January 14, 1923 –
Graduation date: 10/16/1945
Service # 02080935
Mr. Herbert Thorpe was born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Brooklyn Public Schools and graduated from High School in 1940. He enrolled in the U.S. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and served in camps at Van Etten, NY; Camden, NY; and Beltsville, MD from 1940 to 1942.
In 1942, Mr. Thorpe enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves and attended U.S. Signal Corps School in Troy, NY until the Spring of 1943. Mr. Thorpe began his active-duty service at military basic training in June 1943 at Ft. Dix, NJ and Keams Field, Utah. While in Utah, he applied and was accepted for Aviation Cadet School in December 1943. From Utah, he was sent to Keesler Field, Biloxi, MS, in 1944, where he completed altitude testing. In January 1944, he transferred to Aviation Cadet School, at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. After completing Primary Flight School at the Institute, he was transferred to Basic Training Flight School at Tuskegee Army Air Field (TAAF) and was selected with others, for Multi-Engine training. In mid-1944, he was transferred to Gunnery School at Tyndall Field, FL, then to Bombardier/Navigator School at Midland Army Air Field, Texas.
Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, Navigator/Bombardier, December 30, 1944, Midland, TX, 2nd Lt Thorpe returned to Tuskegee and began Advanced Flight Training school and qualified as a B-25 (Twin-engine) Pilot at TAAF in October 1945. He remained at TAAF and left the service in August 1946. He returned to Brooklyn to attend New York University under the GI Bill and graduated as an Electrical Engineer in 1953. From 1955-59, he was employed as a Radar Systems Engineer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In the Fall of 1959, he went to Rome, NY, to work as a Radar Research Engineer in Beacon Systems at Rome Air Development Center, Griffiss AFB. He partially retired in 1983. From 1984-1997, he served as a part time Counselor at Mohawk Valley Community College, Utica, NY.
Traveling around the country post-war he said he was exposed to more segregation than before.
“Coming from New York, the north, we weren’t exposed to these things we saw other places,” he said, noting that the isolation of the Tuskegee base also sheltered him from segregation.
He was unable to attend the original medal presentation ceremony in Washington, D.C., in 2007. He was among those honored Friday during a Veterans Day presentation of Congressional Gold Medals at the National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, recognizing five Tuskegee Airmen.
“I didn’t fully appreciate it when it was going on, so I’m glad I was able to be here today,” he, following the presentation.
Thorpe also accepted a Gold Medal on behalf of his brother Richard, who also completed pilot training.
Richard Thorpe was assigned as a replacement pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen and was instructed to report to Italy for combat. During one of the orientation flights, Richard unexpectedly lost control of his aircraft. He died in a during a training mission in 1945.
Herbert Thorpe said he was glad to see the Tuskegee Airmen being honored.
“People that are still here and remembering us are giving us the opportunity to be recognized,” he said. “I think it is wonderful.”
Livingston County News