Book Review: Soaring to Glory: A Tuskegee Airman’s Firsthand Account of World War II w/ Video

Harry Stewart Jr. – Our Metro Detroiter TOP GUN

Harry T. Stewart Jr. is one of America’s most decorated Tuskegee Airmen. He was born on 4 July 1924, in Newport News, Virginia, near Langley AFB. At the age of two, Stewart’s family moved to Queens, New York, just a few minutes from North Beach Airport. His fascination for aviation began at a very young age as he watched in awe as the planes soared overhead. At the age of 17, and aware of his imminent conscription into World War II, he passed a military exam designated to identify potential pilots. As a result, he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet.

After completing his flight training at Tuskegee Air Field, Alabama, and while still a teenager, he was awarded his pilot wings and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Stewart then accomplished combat fighter training in both the P-40 Warhawk and the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft, and in 1944 was sent to Italy for combat operations. As a member of the all-black 332d Fighter Group, Stewart flew 43 combat missions in the P-51 Mustang. On 1 April 1945, then First Lieutenant Harry T. Stewart Jr. was one of eight red-tailed P-51 pilots escorting B-24 Liberators tasked to bomb the St. Polten marshaling yard. The P-51s preceded the bombers and flew a fighter sweep of the Linz area in Austria. Flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet, the Mustang pilots spotted four German FW-190s near Wels flying in the same direction, but about 2,000 feet below. They dived to attack, but suddenly a flight of a dozen ME-109s appeared above them. A series of individual dogfights ensued, ranging from altitudes of 5,000 feet to the deck. Although the enemy pilots attempted to out-turn the more powerful P-51s and draw them over antiaircraft artillery, the Red Tails proved victorious and shot down 12 enemy aircraft, losing only three of their own. Stewart shot down three FW-190s that day, a feat that earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In May 1949, Stewart competed in the inaugural ten-day “William Tell” National Gunnery meet at Las Vegas AFB (now Nellis AFB) in Nevada. This meet would later become the equivalent of the US Navy’s “Top Gun” competition. Stewart was part of a three-man team representing the 332d Composite Group. Each pilot was required to compete in five different events. The events included air-to-air gunnery at altitudes of 10,000 and 20,000 feet, rocket firing, strafing, dive-bombing, and skip-bombing. Three perfect scores were registered in the skip-bombing event and one perfect score in rocket firing. As a result, the 332d won first place in the conventional fighter class. But, unfortunately, the trophy was stored away and not found again until 1995. The 1950 trophy and Air Force historical records showed winners “Unknown” for the first year. (

Link to Amazon Check out the Book

Print Friendly, PDF & Email