Lt Col Charles A. Lane, Jr.
June 2, 1925 – Nov 8, 2013
Graduation Date: 9/8/1944
Unit: 99th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group
Service # T66143
Lt Colonel Lane (Ret) was born on June 2, 1925 in St. Louis Missouri. He attended Harriett Beecher Stowe Teachers College. He would talk about growing up in 1930s St. Louis, a boy who dreamed of the sky at a time when discrimination clipped the wings of other dreamers.
He was obsessed with airplanes, folding them out of paper, building them out of wood, pedaling his bike some 18 miles each way to watch them at Lambert Field. Lane once sweet-talked a pilot there into taking him for a spin after he cleaned the plane’s wheels.
After the war started, the Army Air Corps eventually began training blacks to fly, and Lane signed up.
He graduated from Tuskegee flying program as a fighter pilot in 1944 and joined the Army Air Corps 99th Pursuit Squadron in Italy in one of the three Black aviation units to see combat during WWII. He flew 26 combat missions, flying P51 fighters escorting B-17 and B-24 bomber aircraft.
Bob Rose, a retired Air Force captain who runs Tuskegee Airmen Inc. of Nebraska, said it wasn’t just the blue-eyed Germans who were surprised to see a Charles Lane in the cockpit.
“Most of them were not aware,” Rose said of U.S. bombers. “They were very shaky about having blacks protect their flank. The general consensus was blacks couldn’t fly, and even if they could master the airplane, they wouldn’t have the guts.”
That attitude changed because the Tuskegee pilots were so good at their job.
If it was sweetly ironic being a black pilot fighting the Nazis, it had been bitterly ironic being a black fighter pilot in a still-segregated military.
Lane once spent the night in a Nashville, Tenn., jail, accused of impersonating an officer. He once escorted Nazi prisoners to a dining hall and saw they had better accommodations than he did.
After the war, Lane would later say he sometimes felt more at home in Europe.
“The way we looked at it, we were first-class citizens in the air, second-class citizens at the base and third-class citizens in the community,” Lane once said.
Lt Colonel Lane dedicated 27 years of service to the US Air Force flying fighters, transports, and the B-52. His primary duty during this period was as a Communications-Electronics Staff Officer. His last tour was at Strategic Air Command. He Retired from the US Air Force September 1, 1970.
In civilian life he became a staff member of the Omaha based poverty program, Greater Omaha Community Action (G.O.C.A). He directed and managed this program from 1970 through his retirement in 1992. Throughout his tenure G.O.C.A. had 22 50 58 active programs dealing with the poverty aspects of children, aging, handicapped, alcoholism, and mental health, to name only a few.
He was a member of Tuskegee Airmen Inc. (TAI) and was a board representative of the local chapter to the TAI national board of directors. He was also affiliated with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), and served as the CAP Squadron Commander. This unit serves predominantly the North Omaha area.