Lt. Wilmeth Sidat-Singh
March 13, 1918 – May 10, 1943
Class 42-C-SE
Graduation Date: March 25, 1943
Unit: 332nd Fighter Group, 100th Fighter Squadron
Service # O-798952

A celebrated African-American athlete at Syracuse University in the 1930s and an inspiration to his fellow Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, Lt. Sidat-Singh was born Wilmeth Webb in Washington, D.C., the son of Pauline and Elias Webb, a pharmacist who died when Wilmeth was a child. He took the surname Sidat-Singh upon being adopted by his mother’s second husband, an Indian-born physician with a practice in Harlem, New York. An excellent student and athlete, he won a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University, where a coach who’d spotted him playing intramural football insisted that he join the varsity team. He soon became as formidable a presence on the gridiron (a former All-American) as he was on the court, leading the Orangemen to a string of victories and drawing comparisons to Sid Luckman and Sammy Baugh. His career was never-the-less stymied by the racial attitudes of his day. When it was discovered that Sidat-Singh was Black and not Indian as presumed, college teams in the South refused to take the field against Syracuse if he were in the line-up. After his graduation he became a basketball star with the Harlem Renaissance, the best professional team of the era.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Wilmeth signed up with the Washington DC police force as their numbers were diminished due to so many being assigned to the armed forces. He continued to play basketball for the Bears while working as a policeman. When the season was finished, he decided to sign up with the Army in August of 1942. He left his job and sports career and enrolled in the Tuskegee Air Field Academy., graduating in March of 1943. At that point, he was transferred to Selfridge Field in Michigan for more flight training.

On May 10, 1943, Wilmeth was out in a training flight when he heard some engine trouble with the plane. He parachuted out, landing in Lake Huron. But there was no sign of his body at the time. His body went unrecovered for 49 days until June 27, when a Coast Guard Patrol sighted him off shore seven miles north of East Tawas. He was wrapped in his parachute and had drowned. His body was brought to Washington DC, where he had a Catholic Funeral and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

On the 14th of May, 1944, a memorial service was held for Wilmeth where a plaque was unveiled in the Harlem Defense Recreation Center in his name. His mother was in attendance and she eloquently expressed her sentiments regarding his tragic loss. I am certain that he would feel that his life was not in vain, if it has served to put a spark into the lives of aspiring youngsters and to impress upon them that ability, slowly but surely, receives recognition. Talent, you know, is like a good friend; you may not see each other from year to year but he’s always there. There is one point in which all men are exactly alike – that is, they are all different. There is little difference between one man and another, but what little there is, is very important………In parting, may I leave with you one of the cherished thoughts that my son and I enjoyed….We have always said that if anything happened to either one of us, we would not grieve, but would think only of the happy times we have had together. Now is the time for me to put our philosophy into practice, and I am doing just this. I find it the best philosophy, the wisest, the richest, the deepest, the strongest for building character. It enables me to say, ‘ Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?

Wilmeth Sidat-Singh is buried or memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery. This is a National American Cemetery administered through the Department of the Army.

Lt. Sidat-Singh was honored in 2005 by Syracuse University when they retiring his number and hanged his basketball jersey in the rafters of the Carrier Dome.

We Salute you Lt Wilmeth Sidat-Singh for your service to our nation.



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