A Tuskegee Airman’s legacy is being kept alive by his friend who flew side-by-side with him before the hero was killed.
On April 1, 1945 Harry Stewart Jr. who’s also a fellow Tuskegee airman recalls the day that his friend Walter Manning, a courageous soldier who fought during War World II, was captured and hung by an Austrian mob named the “Werewolf.”
“We flew rather frequent missions and I was flying along with him and at times maybe flying his wing,” Stewart remembered.
The 93-year-old pilot told Detroit Free Press, the pair were on an escort mission to Austria and that’s when Manning’s plane was shot down. The pilot was seized after the white gang broke into the jailhouse and lynched him according to the Austrian government.
The European country chose to honor Manning 73 years later on the same day of the tragedy by having a “memorial event” and national parade, Stewart said.
“As far as the Austrian government is concerned, it shows contrition on their part in recognizing the terrible thing that was done to Walter. I also have to credit them in saying it shows moral courage for them to stand up and say ‘Yeah, we did it. We’re sorry,” the pilot relayed.
Stewart said he’s making it his duty to keep his friend’s memory alive.
“My whole feeling is that this is something that the American people know nothing about… Even more so, the African-American community knows nothing about this. And not only that, what’s left of the Tuskegee Airmen knows nothing about this. What I did was I brought this information back to the United States with me … and I said, ‘I don’t think this is something that should just stay in Austria’,” the war veteran exclaimed.
“It is the only documented history of an atrocity taking place against a black airman,” Stewart said. “It’s a part of our history.”
The 93-year-old said the Austrian government believes that other American pilots besides Manning were also terrorized by the mob and the country plans on conducting an investigation.
The Tuskegee Airmen were formed in 1941 and Stewart recalls the many memories of Manning.
“I remember he was a good swimmer,” the pilot said. “I remember we were taking a swimming lifeguard training course together and I remember how well he swam. He passed the course with flying colors. … I remember a dance that we had. It was a cadet dance. I remember Walter and his girlfriend at the dance.”
Stewart hopes that Manning is commemorated or memorialized in World War II museums across the United States and especially in Manning’s hometown of Philadelphia.