’s memorial service for Brown was held just hours after another veteran who served with the Tuskegee Airmen, Dabney Montgomery, 93, was buried at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton.

Montgomery, who between 1943 and 1945 served with the 1051st Quartermasters Company attached to the 96th Air Service Group while stationed in Ramitelli, Italy, died Saturday at his Harlem home after a long illness.

Friday’s gathering drew the children of several of the Tuskegee Airmen, including Derek Wheeler. His father, pilot William Wheeler, of Hempstead, died in 2011.

Derek Wheeler, a retired vice president of finance at Lehman College in the Bronx, said he likely would not have had the career he did had Brown not taken a personal interest in his success.

“Roscoe was always giving me advice,” Wheeler said. “He was the consummate mentor.”


© 2016 Newsday. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A screenshot from a video appearing to show the wreckage of an Air Force E-11A communications aircraft in Afghanistan (Twitter)

A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.

Read More
In this June 7, 2009 file photo Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) points to a player behind him after making a basket in the closing seconds against the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the NBA basketball finals in Los Angeles. Bryant, the 18-time NBA All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. He was 41. (Associated Press/Mark J. Terrill)

Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.

Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.

Read More
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) 19.2, observe protestors toss Molotov Cocktails over the wall of the Baghdad Embassy Compound in Iraq, Dec. 31, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kyle C. Talbot)

One person was injured by Sunday's rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Task & Purpose was learned. The injury was described as mild and no one was medically evacuated from the embassy following the attack.

Read More
A coalition airstrike destroys an ISIS-K fighting position during Afghan Commando offensive operations in Mohmand Valley, Nangarhar province on Feb. 4, 2018. (U.S. Army/Spc. Jacob Krone)

The U.S. military dropped more munitions on targets across Afghanistan in 2019 than during any other year stretching back to at least 2009, according to Air Force data.

Read More

LONDON (Reuters) - Sweeping cyberattacks targeting governments and other organizations in Europe and the Middle East are believed to be the work of hackers acting in the interests of the Turkish government, three senior Western security officials said.

The hackers have attacked at least 30 organizations, including government ministries, embassies and security services as well as companies and other groups, according to a Reuters review of public internet records. Victims have included Cypriot and Greek government email services and the Iraqi government's national security advisor, the records show.

The attacks involve intercepting internet traffic to victim websites, potentially enabling hackers to obtain illicit access to the networks of government bodies and other organizations.

According to two British officials and one U.S. official, the activity bears the hallmarks of a state-backed cyber espionage operation conducted to advance Turkish interests.

Read More