For Tuskegee Airman George Porter, Failure Was Not An Option : NPR: Sixteen million men and women served in uniform during World War II. Today, 1.2 million are still alive, but hundreds of those vets are dying every day. In honor of Memorial Day, NPR's All Things Considered is remembering some of the veterans who died this year.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-Americans to fly and support combat planes. Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force George Porter, a crew chief and aircraft maintenance mechanic with the airmen, served for more than two decades with the U.S. Armed Forces. He died in February at the age of 91.
In a , Porter spoke about the racial prejudice that made his job difficult during World War II.
"We did things that we weren't supposed to do as the mechanics on the flight line. Because when we would order parts, they wouldn't send us the parts, but we learned how to repair our own parts."
Porter often shared his experiences with younger members of his chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, the George S. "Spanky" Roberts Chapter in Sacramento, Calif. During the war, the U.S. government "expected [the airmen] to fail," says Walter Suggs, a chapter member, "and they kind of put them in that situation, the Afro-Americans, so they would fail. So they wouldn't give them parts or anything like that."