His Dream of Wings Came True
by Jeanne Williams - Temple Daily Telegram
January 30, 2012
Milam County native was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen
CAMERON - The motion picture “Red Tails” dramatizes the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen,
but Capt. Albert Whiteside Jr., a Milam County native, was part of the action in real
time when crews of black pilots in the Tuskegee training program were called into duty
during World War II.
For Whiteside, piloting an aircraft was a lifelong dream, said his younger sister, Vivian
Whiteside Pankey. The war hero is not featured as a character in the George Lucas film,
but he was referred to in an HBO television movie.
Whiteside was among 966 black military aviators trained near the town of Tuskegee Ala.,
and at the Tuskegee Institute. Tuskegee Airmen flew on missions in North Africa, Sicily
and Europe piloting P-40, P-39, P-47 and P-51 aircraft with the 12th Tactical U.S. Army
Air Corps and the 15th Strategic U.S. Army Air Corps.
The German Luftwaffe called them the “Schwartze Vogelmenschen” or Black Birdmen, while
they were known by white American bomber crews as “The Black Red-Tail Angels” because of
the identifying red paint on the planes’ tail assemblies and because of their reputation
for not losing bombers to enemy fighters as they provided fighter escorts to bombing
missions over strategic targets in Europe.
The 99th Fighter Squadron, which already had distinguished itself over North Africa,
Sicily and Anzio, was joined by three more black squadrons - the 100th, 301st and the
302nd, re-designated as the 332nd Fighter Group. From Italian bases they destroyed enemy
rail traffic, coastal surveillance stations and hundreds of vehicles in air-to-ground
Born Dec. 7, 1922, on the 160-acre Whiteside family farm in the Jones Prairie community
in north Milam County, Whiteside was always building, inventing and telling his loved
ones that when he grew up he was going to be an airplane pilot.
“He built cars and an airplane that he flew,” Pankey said. “He was super smart.”
Growing up on a farm that produced cotton, corn and other produce as well as dairy cattle
and milk, Whiteside took to heart the mantra of his close-knit family: “You don’t ask
anyone for anything. You work hard and you earn it.”
“We didn’t know any other way,” said Pankey, who holds three nursing degrees and is a
retired nurse practitioner from the Audie Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in San
Whiteside, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, achieved his dream of becoming a pilot,
earning his wings, flying planes and serving as a bombardier. Whiteside loved to talk
about his career in aviation and adventures during World War II, and the family absorbed
stories of his exploits.
A 1941 honors graduate of O.J. Thomas High School in Cameron, Whiteside graduated from
Atlanta University in 1943, the Tuskegee Institute of Aeronautics in 1944 and the Army
Air Corps pilot training program in 1945.
Whiteside maintained involvement in aviation through-out his life - serving as a member
and vice-chairman of the San Antonio International Airport Advisory Committee from 1972
to 1979; president of the Kelly Flyers Toastmaster Club No. 1641; and as a member of the
Confederate Air Force, now known as the Commemorative Air Force, dedicated to the
preservation of World War II aircraft.
Whiteside spoke to civic and youth organizations on the Tuskegee experience and the
importance of education in preparation for life. Whiteside died in 2000, but his family
has never forgotten the exploits of their war hero.
The movie “Red Tails” is a bit of a disappointment, Panke said. Reality is sacrificed for
entertainment, but the film is “better than nothing,” she said.
Whiteside, who saw the HBO production, was disappointed that the script omitted the
contributions of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was responsible for the Tuskegee Airmen taking
flight in World War II, she said.