1944 portrait of William A. “Bill” Campbell

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This 1944 portrait of William A. “Bill” Campbell by Betsy Graves Reyneau hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.

Artist Betsy Graves Reyneau intended for this portrait to be symbolic of African American participation and heroism in the war effort.

“A decorated fighter pilot who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, William A. “Bill” Campbell joined the military in 1942, when all branches of the U.S. armed forces were rigidly segregated. Shortly after America’s entry into World War II, Campbell enrolled in flight training at special facilities established for African American pilots and technicians at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). Earning his wings in July 1942, Second Lieutenant Campbell was assigned to the U.S. Army Air Corps’s Ninety-Ninth Pursuit Squadron. On June 2, 1943, he saw action as a wingman on the inaugural combat mission carried out by the Tuskegee Airmen. The first African American pilot to bomb an enemy target, Campbell flew 106 missions and ended the war as commander of the Ninety-Ninth Fighter Squadron. Awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and thirteen Air Medals, he retired from the service as a full colonel in 1970.”

Learn more about Col William Campbell in TUSKEGEE AIRMEN PROFILES!