Alfred Thomas Farrar Sr., a former military pilot and member of the historic Tuskegee Airmen, passed away in Virginia on Thursday, December, 17, at the age of 99 – only nine days before his 100th day and eight days before he was set to be honored at a ceremony, WFXR-TV reported.
Serving at a time when the American Army was segregated, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aviators in America. The 332nd Fighter Group and the 99th Pursuit Squadron were the only Black groups that fought in World War II and were considered highly successful despite facing discrimination in and out of the army.
According to the Associated Press, Farrar moved to Tuskegee from his hometown of Lynchburg in 1941 after completing high school to train as an aviator. “It was the next best thing to do,” the deceased told The News & Advance in a feature last week prior to his death.
His son, Roy, told AP his father trained to be an army pilot while he was enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps program, but he did not participate in combat missions outside the United States. Though Roy said he was proud of his father’s accomplishments, he recalled he did not talk too much about his time as a Tuskegee Airman.
“It was just something that he did at the time, that was needed at the time,” he said.
Farrar was discharged from the army in 1943. He then went back to school to study aerospace engineering and subsequently took up an engineering job with the Federal Aviation Administration. He worked there for forty years.
Despite his passing, the Lynchburg Area Veterans Council said they’ll still go ahead with the ceremony to honor Farrar’s life and service during its “troop rally” event on December 25, WFXR-TV reported.
“In spite of tremendous discrimination, these young American men and women served their nation with distinction and opened the door of opportunity for many other Americans,” a statement from the council said.
Roy also told the Associated Press they expect several planes to fly over during a different memorial ceremony in honor of his father on his birthday on December 26.
Trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, the Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II. Their remarkable performance did not only earn them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses but eventually helped encourage the integration of the U.S. armed forces, according to History.