Posted by Wordsmith on 22 April, 2018 at 6:30 am. 3 comments already!


On the morning of April 3, 1945, Second Lt. Walter P. Manning of West Philadelphia sat in a jail cell at a Nazi air force base in Austria. There was a mob at the door, ropes at the ready.

The doomed fighter pilot, battered and beaten, wore his wings on his collar. He was a proud Tuskegee Airman, a member of country’s first black combat aviation unit. Back in Philly, Manning had gained attention for his dedication to his dream of becoming a flier: He had failed his physical exam because of a hammer toe and could have avoided war. Instead, he used his defense-plant salary to pay for surgery – so he could fly.

“That’s real patriotism,” read a headline in one of the local African American newspapers.

Now, he had escaped death twice in the last two days. First, when he bailed out of his plane after a dogfight, where he’d taken out a German fighter. Then, when a local policeman pulled him from a mob that greeted his parachute near Linz.

He had flown more than 50 missions, and six times was awarded the Air Medal for heroism. He had a fiancée, whose picture he kept close. He was not yet 25. Outside his cell, the mob was waiting. And primed to do just what Nazi propaganda instructed: to murder a black pilot in the way Americans murdered blacks in their own land. They took Manning to the nearest lamppost.

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