John Benjamin Roach
December 26, 1926 – April 27, 2005
Class: 45-E-TE
Graduation date: 8/4/1945
Rank at time of graduation: Flt. Officer
Service # T70240
From: Boston MA

John was born in Boston in 1925, the son of John P. Roach and Mary Irish. When he graduated from high school as a top student and athlete, during World War II, he learned that the Army Air Corps had started an aviation training program for black soldiers. He tried to take the pilot’s application test at many Boston area recruiting offices but was always turned down until he found one office where a recruiter let John take the test. He passed the test and was to enter the training program when he joined the Army, but there were paperwork and organizational delays. By persevering he joined what was eventually called The Tuskegee Airmen.

Some people expected this training program to fail, with racial prejudice about intelligence and that blacks could have sickle cell anemia, which would impair their breathing at high altitudes.

After training to fly B-25 bombers, John was assigned to a squadron in the U.S. when the war ended. When he was released from the Army, he applied to be an airline pilot at various airlines. At one airline, the chief pilot told him that if he hired John, the other pilots would go on strike. John instead went to college and earned an aeronautical engineering degree. John flew Air Force fighter jets and transport planes in Korea and Vietnam. His favorite plane was the P-51 Mustang. He retired from the USAF as a colonel in 1969.

He next had a long career in the FAA. At one point, he was a check pilot for airline pilots and happened to give a check ride for the chief pilot who had rejected John’s application. John said the pilot was nervous but was a good pilot and passed his check ride.

When a Delta Airline Flight 723 DC-9 crashed on landing at Boston’s Logan Airport in 1973, John was the deputy regional director of the FAA’s New England regional office. He was the ranking local FAA person in the investigation. He said that the pilots were never on the ILS glideslope. The aircraft hit the seawall short of the runway. No one was monitoring their altitude. They obviously thought they would descend below the cloud layer for a visual landing, but the weather was rapidly deteriorating.

He retired from the FAA in 1983 and from the Air Force Reserve in 1985. He remained active in Tuskegee Airmen chapter in Boston and several aviation clubs until his death.

Article on Keene State College web site, titled :”Tuskegee Airmen Recount War Experiences at KSC”


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