On September 7th, the African American Task Group (AATG) Employee Resource Group (ERG) played host to some of the most legendary fighting men in the history of our great nation. Members of the Chicago chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated (TAI) visited the Rolling Meadows campus to share their history and stories of their exploits in service to our country during World War II.
The Airmen were welcomed by AATG’s Executive Sponsor, Mike Lennon during an Executive luncheon held in their honor. A number of Northrop Grumman’s executives turned out to help welcome the Airmen. Those in attendance included Gaston Dudley, Mike Pefley, John Buckley, Brad Fischer, Jeanne Usher, and Mike Vajgrt. Other distinguished guests included VERITAS Chair Al Boettcher, Jennifer Harnish from Communications and AATG members Mike Reeves, Ade Gordon, John Dill, Florence Iyer, Alvita Jenkins, Kendall Whitfield, Sherry Smith, and Tina Griffin.
Representing the Airmen was:
- Dr. Welton Taylor, a descendant of President Zachary Taylor, Welton achieved the rank of Major while serving in the first all-African American division to enter into combat in World War II. Upon his return to civilian life Welton obtained an M.A. and Ph.D. in bacteriology and was appointed bacteriology instructor at the University of Illinois in 1948. He went on to have a phenomenally successful and distinguished career as a scientist and educator.
- John H. Lyle was one of 23 African Americans to graduate from the segregated “Negro Pilot Training Program” at Tuskegee Institute’s Army Air Field, Tallahassee Florida. John graduated in class SE-44-0 on August 4th, 1944. He saw action as a Flight Officer with the 100th Fighter Squadron of the all-black 332nd Fighter Group flying P-51 Mustang fighter planes on bomber escort duty out of Italy. Known as the “The Redtails” this famous Squadron was the only U.S. Fighter Group in WWII that could claim to have lost as few as 25 bombers during these missions.
After lunch the Airmen moved to the Multi-purpose room to talk to employees about their exploits during WWII. The auditorium was nearly at capacity and everyone in attendance seemed to be mesmerized as the Airmen painted a picture of life as a Black Airmen during WWII.
Dr. Welton proved to be an exceptionally masterful and gifted speaker. Stories of his exploits were thoroughly engrossing. There were tales of victory, of hardship, of prejudice and of camaraderie; but though it all was a common theme of service, endurance and a healthy dose of good humor.
The session concluded with a book signing event for those in attendance followed by a tour of Manufacturing for the Airmen. All indications were that this was a thoroughly enjoyable event. AATG hopes to have the Tuskegee Airmen back for encore event in the not too distant future.