Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Tuskegee Airman gets stolen medal back

RYAN MAYE HANDY Updated: August 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

Colorado Springs police retrieved a Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Medal early Friday morning that had been stolen from the home of a local 87-year-old veteran.

Police returned the medal to Franklin Macon, who had reported the medal stolen after burglars broke into his home in May.

An employee of the Crossland Economy Studios hotel at 3490 Afternoon Circle discovered the medal in the hotel's lost-and-found.

In the May 31 theft, burglars forced open the front door of Macon's home in the 300 block of North Spruce Street between 8 a.m. and noon, according to police spokesman Sgt. Darrin Abbink. No one was home at the time. They also stole a laptop and coins stored in old ammo cans.

The bronze medal was awarded to members of the famed World War II black fighter pilots group known as the Tuskegee Airmen. It depicts the pilots on one face and three aircraft on the other.

Macon's stolen medal was replaced in a July ceremony by the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy.

Born and raised in Colorado Springs, Macon showed an early love of flight. He earned his pilot's license while still in high school, and volunteered in the Air Force, where he trained as a bomber pilot.

Although the military initially resisted putting black pilots in the cockpit, the Tuskegee Airmen quickly earned a reputation for their precision and heroism during the war. Macon is the former president of Hooks Jones Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Inc., an organization that fought for decades for the recognition of the airmen who flew during World War II.

For Macon, the medal symbolized how far minorities have come since the original 996 pilots graduated. The Tuskegee Airmen have been credited with ushering in the integration of the military in the 1950s and 1960s.

Macon never served in combat due to a ruptured eardrum that left him hospitalized in 1945. He was released after World War II, and he taught gunnery to the remaining students.

Of the 996 airmen who were trained in Tuskegee, Ala., 445 were deployed overseas, flying missions over the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa, and Italy. Of that group, 150 airmen died in accidents or combat.

In 2007 President George W. Bush presented the original congressional medal to approximately 300 airmen and widows. The original 15-ounce gold medal is on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and individual airmen received bronze replicas like Macon's.

Macon is best known in Colorado Springs as a historian of black culture in Colorado.

He is the great-great grandnephew of Frederick Douglass, the civil rights leader, and he is the grandson of Charles Banks, one of Colorado Springs' first civil rights leaders.

Find an official Air Force history of the Tuskegee Airmen HERE.

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