Henry Buford “Herky” Perry
January 18, 1920 – January 1, 1995
Class 42-H-SE
Unit: 99th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group

Henry Buford “Herky” Perry was an U.S. Army Air Force/U.S. Air Force officer and one of the most decorated combat fighter pilots with the prodigious 332nd Fighter Group’s 99th Fighter Squadron, best known as the Tuskegee Airmen, “Red Tails,” or “Schwartze Vogelmenschen” (“Black Birdmen”) among enemy German pilots.

Perry is best known as the U.S. Air Force’s first African American jet pilot, as well as the U.S. Air Force’s first African American jet instructor, sharing these two honors with three other African American officers all assigned together. He was also one of the first African American pilots from Thomasville, Georgia.

Perry, was born in Columbia, South Carolina. Raised in Thomasville, Georgia, Perry was the son of Mary A. Jackson Perry (6 Feb 1883 – 21 Dec 1961) and Reverend Robert N Perry Sr. (6 Dec 1881 – 7 Jun 1971), Vicar at Thomasville, Georgia’s Good Shepard Episcopal Church and the Parochial School. In addition to Perry, Robert and Mary had four other children: William Montgomery Perry (1909–1951), Alice Perry Hayes (1911–1990), John Richard Logan Perry (1914–1992), and Frank Hargrave Perry (1916–2005). Perry’s brother, John, was the first African American to serve on the Virginia Beach, Virginia City Council.

In 1937, Perry graduated from Thomasville, Georgia’s Douglas High School. In 1941, he graduated from St. Augustine’s University (North Carolina) in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Perry was married to Harlene Anderson Perry (August 17, 19?? – July 12, 2008), a teacher/librarian, University of Kansas and Lincoln University alumni/1951 Homecoming Queen, and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. They had one daughter, Lisa Perry-Gilkes, and two grandsons.

In 1942, Perry volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps. On September 6, 1942, Deiz graduated from the Tuskegee Flight School’s Single Engine Section Class SE-42-H, earning his wings and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.  The U.S. Army Air Corps assigned Perry to the 99th Fighter Squadron. He was included in the initial cadre of pilots to join the 99th Fighter Squadron in Licata, Sicily.

He flew Curtis P-40 Warhawks including one which had been sponsored by the Loyalty Committee of Victims of Nazi-Fascist Oppression organized by Aufbau and Jewish organizations in New York which Perry addressed in person.

During World War II, Perry flew 102 combat missions in the European Theater and Mediterranean. The U.S. Army Air Corps credited Perry with 2.5 aerial kills. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for aerial action on 18 July 1944, and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters.

After World War II, Perry continued to serve as a combat fighter pilot. In 1949, the U.S. Air Force transferred Perry and three other African American officers to Arizona’s Williams AFB to train jet pilots. Perry, Vernon V. Haywood, Lewis Lench, and John L. Whitehead Jr. (“Mr. Death”) became the U.S. Air Force’s first African American jet instructors.

Perry also served as the Alaskan Air Commander, a Commander and Deputy Wing Commander, and Command Staff Operations Officer. Later, Perry became Tuskegee Air Force Field’s Director of Single Engine Advanced Training and its Air ROTC instructor. He also served as a flight instructor and Director of Training and Analysis at Williams Field in Arizona. After serving as the Director of the Combat Operations Center, Perry retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Colonel after 28 years in the military.

Henry Perry was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters. He also received the Air Force Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters and the Army Commendation Medal.



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