Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson
Originally from Detroit, Alexander attained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Clark College in Atlanta and in September 1942, was sworn in to the United States Army Reserves. He volunteered for flight school but was not accepted, so he began his graduate studies at Howard University in Washington D.C. In April 1943, Alexander was sent to Tuskegee Army Air Field for flight training, where he graduated and received his wings in 1944. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators in the United States military.
Alexander served with the Red Tail, 332nd Fight Group, 301st Fighter Squadron as a P-51 fighter pilot in Ramitelli, near Foggia, Italy. The 332nd was a fighter escort wing protecting bombing missions of the US 15th Air Force, his job was to attack key ground targets and guard the bombing mission against enemy fighters. He flew 18 successful escort missions for B-17 and B-24 bombers. On Aug 12, 1944, Alexander was shot down in Toulon Harbor, France and was immediately captured by German troops. He was held as a prisoner of war for nine months: initially, 80 miles east of Berlin in Poland at Stalag Luft III and afterwards, 20 miles north of Dachau at Stalag VII-A. Alexander was treated by the German guards like the other Allied officer, no better, no worse.
On April 29, 1945, General Patton’s Third Army liberated Alexander and the other prisoners of war at Stalag VII-A, which included 12 other Tuskegee Airmen. In 1947, he was discharged from active duty and retired from the reserves as a lieutenant colonel in 1969. After the war, he worked as an elementary school teacher and retired as an assistant principal in 1979. In 2005, Alexander published his memoir Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman and POW.
For his service, Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, was awarded the Purple Heart in 2004 and the Congressional Gold Medal along with the entire 332nd Fighter Group in 2007.