Edward Woodward, Sr.
477th Bombardier Group
Even though Retired Captain Edward Woodward trained to be a bombardier, he never had the opportunity to fly a mission in World War II. As member of the 477th Bombardier Group, he was a member of the historic “Tuskegee Airmen.” He trained to be a bombardier and navigator of B-25’s. The war ended before the 477th finished their training, however the group made history in the face of racism they faced here at home with their steps to end segregation in the armed forces.
Woodward, a native of New York who resided at the Norman Veterans Center, joined the Army Air Corp in 1941, shortly after graduating from high school. After the war, he continued in the Army Air Corp (which later changed to the United States Air Force) for a 30-year career, eventually retiring at Travis Air Force Base and living in the Vallejo, California area. At the age of 90, he was honored in 2012 by having an elementary charter school named after him. Woodward Leadership Academy is located in San Bernardino, California.
The military at that time was still segregated with the bases lead by white officers. The 477th trained at Selfridge Field in Michigan, Godman Field in Kentucky, Freeman Field in Indiana and then returning to Godman Field. It was while the group was stationed at Freeman, that the historic “Freeman Field Mutiny” took place in 1945. Military regulations stated that base officer clubs were open to any officer. The base attempted to have two officers clubs, one for “supervisors” and one for “trainees.” Black officers were designated as “trainees,” while the white officers had “supervisor” designations. In order to desegregate the “supervisor” club, black officers peacefully entered the club in groups over a few evenings, each being put into “arrest” and required to return to their bunk. As a response, base commanders ordered all black officers to sign statements that they understood what facilities they were allowed to use on base. Upon refusal to sign, additional men were arrested. A total of 162 black officers were arrested at Freeman Field for entering the supervising officers’ club and for refusing to sign a statement that they had read and understood Base Regulation 85-2. Woodward, a second lieutenant at that time, was one of those arrested for refusing to sign the statement.
Finally, on August 12, 1995, 50 years after the mutiny, the Air Force cleared the records of all those who had stood against the unlawful order at Freeman Field, in 1945. In 2007, President George W. Bush honored the contributions of the 477th by presenting the surviving members and family members with a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal.