WASHINGTON (AFRNS) -- Retired Lt. Col. Charles Dryden, 87, one of the famed "Tuskegee Airmen" who broke the military's color barrier by becoming a World War II fighter pilot, died June 24 in Atlanta.
Colonel Dryden was born Sept. 16, 1920, in New York City to Jamaican parents. He graduated from Peter Stuyvesant High School and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Hofstra University and a master's in public law and government from Columbia University.
In August 1941, he was selected for Army Air Corps aviation cadet training, and was commissioned April 29, 1942, one of three graduates in the second all-black class to graduate from the Tuskegee Army Flying School in Alabama. He was a member of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and later the 332nd Fighter Group, which served in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
Known as "A-Train," he remained in the military after World War II and served in additional combat during the Korean War. He retired in 1962. After his military service, Colonel Dryden traveled throughout the world to share his story with both Airmen and civilians through a variety of appearances.
In 2007, he flew with nearly 200 Aviation Career Education students from Atlanta to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio to present the museum with a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal for a ceremony.
He also wrote his autobiography, "A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman," which was published in 1997 by the University of Alabama Press.
"Many of us feel we have an obligation to inform as many people as possible," said Colonel Dryden during a visit to Kadena Air Base, Japan in February. "They need to know about this very important part of American history from our own experiences."
His visits made an impression on many Airmen.
"I was so excited to see him because my grandfather was his crew chief during World War II," said Master Sgt. Jonathan Curl, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kadena AB. "It was a way to touch my grandfather again."
His message of challenge and change resonated with those in his audience.
"I believe the experiences that (he) faced during his career set the path for all who came and will come behind him," said Master Sgt. Michelle Rozier, 116th Air Control Wing protocol superintendent at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., where Colonel Dryden gave a speech. (Courtesy of Air Force Print News)
God bless you and God speed, 'A-Train'. You're an American hero.