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How LT. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. Became a Fighter Pilot and Hero

Robert filmed and interviewed the descendants of three African American WW II heroes. All three WWII heroes died on the same calendar day.

Lt. Col. Luke Joseph Weathers, Jr.

Lt. Col. Luke Joseph Weathers, Jr.

Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr.

Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. was an American fighter pilot during World War II (WWII). He was one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen and made tremendous and heroic contributions to US History. Weathers and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen hold the record as the most outstanding pilots and crew efforts in US Military History.

Weathers and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen hold the record as the most outstanding pilots and crew efforts in US Military History.

Three Heroes Who Are Linked

Circumstances have linked Weathers with two other unsung, African American heroes from Memphis.

Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers Jr., PFC Sylvester Rodgers, Sr., and Ernest C. Withers:

  • all died on the same calendar day of October 15,
  • all served in World War II, and
  • all made significant contributions to the history of the United States.

The year of death differs for each hero:

  • Rodgers died in 1993.
  • Withers died in 2007.
  • Weathers passed away in 2011.

From Grenada to Memphis

Facts about Luke J. Weathers, Jr.

  • He was born on December 16, 1920, in Grenada, Mississippi.
  • He moved to Memphis with his family when he was around two years of age.
  • He attended St. Augusta Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • His father, Luke J. Weathers, Sr., owned and operated the first African American grocery store in Memphis.


Luke J. Weathers, Sr. (the father of Luke J. Weathers, Jr.) owned and operated the first African American grocery store in Memphis, Tennessee.

An Aspiration to Contribute

In 1939, when WWII began, eighteen-year-old Luke J. Weathers, Jr. had an intense desire to serve his country in the United States military. During that time, many African Americans were enlisted to perform their military duties by cooking or cleaning latrines. Weathers was passionate about contributing to his country in a different capacity.

A Desire to Serve

When WWII began, Luke Weathers, Jr. and other African-Americans desired to serve their country in a capacity other than cleaning latrines or cooking.

When WWII began, Luke Weathers, Jr. and other African-Americans desired to serve their country in a capacity other than cleaning latrines or cooking.

Political Pressures of War

In 1941, the Tuskegee Project was started in Tuskegee, Alabama, at Moton Field. The project was intended to prove the ill-conceived notion that black men (negroes) could not endure flight training. At that time in American history, it was reasoned that the United States needed additional pilots, but they could not be black pilots. It was asserted that African American men did not possess the mental or motor skills necessary to operate sophisticated machinery such as airplanes. However, the Tuskegee project showed that it was false to assume that blacks could not fly planes.

Moton Field Tuskegee, Alabama

The 1941 Tuskegee project at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, was intended to prove the misconception that blacks were incapable of flying airplanes.

The 1941 Tuskegee project at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, was intended to prove the misconception that blacks were incapable of flying airplanes.

Accepted in the Program

As a result of being involved in The Tuskegee Project, Luke J. Weathers, Jr.:

  • Became a member of The Tuskegee Airmen
  • Flew with the 332nd Fighter Group and the 302nd Fighter Squadron
  • Departed for Italy on January 03, 1944
  • Started flying missions in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany

They Had to Pass the Test

Two movies entitled: The Tuskegee Airmen and Red Tails show young cadets having to take and pass the pilot's test twice. In his autobiography, Luke Weathers, Jr., indicates that the young Tuskegee Airmen had to take and pass the pilot's test four times. Their white counterparts had to take and pass the test only twice.

In his autobiography, Luke Weathers, Jr. states that the young Tuskegee Airmen had to take and pass the pilot's test four times. Their white counterparts had to take and pass the pilot's test only two times.

Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. was one of the Tuskegee Airmen. He was an American fighter pilot, just like the men pictured in this photo.

Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers, Jr. was one of the Tuskegee Airmen. He was an American fighter pilot, just like the men pictured in this photo.

Safely Escorted Bombers

The United States would have had a difficult time winning World War II if it had not been for the exemplary and heroic deeds of the Tuskegee Airmen. The airmen safely escorted countless bombers to their assigned missions.

Historical documents show that The Tuskegee Airmen:

  • hold the best record of air support and air battles in US military history, and
  • lost almost no bombers under their protection.
The Tuskegee Airmen safely escorted countless bombers to their assigned missions.

The Tuskegee Airmen safely escorted countless bombers to their assigned missions.

They Hold the Best Record

Historical documents show that The Tuskegee Airmen hold the best record of air support and air battles in US military history. They lost almost no bombers under their protection.

African American Pilots in World War II

Head-On Combat

After a previous bombing mission over Germany, Luke Weathers was commissioned to escort a wounded bomber to England.

He flew beneath the bomber to disguise his presence from possible enemy attacks.

Eight hostile planes attacked the bomber. Weathers and two other escorts engaged in enemy contact. Weathers flew into the opposing fleet head-on, immediately taking down one plane.

While escorting a bomber to England, Weathers flew beneath the bomber to disguise his presence from possible enemy attack.

While escorting a bomber to England, Weathers flew beneath the bomber to disguise his presence from possible enemy attack.

The other seven adversaries came after Weathers, but he did not panic. He put his plane in a dive and quickly throttled up to altitude. As he looked back, he spied an enemy aircraft on his tail.

Through skill and cunning, Weathers ended up on the tail of the enemy plane. With a long burst of machine-gun fire and a few short shots, Weathers caused the enemy aircraft to tumble to the ground.

During one assignment, Weathers flew into eight enemy aircraft head-on, immediately taking down one plane.

Weathers reversed a hostile situation when he sent an enemy aircraft that had been on his tail, tumbling to the ground.

Weathers reversed a hostile situation when he sent an enemy aircraft that had been on his tail, tumbling to the ground.

Shot down over Greece

On one of his missions, Weathers was shot down over Greece. However, with the help of local villagers, he safely made it back to his unit.

On one of his missions, Weathers was shot down over Greece.

On one of his missions, Weathers was shot down over Greece.

An Indelible Mark on History

Placing an indelible mark on history, after returning to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, Lt. Col. Weathers received honors that, up until that time, had never been bestowed on an African American in that city. History will undoubtedly show and revere Weathers and his fellow Tuskegee comrades as exemplary pilots associated with exceptional crew efforts.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Robert Odell Jr

Comments

Robert Odell Jr (author) from Memphis, Tennessee on June 29, 2017:

My pleasure Ms Boyce. It is an honorary privilege to be able to share in keeping your father’s great legacy alive. I, do indeed, look forward to fantastic things from the newly organized Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers Foundation.

Trina Weathers Boyce on June 24, 2017:

Thank you Mr. Odell for keeping my father's legacy alive. Ernest Withers was my mother's childhood friend, neighbor and classmate (Manassas Class of 1941). People would often make Withers and Weathers synonymous and we accepted them as family. Andrew Rome Withers called me on October 15 the year his dad passed and years later I did the same. The first thing Rome asked me was, do you know what today is ? My dad bought Uncle Ernest, as I called him, his first camera. Look out for great things from the newly organized Lt. Col. Luke J. Weathers Foundation that will continue his legacy in aviation. #lukelegacylives

Robert Odell Jr (author) from Memphis, Tennessee on June 11, 2017:

Thank You Rashida,

I am honored to have been able to learn of your grandfather's great accomplishments by meeting and listening to his son, Luke J. Weathers III. I thank you and your family for sharing your rich family history with me and with the world.

Rashida Curtis on June 10, 2017:

Granddaughter of Mr. Weathers. Thank You for this! My grandfather raised me in Alexandria, VA, I missed him dearly today and found this article. Thank You

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