Charles B. Hall
Charles B. Hall was born August 25, 1920, in Brazil, Indiana, the son of Mississippi natives Franklin Hall and Anna Blakesly Hall. He was a top student and stand-out football and track athlete in high school. A hard-working student, Charles studied pre-med at Illinois State Teacher’s College which is now Eastern Illinois University. His medical studies would have to wait, however, as he heeded the call to do his part for the country in WWII.
Hall left college in his third year to join the Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, enlisting at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. Despite a 60% washout rate for aviation cadets and the monumental challenge faced by African-Americans wanting to serve the country, Charles survived the intense aviation cadet training, receiving his pilot’s wings and commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on July 3, 1942. He would be one of the first 43 African-American pilots assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, better known as the “Red Tails” in North Africa.
1st Lieutenant Hall made history on July 2, 1943, during his 8th combat mission, when he became the first African-American pilot to earn an air combat victory, downing a German Fokk-Wulf FW-190 fighter. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, travelled to the headquarters of the 99th to personally congratulate Charles on his victory. 1st Lieutenant Hall was soon promoted to the rank of Captain and, in January 1944, recorded two air combat victories on the same day, making him the first African-American aviator to earn three air combat victories. He would go on to earn seven total air combat victories.
Charles would continue to make his indelible mark on history when he became the first African-American to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross. His airmanship and bravery set a high bar for the Tuskegee Airmen with whom he flew and fought and for those who would follow in his footsteps. During the war, Tuskegee Airmen earned 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 744 Air Medals, over 60 Purple Hearts, and 14 Bronze Stars. Charles was one of only nine pilots from the famed 332nd Fighter Group with at least three confirmed air combat victories. Charles would return to the United States in late 1944 to travel and promote the sale of war bonds.
History was not done with Charles Hall, however. In 1945, he was one of 10 officers appointed to preside over the cases against African-American airmen resulting from the infamous Freeman Field Mutiny in Seymour, Indiana. Charles served as a trial judge advocate in the trials. In 1946, Charles retuned to Tuskegee to instruct a new generation of African-American pilots.
Charles left the military after WWII with the rank of Major, but like many of his African-American contemporaries, he was unable to secure work with the commercial airlines. He eventually settled in Oklahoma City in 1948, first working at a drugstore before going to work at Tinker AFB in 1949. He worked at the base through 1967 before moving on to the Federal Aviation Administration offices in Oklahoma City. In 2008, a bronze statue of Major Hall was erected to mark the entrance to the Major Charles B. Hall Airpark on Tinker AFB. His legacy lives on in history as well as in the Tuskegee Airmen who served the United States heroically with and after him.
For his selfless service to the nation, and life-long contributions to his community, and to Indiana and world aviation history, Charles B. Hall is inducted as a Member of the Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame.