Above and Beyond: Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, USAF (Ret), on his World War II Service

Above and Beyond: Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, USAF (Ret), on his World War II Service
Illustration by John Harman/MOAA. Left image: New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images. Right image: Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead.

(This article and others in MOAA’s “Window Into War” series originally appeared in the May edition of Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA Premium and Life members. Learn more about the magazine here; learn more about joining MOAA here.)


Note from MOAA: Brig. Gen Charles McGee participated in a live interview Sept. 2 with Old Guys and Their Airplanes (OGTA), in cooperation with the Distinguished Flying Cross Society and South Dakota Public Broadasting. Watch the video at this link.


Brig. Gen. Charles McGee flew more than 409 combat missions during his legendary Air Force career — and nearly five decades later, the barrier-breaking aviator’s service continues to leave people in awe.


McGee, who flew patrol and strafing missions with the Tuskegee Airmen in the then-segregated armed forces during WWII, was the first African American to command a stateside Air Force wing and base in the integrated Air Force. His military service continues to be remembered and honored, including by President Donald Trump. McGee received an honorary promotion from colonel to brigadier general through the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which Trump signed on Dec. 20, 2019.


He said he was pleased by the congressional action to promote him.


“Beyond expectations,” McGee told MOAA.




Over his 30-year career, McGee flew more than 409 fighter combat missions over three wars. He completed 136 combat missions with the Tuskegee Airmen during WWII, 100 combat missions in the Korean War, and 173 combat missions in the Vietnam War.


In February, he participated in the coin toss during Super Bowl LIV. A few days later, Trump pinned stars on McGee’s uniform during a special promotion ceremony in the Oval Office just before the State of the Union address. McGee and his great grandson sat in the audience during the address, in which Trump called him a “hero.”


McGee said it was rewarding to take on different phases of missions in three different wars. However, his most rewarding experience was to retrieve Americans during WWII, which had been part of classified missions he said he couldn’t share until years later.


“It was always, to me, very important to have participated in such an adventure that brought a lot of Americans back home,” McGee said.


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About the Author

Amanda Dolasinski
Amanda Dolasinski

Dolasinski is a former staff writer at MOAA.