Norton Air Force Base
Colonel Paul Green:
Tuskegee Airman and NAFB Base Commander
Growing up in Xenia, Ohio, Paul Green spent his younger years at the Ohio Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans’ Home. As a youngster, he would fly kites and see planes in the air and thought it would be great if he could be one of those guys flying a plane.
In March of 1941, the War Department announced that African Americans would be allowed to become Air Corp pilots. Green was drafted into the Army Quartermaster Corp in 1943. His dream of becoming a pilot became a reality when he was chosen for pilot training school at the Tuskegee Institute training program in Alabama. He was one of only 30, in a class of 340, who graduated in 1944. Stationed in Italy, he flew 25 combat missions with the 99th Fighter Squadron escorting bombers.
There were a total of 992 Tuskegee Airmen – pilots. They were dedicated, determined young men who became the first black military airmen, at a time when there were many people who thought that black men lacked intelligence, skill, courage and patriotism. In addition 10,000 African American men and women served as support personnel.
The Tuskegee pilots flew 1,578 combat missions, 15,533 sorties, destroyed 261 enemy aircraft, 1,000 railcars, transport vehicles, and a German destroyer. They also won 850 medals. There were 66 aviators that were killed in action and 32 were captured as POWs after being shot down.
Their exemplary performance during the war paved the way for the Army’s desegregation in 1948. As Green said, “We proved we were not dummies. It was just the color of our skin that was different. We were capable of flying planes and doing things others do.”
After World War ll, Green joined the Air Force and flew in the Korean War and Vietnam War. He flew numerous training aircraft plus the P-40, P-47, P-51, C-47, C-54, B-29, C-130, B-25, and the C-141. He received the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, Bronze Star and Presidential Unit Citation, all with Oak Leaf Clusters.
Green completed his military career as Base Commander of Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino, CA, from 1974-1976. After his retirement, he and his wife settled in San Bernardino. He was active in the community and volunteered his time with many organizations. Green passed away on February 15, 2015, and his wife of 72 years, Angel, passed away October 22, 2015. They are gone but not forgotten.
Women Airforce Service Pilots
The recent passing of Catherine Vail Bridge, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, reminded us that in addition to Ms. Bridge, we have several other local ladies that were WASPs.
Evelyn “Pinky” Brier, originally from Wisconsin, in 1939 became the first woman to receive an airplane instructor’s license according to an Air Force history of women in aviation. During World War ll she flew noncombat missions in the United States flying numerous planes.
including the B-17, and also trained military pilots. For years she and her husband, Joe, operated and owned Tri-City Airport in San Bernardino.
Alma L. Fornal, originally from Texas, applied to and was sent for basic and advanced training where she became a test pilot for the AT-6 that was built for fighter pilots during World War ll. She married Norton Air Force Base Lt. Col. Joseph Fornal and retired in San Bernardino.
For more information about the WASP program, visit the NAFB museum.