CMSgt Donald Summerlin

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CMSgt Donald Summerlin portrait and his jacket

David Diaz buys storage units from varies places and found these and other memorabilia of CMSgt Summerlin.

Summerlin, the grandson of a slave originally from Adel, became an aircraft engine mechanic when his grandmother helped him lie about his age to join the Army. Summerlin soon found himself at Chanute Field, training for an experiment that was expected to fail — the Tuskegee Airmen experiment.

Because he knew the war department expected the black airmen to fail, Summerlin promised himself to do a little better every day of his 43 years of military service in a segregated branch of the Army that received “hand-me-down” aircraft.

“They said that we didn’t have any retainability … dumb, lower than the lowest white trash, but I’m still here,” said Summerlin. “We succeeded in telling our own war department ‘you politicians are liars,’ and we set out to prove it.

View additional items of his service in the Korean War and Vietnam

Learn more about CMsgt Donald Summerlin in Tuskegee Airmen Profiles!