The surviving Iowa members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen all-black World War Two fighter unit returned to Iowa recently for ceremonies in their honor. In the third installment of his series on those men, Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson explains an Iowan brought the group’s accomplishments to worldwide fame. Audio: Dar Danielson report 1:35.
Robert Williams of Ottumwa moved to Los Angeles to go to college after World War Two. His widow, Joan, says he often told her stories of the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen, and it bothered him that their contributions to the war were never carried in major newspapers during the war.
Williams says the Hollywood experts told her husband that no one wanted to hear the Tuskegee story, but he kept pushing to get the story told, even after learning he had cancer. She says he refused to give up, saying he’d work until the day he died to get the story out. Finally in 1995, as interest surged in the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, HBO called and said it wanted to make Williams’ story into a movie. She says that energized her husband and he went to several sites to watch the filming of the movie. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen and their accomplishments in now known worldwide.
Bob Williams, the man who kept their story alive is now gone, but is remembered today with his name on a memorial replica P-51 Mustang airplane outside the Iowa Air National Guard base in Des Moines.