July 21, 2011
When 87-year-old Franklin Macon thinks of his Tuskegee Airmen medal, he’s reminded of how fortunate he was to receive his wings in a time when the military resisted black pilots. When the medal — awarded to famed World War II black pilots — was stolen from his house during a break-in on May 31, he didn’t expect to get it back.
But thanks to the efforts of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy, Macon will receive a replacement at a ceremony today at the academy.
“I hate what happened, but I’m glad to get a new one,” Macon said.
Macon came home in late May to find the framework of his front door splayed across the living room and the medal missing from its spot on a bookcase among other Tuskegee Airmen memorabilia, including a wooden model of a plane he flew in training.
“I looked over to where I had the medal and it was gone. I said, ‘Oh brother,’” he said.
A laptop and coins stored in old amno cans also were taken from Macon’s home. No one has been arrested and the medal has not been recovered.
To Macon, the bronze replica of the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal symbolizes how far minorities have come since the 996 pilots graduated.
Macon received his pilot’s license in 12th grade. Several months after completing basic training with the Army Air Corps, he went to flight school in Tuskegee, Ala. A ruptured ear drum left him hospitalized in 1945, and when he was released, World War II was over. Macon taught gunnery to the remaining students, but never served in combat.
He didn’t imagine then that there would one day be black airline pilots, and said Eleanor Roosevelt helped break the barriers for blacks pursuing aviation.
The original Congressional Gold Medal was presented by President George W. Bush to the group of black pilots in a 2007 ceremony. It is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Bronze replicas were minted and offered to the Tuskegee Airmen chapters for purchase.
Macon is the former president of the Hooks Jones Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., which recognizes the accomplishments of black pilots who served in World War II.
When Macon receives his replacement medal, which depicts pilots on the front and aircraft on the back, he said he’ll store it somewhere special.
“I’ll probably put a picture of it where it used to be,” he laughed.