Clarence E. Huntley, Jr. (pictured left) and Joseph Shambrey (pictured right), both 91, were lifelong friends and members of prestigious air fleet the Tuskegee Airmen. Both gentlemen passed away on the same day, January 5, reports The Washington Free Beacon.
The Tuskegee Airmen was an elite African-American World War II air fighting unit who trained at the famed Tuskegee airfield in Alabama.
Huntley and Shambrey reportedly enlisted in 1942 and were shipped overseas to Italy in 1944 with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Force’s 332nd Fighter Group. Both Huntley and Shambrey maintained the squadron’s fighter planes as mechanics.
The men honed their crafts and did so proudly according to Shambrey’s son, Tim Shambrey. Not only were the men’s lives in peril while in the war corridor, but racism was also pretty much the order of the day at home.
Predictably, the pair had to do battle in the face of prejudice from every direction. Tim recounts a story about his dad getting off a train in Alabama where a hospitality station was welcoming returning white troops with fanfare and free coffee. “When he and his buddies came off, dressed in their uniforms, of course they didn’t get any congratulations” and were asked to pay for their coffee, Shambrey said.
And quite naturally, their pride would not allow them to do anything other than pay for their cup of java.
“The thing about those men is that they were very proud” and decided not to make a fuss, Shambrey told the Associated Press. “They were already used to so much discrimination.”
Reportedly, Huntley and Shambrey were rather reticent about discussing their Tuskegee Airmen stint.
According to Huntley’s daughter, Sheila McGee, her father viewed his service to this country as something that was as natural as breathing and oftentimes told his family, “I was doing what I was supposed to do, and that was to serve my country,” McGee told the AP.
After their military service both men took totally different career paths. Shambrey worked with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. Huntley served as a skycap for over 60 years at both the Burbank and Los Angeles airports.