Daniel Keel
1922 –
Class: 45-G-TE
Graduation date: 10/16/1945
Unit: 477th Bombardment Group
Service # T131953

Daniel Keel, one of only five Tuskegee Airmen to receive a triple airman rating – pilot, navigator, and bombardier.

“Get yourself a good education and work hard. Nothing is given to you for free. “

Daniel Keel was born in Mineola, New York in 1922 and he was raised in South Carolina and Massachusetts, Mr. Keel is a 1941 graduate of Boston Latin School, where he received a classical education which included Latin and German, while also attaining the rank of Cadet 2nd Lieutenant in his JROTC regiment. He then continued his education at Northeastern University in Boston, majoring in aeronautical engineering. Drafted into the US Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet in 1943, Mr. Keel began his initial training at Keesler Army Air Field in Biloxi, MS and Tuskegee Army Air Field, AL. Mr. Keel then continued his training at Hondo Army Air Field, TX, receiving his Twin Engine Navigator rating in 1944; followed by completing his Second Rating as an Aerial Bombardier at Midland Army Air Field, TX.  While at Midland, he and his fellow Tuskegee Airmen officers sent a letter to the Inspector General in Washington, DC in protest of the unequal and segregated facilities on base.

“We could not eat in the officer’s mess (hall),” Keel said, even though they were officers. “We could not go in the officer’s club. If we went to the theater, we couldn’t sit in the officer’s section. If we went to town, we had to ride the back of the bus.”

The first court-martialing attempt happened early on when the black officers went to the civilian mess hall at noon for lunch and were forced to wait until all of the white people were fed. Angered, they stormed the officer’s mess hall and demanded to be fed. They also signed a letter claiming racial discrimination and violation of expressed war department policies and sent it to a top military officials.

Social facilities were soon desegregated much to the consternation of local commanders. This incident was not declassified until 2015. Mr. Keel earned his Third Rating as a Pilot at Tuskegee where he successfully completed Basic Single Engine training in the T-6 Texan Trainer. He then completed training in the B-25 “Mitchell” medium bomber in preparation of serving in the Pacific Theater with the 477th Composite Group. However, WW II ended prior to his deployment. Nonetheless, Mr. Keel holds the distinction of being one of only three Black Officers to earn Three Aeronautical Ratings during WW II.

Following his discharge in 1946, Mr. Keel obtained a Commercial Multi-Engine Pilot’s License with the dream that he could continue his passion for flying. Unfortunately, Black Pilots weren’t hired by commercial airlines until the 1960s. Instead, Mr. Keel together with his wife Barbara raised eight children in Massachusetts while becoming a Master Electrician and prominent commercial contractor until his retirement to Central Florida in 1998. Mr. Keel has been the Guest of Honor at many speaking engagements and has accepted multiple awards for his service to his country. During March of 2007, he together with other surviving Tuskegee Airmen, traveled to Statuary Hall at the US Capitol in Washington DC to accept from President George W. Bush and Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow.

Watch this interview of Tuskegee Airman Daniel Keel shares his story of courage, bravery, and racial discrimination as he fought to be accepted as an officer in the Army Air Corp. When a white officer undermines the group of cadets Keel and his fellow soldiers fight back to earn the right to serve their nation.

Sources:
OrangeObserver.com
Style.com
TuskegeeAirmen.org

 

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