William R. White, a former member of the famed squadron of African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen, died on July 26 at his home in Smithfield. He was 88. "My job was to service the planes to keep them in the air," White said in 2013.
White was drafted into the Army Infantry in 1945 and was later transferred into the Army Air Corps. He trained as a supply clerk for four months at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas but often faced threats of lynching, he once told The Pilot.
He was later assigned to the 99th Pursuit Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group. The Tuskegee Airmen were the US military’s first black military aviators. The group went on to take part in more than 1,500 combat missions, earning 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses.