In 1943, Charles B. Hall became the first African-American fighter pilot to take down an enemy aircraft. The strike on the enemy aircraft happened on July 2, 1943, while Hall was a member of the 99th Fighter Squadron. Hall was on an escort mission of B-25 medium bombers on a raid on Castelvetrano in southwestern Sicily, Italy, when he shot down the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger while in a P-40. He was later awarded the “Distinguished Flying Cross” for his service in World War II.
“It was my eighth mission and the first time I had seen the enemy close enough to shoot him. I saw two Focke-Wulfs following the bombers just after the bombs were dropped. I headed for the space between the fighters and bombers and managed to turn inside the Jerries. I fired a long burst and saw my tracers penetrate the second aircraft. He was turning to the left, but suddenly fell off and headed straight into the ground. I followed him down and saw him crash. He raised a big cloud of dust.”
–1st Lieutenant Charles B. Hall
Hall was born August 25, 1920, in Brazil, Indiana, and grew up affected by the Great Depression. During this time, children were forced to attend inferior schools. Hall attended Brazil High School where he excelled in sports.
After graduating from high school, Hall attended Eastern Illinois State Teachers College where he ran track and played football while studying pre-med. During this time, a pilot training program was being created in anticipation of the United States having to go to war. Eventually, President Roosevelt opened up the training program to African Americans. Interested Black applicants were sent to Tuskegee Institute, a college founded in Alabama in 1881 by Booker T. Washington, to be trained. Hall was one of the first African Americans to participate in the training. The first fighter pilots graduated on March 7, 1942, forming the 99th Pursuit Fighter Squadron, a part of the 332nd fighter Group.
Hall was personally honored for his accomplishments by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the war, he remained in the service and retired from the Air Force at the rank of Major.