Tuskegee Airman Remembers MLK

3:23 PM, Aug 1, 2011   |    comments
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(WUSA) -- Eighty-five-year-old William Broadwater still remembers why he wanted to become a pilot as a child growing up in Bryn Mawr, PA. "For a ten-year-old, the fascination of seeing somebody being able to break lose from the earth and just fly, " Broadwater excitedly recalls.

Eight years later, his dream came true. Broadwater became a Tuskegee Airman--- the first African-American aviators in the U.S. military. He flew the B-25 bomber.

And on a picture perfect day at the Sussex County Airport in Delaware, Broadwater got back behind the controls of his beloved B-25. He flew the "Panchito, a vintage B-25J aircraft restored by Rag Wings and Radials. "It was terrific. The most fun I've had in five years. The last time I flew."

He estimates he has 350 hours flying B-25s during the war. While, Broadwater never deployed, some 450 Tuskegee Airmen did and became decorated pilots in World War II. "These guys were seamless. Their records were infallible. These guys can do anything everyone else can. In fact they may even be able to do it better."

The Tuskegee Airmen fought for their country and were prepared to die for it, even though they served in a segregated military. Broadwater says he and his fellow airmen were determined to make it, no matter what. "They set up separate officer clubs. They did everything they could to denigrate, to keep them from passing their test."

Broadwater believes the Tuskegee Airmen's legacy had a great impact on Dr. Martin Luther King, whom Broadwater greatly admired, but disagreed with King's methods. "I didn't go to the march, and the reason was the non-violent operation. I wasn't non-violent."

Broadwater says he understands peaceful protests were necessary for the civil rights movement. He says the method simply was not for him. "I was a warrior. I was taught to kill, to defend. That's what I was about."

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