MEMOIRS OF A SECOND CLASS HERO
At 93 years old, Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson recalls his trials and tribulations from early childhood racism in America to his segregated military experience and overseas combat deployment in WWII. He tells of his stay as a P.O.W. in Nazi Germany and recalls his sobering walk through Dachau Concentration Camp, which was liberated only 2 days earlier. After heroically serving his country in the world’s worst war, Alex joyfully returned home only to be greeted by racism, bigotry and segregation.
Years of service 1942-1969 Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 332nd Fighter Group
US Air Force Reserve
Purple Heart Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal
Prisoner of War Medal
American Campaign Medal
National Defense Medal
Air Force Achievement Medal
Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
American Defense Medal
World War II Medal
WHY SERVE THOSE
WHO WON'T SERVE US ?
- GEN. COLIN POWELL
The first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces. During World War II, Black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to the Jim Crow laws and the American Military was racially segregated. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. The first black military pilots were trained in the United States at Moton Field and Tuskegee Army Air Field, located near Tuskegee, Alabama.
"I WAS TREATED BETTER AS P.O.W.
THAN I WAS BACK AT HOME"
- LT. COL. ALEXANDER JEFFERSON
REFLECTING ON THE P.O.W. EXPERIENCE
Lt. Col. Jefferson was shot down and captured on his 19th mission while strafing radar towers in advance of Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France. Upon arriving at the German camp, Alex was brought before a German interrogator. The interrogator told Alex that he had attended University of Michigan and spent much of his spare time in Detroit's Paradise Valley where he enjoyed whiskey, hot jazz and even hotter women. He said that he looked forward to returning to Detroit after Germany wins the war. Alex was initially shunned by other American P.O.W.'s. When a group of captured bombardiers were brought to Stalag Luft III the word spread , "If you red tails had flown with us, we would never have been shot down." Alex was quickly accepted by all white officers.
Initial reports from his squadron claimed that Lt. Col. Alex Jefferson was KIA (killed in action), his family was informed but it was months later after mourning his death that the Red Cross reported him as a POW.
Stalag Luft III was a Luftwaffe-run prisoner-of-war camp during World War II that housed captured air force servicemen. It was in the German province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan 100 miles southeast of Berlin. The site was selected because it would be difficult to escape by tunneling. The camp is best known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling.
Stalag VII-A was Germany's largest prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, located just north of the town of Moosburg in southern Bavaria. The camp covered an area of 86 acres. During the height of the war, prisoners from every nation fighting against Germany passed through it. At the time of its liberation on 29 April 1945, there were about 80,000 prisoners in the camp.
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