William “Willie” Rogers
April 12, 1915 – November 18, 2016
Born in Apalachicola on the gulf shores of Florida in 1915, Rogers said humbly in a television interview that he was raised with the motto, “You ain’t better than nobody, and ain’t nobody better than you.”
Rogers was drafted into the Army just two months after the U.S. entered World War II. It was reported that Rogers was part of the 100th Fighter Squadron. However, after his death historians were unsure about Rogers place in the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. In 2017 it was confirmed that he as part of the 96th Air Service Group providing support to the pilots and air crews. Because Rogers never talked about his service until 2012, the story of his participation with the 100th Fighter Squadron was retold over and over.
He attained the rank of Master Sergeant and was wounded in the line of duty, taking a shot to the leg and stomach from German soldiers while on duty in Italy and spending three months in an English military hospital.
Rogers arrived at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany shortly after it was liberated by American troops April 29, 1945. He and a contingent of Americans took an inventory of the camp.
Described as a kind and generous man, he graduated from the Clafin College of Agriculture and Mechanical Institute before his service. When he returned to Florida after the war, he opened his own business – Rogers’ Radio Sales and Service in his new hometown of St. Petersburg where he sold and repaired small appliances.
With the passing of Willie Rogers, we are reminded yet again of the swiftness of time and narrowing opportunity we have to personally honor these surviving heroes. Each member of the Tuskegee Airmen – pilots and support personnel, men and women – holds a unique place in history and it is our privilege to work to ensure their impact on history is never forgotten.
Sources: Wikipedia and Kiersten Willis -November 23, 2016